Tea party groups decry IRS-inflicted "pain and suffering"

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., listens at left as while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference with Tea Party leaders May 16, 2013 in Washington.
AP Photo/Molly Riley

Amid ongoing outrage over alleged discrimination practices at the IRS, tea party activists and leaders on Thursday rallied on Capitol Hill in pursuit of a "complete and thorough" investigation of the agency's practices, which they claimed exemplify an "out of control government" that needs to be tamed.

A handful of lawmakers and tea party leaders gathered in Washington this morning to decry the "pain and suffering" tea party leader Jenny Beth Martin said had been inflicted upon them at the hands of the government.

"They have singled us out and discriminated and persecuted us," Martin said, standing at the microphone crowded by a handful of fellow tea party advocates. "Government agents have used the IRS as a weapon to silent speech, harass innocent Americans, and perhaps sway elections."

The Justice Department has pledged to investigate the IRS for having allegedly targeted conservative groups when assessing applications for tax-exempt status. It's yet unclear whether any laws were broken or whether officials lied to the government, which will determine whether or not criminal charges are brought.

Still, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants responsible parties thrown in jail.

"Someone needs to be held responsible. Someone needs to be imprisoned," he said. "We need to find out who wrote this policy, who approved this policy."

One tea party leader likened the U.S. government to a "third world junta" and insisted the scandal would have political consequences "far beyond" the 2014 midterm elections.

"This is a civil rights issue," said Freedomworks' Adam Goodman. "This is a long-term issue."

As the White House deals with a series of unfolding controversies - including longstanding questions about its response to last year's attack in Benghazi and the recent revelation that the Justice Department subpoenaed two months' worth of AP phone records -- Republicans and conservatives have pounced on what they say is an overarching governmental overreach.

"This is a government run amok," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex. "And if the AP story has taught anything, it should be to the media that when there is a tyrannical despot, the media will be one of the early victims... This is a very, very dangerous time."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pointed to the "series of disturbing revelations" as demonstrative that the Obama administration views the government "as a tool for partisan ends" and that it shows a "dismaying willingness to mislead and to deceive the American people."

"There are a great many questions that need to be asked, including, who knew about [the IRS targeting]? Who didn't act to stop it? Whose favor was being curried doing this?" he said. "I think the American people have every right to expect better."