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Isle tea party groups criticize IRS for singling them out

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    The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington is shown in this March 22 file photo. The IRS has recouped more than $5.5 billion under a series of programs that offered reduced penalties and no jail time to people who voluntarily disclosed assets they were hiding overseas.

Admissions that the Internal Revenue Service improperly targeted tea party groups in Hawaii and 17 other states for scrutiny when they filed for tax-exempt status should be troubling to anyone, regardless of party affiliation, says one member of an isle tea party group that was among those singled out.

Adrienne King, an attorney involved with The Hono­lulu Tea Party, said she was appalled when the IRS sent her a letter in July, about seven months after her group’s application for 401(c)(4) tax-exempt status, seeking additional information on specific events, speakers, topics, length of speeches and other information.

"That, to me, is an infringement on the First Amendment, in this context," King said Wednesday. "And that’s blatant. Everyone should be upset about it — Democrats, Republicans — everyone."

The group’s application was approved March 7.

Both the Hono­lulu group and the Hawaii Tea Party, based in Kahului, were singled out for scrutiny.

They were among 30 such groups represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, which sought to get the IRS to retract the requests.

The controversy has quickly engulfed the Obama administration less than a week after an IRS supervisor publicly revealed that agents had improperly targeted groups with "tea party" or "patriots" in their applications for tax-exempt status. Those revelations came a day after an inspector general’s report blamed ineffective management in Washington for allowing it to happen for more than 18 months.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had asked for and accepted the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller. Obama made no public criticism of Miller but spoke of inexcusable "misconduct" by IRS employees and said new leadership at the agency was critical.

Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, earlier had apologized for the actions, which she said were initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and were not politically motivated.

King said the admission was somewhat surprising, but said the apology falls short of dealing with the situation or making it go away.

"Apologize? That’s an interesting word or reaction," King said. "I think it’s an infringement on the constitutional right to peacefully assemble and also the First Amendment."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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