Carney downplays IRS political prying, calls it ‘inappropriate’

White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly said Friday that targeting of Tea Party political groups by the Internal Revenue Service was “inappropriate,” a mild characterization of the apparently illegal use of punitive audits.

AnIRS official admitted Friday that 75 Tea Party groups were hit by IRS investigations between 2010 and 2012, as they were leading protests against the administration.  “It certainly does seem to be, based on what we see, to be inappropriate,” Carney told reporters.

The national coordinator for one of the largest Tea Party organizations used much stronger language.

“People are outraged,” Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, told The Daily Caller. “It is absolutely disgusting what we’ve seen happening with this,” she added.

“It is an abuse of power,” Martin told TheDC. “It seems it was the way the IRS was trying to prevent us from exercising our right to free speech. Congress needs to investigate to see how this could have happened.”

Carney tried to downplay the drama when he spoke to reporters late Friday afternoon at the White House. He described the unprecedented government investigations of political groups as “inappropriate” four times.

Government officials demanded lists of the groups’ donors and required them to provide much additional information, during a period when the groups were leading public protests against the administration’s big-government policies.

“If this activity took place, it is inappropriate,” said Carney, who said the IRS’ Inspector General is conducting an formal investigation of the IRS actions.

An IRS official used the same term.

“That’s absolutely inappropriate and not the way we ought to do things,” said Lois Lerner, an official who manages IRS oversight of tax-exempt groups. But “they didn’t do it out of any political bias,” she insisted.