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Former IRS commissioner apologizes on Capitol Hill: 'Foolish mistakes were made'

Stephen Miller, the ousted acting commissioner of the IRS, appeared before the House Ways and Means committee Friday and apologized for the agency's inappropriate investigation of tea party and other conservative organizations.

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Steven Miller, right, the ousted chief of the Internal Revenue Service, answers questions from the House Ways and Means Committee as it holds a hearing on the extra scrutiny the IRS gave Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 17, 2013. At left is J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The ousted head of the Internal Revenue Service apologized to Congress on Friday for his agency's tougher treatment of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said they resulted from a misguided effort to handle a flood of applications, not political bias.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided," Steven Miller, who has been acting IRS commissioner, told the House Ways and Means Committee as the panel held Congress' first hearing on the episode. "The affected organizations and the American public deserve better. Partisanship and even the perception of partisanship have no place at the Internal Revenue Service."

At a hearing that saw lawmakers from both parties harshly criticize his agency, Miller conceded that "foolish mistakes were made" by IRS officials trying to handle a flood of groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said the process that resulted in conservatives being targeted, "while intolerable, was a mistake and not an act of partisanship."

Though Miller and another top IRS official are stepping down, the chairman of the committee said that would not be enough.

"The reality is this is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

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