WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is opening a criminal investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party groups for extra scrutiny over whether they qualified for tax-exempt status, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
Holder said the FBI is coordinating with the Department of Justice to see if any laws were broken.
At a news conference, Holder called the practice, "outrageous and unacceptable."
Numerous congressional committees already are investigating the IRS for singling out tea party and other conservative groups during the 2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. But Holder's announcement takes the matter to another level, if investigators are able to prove that laws were broken.
Holder's comments came a day after President Barack Obama said that if the agency intentionally targeted such groups, "that's outrageous and there's no place for it."
Steven Miller, the IRS acting chief, acknowledged "a lack of sensitivity" in the agency's screenings of political groups seeking tax-exempt status and insisted those mistakes won't be repeated.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups. The IRS admission was made at an American Bar Association conference.