Ohio GOP Rep. Michael Turner is introducing a bill Monday to increase penalties on IRS officials for illegally singling out ideological organizations, after an IRS official admitted Friday that 75 conservative groups had been targeted for heightened scrutiny.
"Across the country, people are appalled to learn the IRS targeted people because of their political beliefs," Turner, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Politico.
He added, "This is an issue of whether or not authority has been abused in the government. They were doing this for all the wrong reasons."
The legislation would expressly prohibit an IRS employee from discriminating against a group or individual based on protected statuses, one of which is political speech and expression, Politico reported.
The measure would also increase the maximum punishment, which is currently termination, to a fine of up to $5,000, five years in prison or both, which is already the sanction faced by other administration officials found guilty of discrimination.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, the California Republican, said his committee will conduct hearings on the matter. He said he expects that an inspector general's report scheduled to be released later this week will show that top IRS officials knew conservative groups were being targeted.
The IRS, however, released a statement saying former Commissioner Doug Shulman had not been aware of the alleged practice when he testified before Congress in March 2012 and denied claims by conservative groups that they were targeted for their political beliefs. Shulman left the post just three days after November's election. No full-time replacement has been named.
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