After the tea party's success in 2010, the grassroots members had no idea whose cage they had rattled.
The IRS admits its computers searched its not-for-profit applications for the words "tea party" and "patriot" among others, then singled out those groups for added scrutiny:
"There were many people who just said 'I'm not going to do this'. It definitely was abusive by the IRS," said Denise Cattoni, Illinois Tea Party spokeswoman.
The IRS mailed those applicants lengthy questionnaires asking about membership, events held and which candidates the groups supported.
"This is unequal treatment before the law. It's discriminatory. It's tyrannous, really, when you're talking about suppressing political discourse," said Dan Proft, WLS-AM talk show host.
Last week, an IRS official called the investigations "absolutely inappropriate". President Obama today said he wants those responsible held accountable.
"That is outrageous. It is contrary to our traditions and people have got to be held accountable and it's got to be fixed," said President Obama.
"Did anybody in the West Wing know about this? Did anybody on the political branch of the Obama Administration know that this was occurring?" asked Proft.
Fourteen months ago, 12 republican senators mailed this letter to the IRS expressing their concern about the agency's contacts with conservative groups. Denise Cattoni says said the IRS pressure had actually forced some tea party units to drop their requests for non-profit status.
"Anytime you're intimidated by the government, that's not American. It's really that simple," said Cattoni.
The IRS Inspector General will issue a report later this week - possibly as soon as soon as Tuesday.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings on the allegations on Friday.