Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice on Thursday settled lawsuits with conservative groups, including the Tea Party, for unfair scrutiny the Internal Revenue Service used processing their tax-exempt applications.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the settlements in two cases involving dozens of plaintiffs.
The committee found "evidence that the administration's political agenda guided the IRS' actions with respect to their treatment of conservative groups."
Sessions on Thursday said the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from treating political groups differently based on their ideologies. He said the IRS targeted groups that included names referencing the "Tea Party," "patriots" or "9/12."
"As a result of these criteria, the IRS transferred hundreds of applications to a specifically designated group of IRS agents for additional levels of review, questioning and delay. In many instances, the IRS then requested highly sensitive information from applicants, such as donor information, that was not needed to make a determination of tax-exempt status," he said.
Sessions said the groups deserve an apology from the IRS and that "abuse of power will not be tolerated."
"The IRS' use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred. It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions. Any entitlement to tax exemption should be based on the activities of the organization and whether they fulfill requirements of the law, not the policy positions adopted by members or the name chosen to reflect those views."
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen came under scrutiny for his handling of a congressional inquiry into the agency's handling of the conservative groups' tax-exempt status applications. Some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus called for Koskinen's impeachment.
Also on Thursday, President Donald Trump named David Kautter to be acting commissioner of the IRS effective upon the end of Koskinen's term on Nov. 12.