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IRS Surveilled Tea Parties Until Two Weeks Ago

This news emerged from Wednesday's House hearing on the IRS abuse scandal. Not only did the agency target conservative groups, it continued surveillance of them until acting Commissioner Danny Werfel shut it down just two weeks ago.

Republicans investigating the IRS targeting scandal said Wednesday that the agency continued to conduct secret surveillance on tea party groups even after approving them for tax-exempt status.

Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said he shut down the monitoring program after he found out about it, and said he has halted all audits of tax-exempt organizations based on political activity as he tries to get a handle on the embattled agency.

Mr. Werfel, who was tapped four months ago to clean up the Internal Revenue Service after the targeting came to light, also told Congress he is troubled by emails sent by Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the targeting scandal, that raise questions about her behavior. He said he has asked internal investigators to follow up on those emails.

“There are certain documents that raise questions, and when I looked at them I thought they raised questions,” Mr. Werfel said. “The ones that I thought raised questions I provided directly to [the inspector general], and I also provided them to the accountability review board within the IRS, which is set up to review this matter to see what actions may warrant personnel action or discipline.”

In one of those emails Ms. Lerner wrote that dealing with tea party applications was “very dangerous,” and in another she seemed to indicate that she was looking for ways to deny the charitable organization label to groups without having to accuse them of political activity.

Lerner remains unwilling to testify, and on paid leave from her post at the IRS.

The investigation has also turned up evidence that the IRS targeted Tea Party groups because agents knew that President Obama wanted them to.