WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he’s opened a criminal inquiry into the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party groups.
Calling the IRS’ actions “outrageous and unacceptable,” the attorney general told reporters he asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter Friday, when the IRS first publicly acknowledged it had treated conservative groups differently.
He did not say what potential violations of federal law may have occurred.
“The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters related to the IRS. Those were, as I think everyone can agree, if not criminal they were certainly outrageous and unacceptable. We’re examining the facts to see if there were any criminal violations,” Holder said.
The scandal involves the IRS office in Cincinnati, where all applications for tax-exempt status go for processing. In March 2010, the IRS began to separate out applications from groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names, giving them added scrutiny which sometimes involved requests for donor lists. The additional scrutiny delayed approval of these groups’ applications for months.