WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- Senior Internal Revenue Service officials were aware agents were giving Tea Party groups special scrutiny in 2011, a government report due out soon reveals.
That is months before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress there was no targeting going on, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing an inspector general's audit report it obtained from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings.
The Post said the report showed Lois Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, knew in June 2011 that there was targeting of conservative groups going on. Yet in March 2012, H. Shulman told Congress the agency no special attention was being paid to conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status as "social welfare" groups.
The Post said IRS officials said Saturday they were trying to verify the sequence of events, but they did not dispute the findings.
"IRS senior leadership was not aware of this level of specific details at the time of the March 2012 hearing," the IRS said in a statement.
The Post reported the White House said Saturday it supports further investigation of the matter and disciplinary action, if necessary.
"The president believes that the American people expect and deserve to have the very best public servants with the highest levels of integrity working in government agencies on their behalf," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "Based on recent media reports, he is concerned that the conduct of a small number of Internal Revenue Service employees may have fallen short of that standard."
Carney noted the matter is still under review and that if the inspector general finds any rules were broken or standards were not met, "the president expects that swift and appropriate steps will be taken to address any misconduct."
On Friday, IRS officials said Lerner revealed Tea Party groups had been singled out because she had been asked about it at a bar association conference. But the Post said it also could have been an attempt to get out in front of bad news the agency knew was coming.
The latest development angered Tea Party leaders further.
"Yesterday we learned that the IRS lied to Congress and the American citizens when Douglas Shulman said there was 'absolutely no targeting' of tea party groups who applied for nonprofit status," Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said Saturday. "Today we are learning that the IRS lied when they said that only 'low-level employees' were to blame for outrageous and egregious overreach and abuse of power."
Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, completed his six-year term in November and has yet to be replaced.