A representative of the Internal Revenue Service apologized on Friday for the actions of a group of low-level staffers who unfairly targeted conservative groups for review during the 2012 election. According to the Associated Press, Lois Lerner, director of the IRS unit in charge of tax-exempt organizations, said that the employees worked out of the Cincinnati IRS office and were targeting organizations they believed might be in violation of their tax-exempt status.

Lerner said that the employees singled out applications for tax-exempt status from groups with "Tea Party" and "patriot" in their names, subjecting them to additional reviews. She acknowledged that the extra scrutiny was unfair and apologized during a speech at a Washington, D.C. conference.

Many conservative groups complained about IRS scrutiny during their application process. The anti-tax, anti-federal government organizations believed that they were having to answer too many questions in order to obtain tax-exempt status.

Under federal law, small charitable groups are afforded tax-exempt status so long as they do not conduct political operations as their primary activity.

[image via Flickr user theqspeaks, creative commons licensed]