Posted at: 05/14/2013 10:20 PM
Updated at: 05/14/2013 10:25 PM
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- The Internal Revenue Service is accused of targeting certain conservative and tea party groups, asking for unnecessary and invasive information when those groups applied for tax-exempt status.
The controversy has grown so large, the Justice Department is now investigating.
“The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters related to the IRS," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
An IRS branch in Cincinnati was initially blamed, but new documents show IRS officials in Washington, D.C. and at least two other offices in California also applied special scrutiny to conservative groups.
One of those groups was the Rochester Tea Party Patriots who applied for tax-exempt status, only to be met with a serious roadblock.
“They wanted info from our beginning, which was 2009, forward,” said former chair Cindy Maves. “Every e-mail, every Twitter, every Facebook posting, every e-mail sent out, every brochure we ever sent out."
They also asked for a list of members and how much those members had donated.
The group's leaders said the delay in their paperwork hurt fundraising efforts, but more importantly, hurt people's faith in their government.
“This obviously was a targeting and it's really not just about our group and it's not just about conservative groups,” Maves said. “It's about every citizen in our country and how they could be targeted."
Many have criticized President Obama's administration with singling out opponents, but the president himself called the scandal inexcusable and vowed that those responsible will be dealt with.
In a USA Today op-ed piece, acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller said the agency was guilty of a lack of sensitivity and took a "shortcut" in determining which groups needed special screening.