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IRS head: 'Foolish mistakes' behind Tea Party targeting

"Foolish mistakes" were behind the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups, the agency's former acting commissioner said Friday.

Steven Miller, who was pushed out as acting commissioner over the controversy, apologized to members of the House Ways and Means Committee even as he maintained that IRS employees were not picking political sides when they set aside Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption for added scrutiny.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Services for the mistakes that were made," Miller, whose resignation is effective at the beginning of June, said in his opening statement. "I do not believe partisanship motivated the practices described ... Foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient."

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Miller appeared before the panel in the first of a series of hearings exploring the IRS scandal. 

Russell George, the Treasury watchdog for tax administration who recently authored a report on the practice, is also testifying.

The Treasury report found that IRS agents used inappropriate criteria to identify conservative groups, and demanded unnecessary information from those groups seeking tax exemption, including donor lists or whether any group leaders were considering running for office.

President Obama requested and accepted Miller's resignation Wednesday. He took over the tax collecting agency in November 2012 as acting commissioner, following the departure of IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman at the end of his term.