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Attorney Gen. Eric Holder has ordered the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether any laws were broken when the Internal Revenue Service singled out some conservative groups for extra scrutiny, he told reporters Tuesday.
Echoing comments made Monday by President Obama, Holder also said that even if no laws were broken it was "outrageous" for the IRS to focus on groups who identified themselves as "patriots" or "tea party" supporters when they applied for tax-exempt status.
The IRS says that most of the activities focusing on the conservative groups originated in the agency's office in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the review of tax-exempt requests was centralized. But a report by CNN Tuesday says it has been given letters that show offices in other areas were involved, as well.
"The American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group representing numerous conservative organizations, provided CNN with four such letters: one each from IRS offices in Washington; Cincinnati; El Monte, California, and Laguna Niguel, California," CNN reports.
As we reported earlier today, the acting head of the IRS, Steven Miller, told a congressional panel in July of 2012 that tax-exempt applications that raise red lags are "referred to specialists in Cincinnati and elsewhere that will take a look to justify it and see whether or not the organization qualifies as a public charity."
The IRS has been under fire since Friday, when a top official apologized to the groups that were singled out for a more exacting review in 2012. At the time, Lois Lerner, who heads the division overseeing tax-exempt groups, said that the scrutiny was partly a result of a surge in applications.
NPR's other coverage of this developing story includes: