LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The Internal Revenue Service has been turned into an arm of the Obama administration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) charged Tuesday as the Department of Justice began an investigation of the agency's targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
On Friday, an IRS official admitted that some organizations that included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional scrutiny.
"It's clear they were on a jihad, it strikes me, in the middle of a presidential election trying to silence the voices of the critics in the administration," McConnell told WHAS11 Political Editor Joe Arnold.
"We need a complete investigation," McConnell said. "Who knew about this? When did they know about it? And we also want to know what the White House knew about it, if anything."
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McConnell said he has confidence that congressional investigations will be thorough "and the truth will come out."
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky) issued a statement Tuesday evening.
"The IRS needs to enforce the law evenly for everyone," Yarmuth said, "and if they haven't, those responsible should be held accountable."
"It's unfortunate that this controversy could overshadow the public's demand to limit the influence of big money in politics," Yarmuth added.
In an interview with WHAS11, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) said any IRS officials involved in the scandal should lose their jobs.
"I'm guessing one agent didn't come up with this policy," Paul said. "I can't imagine that an individual IRS agent decided to target tea party groups. I'm guessing someone had to approve of it. Whoever approved this policy needs to be fired and never be in charge of auditing anybody's records again."
The revelation and an apology from an IRS administrator came one year after several conservative groups, including the Kentucky 9/12 Project, first complained about IRS treatment.
In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute last June, McConnell warned of IRS abuse of conservative groups.
"Earlier this year, dozens of Tea Party-affiliated groups across the country learned what it was like to draw the attention of the speech police when they received a lengthy questionnaire from the IRS demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts, and donor information," McConnell said in the speech.
Eric Wilson, the Kentucky 9/12 Project founder, said the IRS sent his group a six page letter with 88 different inquiries "asking a lot of personal information, asking a lot of information about family members, asking information about people involved in the organization, supporting us."
"At that point, immediately, we understood something was not right," Wilson said, adding that the group's board voted not to comply with the onerous requirements, foregoing the tax exempt status.
The IRS eventually approved the application without the requested information, Wilson said.
"To target a select group of citizens is not only illegal, but it's scary that we would have a government administration do this," Wilson told WHAS11.
Though Wilson explained that his group never endorsed a candidate for elected office, McConnell contended that a "social welfare" group that applies for tax exempt status should not be restricted in its political speech.
"They're entitled to have a political mission," McConnell said. "This is about free speech in America."
"If there are more groups getting organized to protest either in favor of the government or against the government, it's none of the government's business," McConnell continued.
Calling the IRS actions "completely outrageous," McConnell alleged that they are part of a pattern of abuse of power by the Obama administration.
"They've been trying to do similar things at the (Securities and Exchange Commission), the (Federal Communications Commission)," McConnell said.
"The reason it's now being noticed I think so much is because they've used an agency that everybody fully understands," McConnell said. "Everybody understands the IRS, the most powerful agency of the federal government being turned into an arm of an administration."