Tea Party Protest
Members of the tea party protest. Reuters

The IRS apologized on Friday for singling out dozens of conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status because they had the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in them.

Last year, at least 16 Tea Party groups claimed they were being harassed by the agency, which was trying to gather additional information about their activities, according to the New York Times.

The IRS issued a statement on Friday that admitted the conservative groups were selected for additional scrutiny between 2010 and 2012 when they sought the exemption. During that time, the number of applications for section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status doubled. To deal with the influx, IRS employees in Cincinnati used certain practices to achieve consistency, which led to complaints. However, the tax collection agency said the extra review wasn’t politically motivated and said it should have done a better job at managing the large number of applications.

“While centralizing cases for consistency made sense, the way we initially centralized them did not,” the statement said. “Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale.”

The situation was rectified last year, the agency said, and progress has been made to date with more than half of the applications either approved or withdrawn.

TheTeaParty.net, a right-leaning nonprofit, has accused the Obama administration of using the IRS as a “political weapon” and rejected the agency’s apology.

“The IRS may claim that it is ‘sorry,’" said Niger Innis, chief strategist for TheTeaParty.net. "But given the damage that has been done, their apology is not accepted. We demand a thorough independent investigation into who did what, when, why, and how far up into the administration this scandal goes.”

In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called on President Barack Obama to carry out a “transparent, government-wide review.” McConnell said this investigation would prevent “thuggish practices” from occurring at the IRS or other federal agencies and departments.

“But make no mistake, an apology won’t put this issue to rest,” he said. He added that the First Amendment is non-negotiable. “This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”