In a New York Times story published on Thursday, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) shot down suggestions from some members of his party that President Barack Obama was guilty of directing the IRS to target conservative groups as part of a broader political assault:
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said that in retrospect, suggestions that Mr. Obama had orchestrated an I.R.S. attack on his political enemies were unwarranted.
“Presidents have always been very careful about maintaining the appearance of keeping hands off the I.R.S.,” he said. “I don’t have any reason to believe there wasn’t targeting of conservatives, but it might well have been a lot more than that as well.”
The IRS has long maintained that the White House had no part in implementing a controversial screening practice that has attracted scrutiny in recent months. Republicans, including Blunt himself, however, have not been very eager to distance the president and his administration from the IRS scandal, though the GOP's appetite to pursue that angle appeared to diminish somewhat in light of recent revelations that the agency targeted both progressive and conservative groups between 2010 and 2012.
HuffPost's Sam Stein recently reported that while conservative groups appeared to have received the brunt of the IRS' targeting on requests for tax-exempt status, the agency's protocol was not focused on specifically investigating tea party groups themselves, but rather a universe of groups that included conservative organizations and not progressive ones.