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US Conservative Groups Say Tax Agency Was Intrusive

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U.S. conservative groups told a congressional panel Tuesday that the government's tax agency harassed them while deciding whether their organizations should be exempt from taxes.

Leaders of the right-wing groups said Internal Revenue Service agents often asked them intrusive questions, such as about the content of their prayers, the names of their donors and volunteers, and their opinions on key political issues in the U.S.

The president of a Tea Party group in (the southern state of) Alabama, Becky Gerritson, said, "The questions were chilling."

The hearing before the House of Representatives panel is one of several congressional inquiries into the scope of the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status in the lead-up to last year's presidential election.

The groups oppose the tax and spending policies of President Barack Obama, but they could not win a tax exemption if they were engaging in overt political activity. Several of the groups said they waited for more than two years for a decision on their tax status, and some are still waiting.

The tax agency has apologized for its targeting of the conservative groups. But Republican opponents of Mr. Obama are trying to determine who ordered it, and whether key officials with a political interest in Mr. Obama's re-election played a role.

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