Following tea party complaints, IRS admits ‘mistakes’

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(CNN) — Responding to a flurry of complaints from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the Internal Revenue Service admitted Friday it made “mistakes” in the last few years while trying to process those requests.

Multiple tea party groups reported significant delays and excessive questioning from IRS officials while trying to obtain 501(c)(4) status.

“The IRS recognizes we should have done a better job of handling the influx of advocacy applications. While centralizing cases for consistency made sense, the way we initially centralized them did not,” the IRS said in a statement.

However, the agency maintained the errors were not spurred by political reasons.

“Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale,” the statement read.

The IRS said it saw the number of applications seeking such status double from 2010-2012. To handle the influx, local “career employees” in Cincinnati “sought to centralize work and assign cases to designated employees in an effort to promote consistency and quality.”

Acknowledging the system did not work, the IRS said it fixed the situation last year and has processed more than half the cases. New rules were issued last year, as well, to “ensure that these mistakes won’t be made in the future.”

“The IRS also stresses that our employees – all career civil servants — will continue to be guided by tax law and not partisan issues,” the statement read.

The Associated Press first reported Friday’s admission from the IRS.

Reaction to the IRS’ admission was swift – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called on the White House to conduct “a transparent, government-wide review” to ensure similar practices weren’t being carried out at other agencies.

McConnell, who called an apology from the IRS insufficient, deemed the IRS tactics “political thuggery” with no place in American politics.

“Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS,” McConnell wrote in a statement.

Two Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, wrote in a joint statement, “The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable. The Committee will aggressively follow up on the IG report and hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”

Tea Party groups were similarly incensed. The Tea Party Patriots, one of the nation’s largest, rejected an IRS apology and insisted on resignation from the officials involved in the targeting.

“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” wrote Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, in a statement. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach.”

The group called on a congressional investigation into the incident.

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