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Markey, Gomez slam IRS on reports agency targeted conservative groups

US Senate hopefuls Edward J. Markey and Gabriel E. Gomez on Wednesday joined the bipartisan chorus ripping the Internal Revenue Service over the agency’s reported targeting of small-government groups for greater scrutiny.

Both nominees steered remarks about the three controversies engulfing Washington away from criticism of President Obama and trained on the specific agencies caught up in the firestorms.

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“Whoever did this ought to be found and fired immediately,” Markey told the Globe in a telephone interview, referring to the reports of politically driven IRS actions.

“The Constitution explicitly states it protects your right, whether it’s by race, gender, religion, or political belief, to have all the freedom in the world that you want,” Gomez said at a campaign event in Jamaica Plain. “For the government to be intruding the way it did is beyond scary.”

A report from the Department of Treasury on Tuesday found that the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” to identify “Tea Party and other organizations” for tax review.

Markey, a Malden Democrat, called the alleged IRS actions a scandal. “The IRS cannot be used in a way that...undermines American principles,” he said.

Markey did not, however, attempt to create any distance between himself and Obama, who condemned the agency on Monday.

“The president is outraged. The president wants there to be full accountability,” Markey added.

Gomez, too, echoed Obama.

“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. I just hope that he’s got the power to effectuate this and to make sure that the right people are looking into this and the people that are responsible are held accountable,” Gomez said.

Markey also knocked the Department of Justice for obtaining the calling records of a number of reporters and editors at the Associated Press.

“I believe that what happened here is absolutely wrong and we have to protect a free and fearless press to ensure we have a transparent democracy,” he said.

Markey told the Globe he supported a shield law for journalists, designed to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources in the face of legal pressure. Markey said he would back one crafted by Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Gomez called the Department of Justice’s actions with the AP “chilling.”

The Obama administration is struggling with three potential scandals, the third stemming from lingering inquries about the fatal attack on a US diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

Markey brushed off questions about whether the pressure on the White House might have an effect on his campaign. He said the campaign would be focused on Gomez’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, Gomez’s views on Social Security and Medicare, and Gomez’s stances on the regulation of Wall Street.

Markey called GOP hearings into the attacks on Benghazi a “thinly veiled political charade to go after Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election.” Clinton, the former secretary of state, is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, should she run.

On the trail in recent weeks, Gomez has said investigations into the Benghazi attack need to get to the bottom of what happened there last year.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at ebbert@globe.com
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