Conservatives get it right this time:

The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.

Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.

“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association. “The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.

Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice.

Like Kevin Drum and Steve Benen, I agree that this is serious business and absolutely should be investigated. As Steve puts it:

Last year, a variety of conservative groups complained that the IRS was treating them unfairly, asking an inordinate number of questions to justify their tax-exempt status, and as of today, those complaints were well grounded…The IRS is supposed to be even-handed, and in several cases, it seems clear that the agency was not. This is the sort of thing that costs officials their jobs.

Mitch McConnell is calling for an investigation. In purely political terms, this is right in the conservative sweet spot — the IRS, bullying, intimidation, political thuggery, etc. We hear that stuff regularly from the conservative media, of course, and the thundering about this one will be epic. But this time, it seems entirely justified. There should be an investigation – a real one – and we should all want to follow it wherever it goes.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.