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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio wants IRS commissioner fired; Buchanan demands answers

UPDATE: President Obama in a news conference today said, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're applying it in a non-partisan way -- applying the laws in a non-partisan way."

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan each sent letters today to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew seeking more answers about the IRS' focus on tea party groups. Rubio said the IRS commissioner should be fired (though the commissioner in charge resigned in November). Buchanan called it a matter "that would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves."

"If investigations reveal that bureaucrats or political appointees engaged in unconstitutional or criminal targeting of conservative taxpayers, they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Rubio wrote. "At a bare minimum, those involved with this deeply offensive use of government power have committed a violation of the public trust that has already had a profoundly chilling effect on free speech. Such behavior cannot be excused with a simple apology. Furthermore, it is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people’s confidence under the current leadership. Therefore, I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation, effectively immediately. No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public."

The acting IRS Commissioner is Steven Miller. He took over when Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee, resigned last year, meaning Schulman was at the helm when the issue arose. Rubio spokesman Alex Conant noted that Miller was a deputy commissioner at the time. UPDATE 5:38 p.m.: The IRS says the acting commissioner learned in May 2012 that tea party groups were targeted, the AP tweets.

Wrote Buchanan:

"On March 22, 2012, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees the IRS, we heard then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman clearly state that the IRS did not engage in the practices of which it is now accused saying "there is absolutely no targeting."  Yet, less than a year earlier, Commissioner Shulman's own deputy, Lois Lerner, was made aware that such malpractice had indeed occurred.  It became evident that groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were extremely vulnerable to auditing harassment.  Even nonprofit organizations that sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution were unfairly singled out for scrutiny. The nation's trust in government was betrayed by this unconscionable behavior. On behalf of my constituents, your immediate response is not only warranted but essential to clearing up a matter that would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves."

[Last modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 6:39pm]

    

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