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IRS boss firing called a first step by NH, other conservatives

Staff and Wire Reports
May 15. 2013 11:39PM
President Barack Obama delivers a statement from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday. The President announced that acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller had resigned in the wake of a growing scandal involving the agency. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Washington's top tax official was fired Wednesday as President Barack Obama sought to stem a rising tide of criticism over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.

Obama said he had told Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to seek the resignation of Steven Miller, acting IRS commissioner.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again," Obama told reporters at the White House.

Greg Moore, director of the New Hampshire chapter of the conservative Americans For Prosperity organization, said the group was pleased that Congress has moved to investigate the matter. So far, three Congressional committees have announced they will launch investigations.

"After the IRS admitted to targeting conservative groups, we're thrilled that Congress is going to look into this matter thoroughly and we hope they ensure that this type of behavior never happens again," Moore said.

Obama's announcement also followed stepped-up calls from Republican lawmakers for Miller and other top IRS officials to resign.

"While this is an obvious first step, it doesn't eliminate the need for a thorough, bipartisan investigation," U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement. "Targeting specific types of political groups for extra scrutiny represents a serious abuse of power, and we need to get to the bottom of what happened to hold wrong-doers accountable and make sure this never happens again. The American people rightfully expect to be treated fairly and impartially by their government, and I am hopeful that the President will make good on his promise to work with Congress to provide answers."

"This problem required a fast and firm response, and I'm pleased to see President Obama taking steps to ensure it does not happen again," U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said in a statement.

"The outrageous conduct by employees at the IRS is completely inexcusable, and the President was absolutely right to ask for and accept the acting commissioner's resignation," U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., said in a statement. "There can be no tolerating this type of behavior — period. Any individuals involved in this wrongdoing must be held fully accountable, and the administration and Congress must take all steps necessary to ensure this never happens again."

"The news that the IRS targeted organizations for additional review based on their political beliefs represented a very troubling and outrageous abuse of power," U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement. "Earlier this week I called for swift and decisive action to hold those responsible for this abuse accountable and this is a good first step.

Next the IRS should adopt clear and impartial rules and guidelines for non-profit organizations and their political activities so that this type of targeting never happens again."

Miller said in a message to colleagues that there is a "strong and immediate need" to restore public trust in the nation's tax agency.

"It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June," Miller wrote. "This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days."

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN quoted a congressional source as saying Miller had said the IRS had pinpointed two "rogue" employees in the agency's Cincinnati, Ohio, office as being principally responsible for "overly aggressive" reviews of requests for tax-exempt status by groups associated with the conservative Tea Party movement.

Obama spoke Wednesday after meeting senior Treasury officials on how to quell the growing uproar after a government watchdog described how poor management led to an "inappropriate" focus on claims by conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

Republicans continue to press the administration on its handling of the attack last year on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

And on Monday, the Justice Department came under fire for seizing phone records of journalists from the Associated Press as part of a criminal probe into intelligence leaks.

The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe of the IRS.

Reuters and New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Tim Buckland contributed to this report.

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