(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama spoke out on Monday against targeting by his administration’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of conservative groups opposed to his policies, stressing that if it was intentional, it was "outrageous."
“I've got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it,” Obama said, though he chose words carefully when he said “intentionally harmed” conservative groups.
Obama addressed this and other matters during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House.
“This is pretty straight forward. If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in that kind of practice and intentionally harmed conservative groups, that is outrageous,” Obama said. “That’s outrageous, and there’s no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable.”
The House Ways and Means Committee is investigating the targeting of Tea Party organizations and other conservative groups. The Senate Finance Committee will also investigate, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.
Lois Lerner, head of the IRS's Exempt Organizations division, apologized on Friday for the IRS targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for heightened scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status. But she said this had been done by lower-level employees and was not politically motivated.
Obama said IRS integrity is not a political matter.
“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Independent, or a Republican,” Obama said. “At some point there is going to be a Republican administration. Either way, you don’t want the IRS ever being perceived as anything less than neutral. This is something I think people are properly concerned about.”
“If you got the IRS acting as anything other than a nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, that is contrary to our traditions, and people have got to be held accountable and it has got to be fixed,” said the president.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has been conducting an audit of the matter.