Dec. 23: The Hill: Koskinen is sworn in as IRS Commissioner
John Koskinen was officially sworn in as IRS commissioner on Monday morning, giving the tax agency its first Senate-confirmed leader in more than a year. Koskinen, confirmed by the Senate on Friday, told agency employees in a message on Monday that one of his top priorities would be to immediately reach out to them. The new commissioner has acknowledged that he faces the difficult challenge of restoring taxpayer trust in the IRS, which admitted to inappropriately singling out Tea Party groups in May. The IRS also plays a key role in administering tax credits that are central to President Obama’s healthcare reform law. “Looking ahead, we have a filing season beginning soon, and I know that there is no higher priority for the agency than ensuring that it goes as smoothly as possible,” Koskinen told IRS employees. “I plan to do my best to assist you in that effort and to stay out of the way to the extent that that's helpful.”
Dec. 15: The Hill: Ryan: Watch for GOP Tax Reform Proposal
The Ways and Means Committee may have missed its target of passing a tax overhaul in 2013, but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said it hopes to do so “in the first quarter of next year.” Ryan, a member of the panel who could be its next chairman, said he was “hopeful” about moving tax reform in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Watch the Ways and Means Committee in the first quarter of next year,” Ryan said. “We’re going to be advancing tax reform legislation, because we think that’s a key ingredient to getting people back to work, to increasing take-home pay and to growing this economy.” The committee’s current chairman, Rep. Dave Camp (R-M) has made tax reform his top priority, but Republican Party leaders have been hesitant about unveiling major legislation that could create political challenges for members by eliminating popular deductions to reduce rates.
Dec. 7: The Daily Caller: IRS is using Google Maps to spy on taxpayers”
Agents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are using Google Maps as part of their tool kit to audit taxpayers and organizations, The Daily Caller has learned. A redacted IRS letter dated Sept. 8, 2011 reveals that at least in one case the IRS’s examiners used photos of a property, obtained through Google Maps, as evidence to revoke the 501(c)(4) status of a homeowner’s association. “The road consists of a two-mile loop around the inside of the property. It does not have any sidewalks or bicycle lanes. The examining agent printed and copied a map from Google Maps into this report,” states the letter.
501(c)4 is a tax-exempt status that includes certain “social welfare organizations,” “local associations of employees,” “homeowners associations,” “volunteer fire companies,” and certain lobbying organizations. The IRS became mired in scandal in May 2013 after a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that IRS staffers had singled out tea party groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny.
Dec. 3: The Hill: Republicans: The FBI Stonewalling IRS probe
Two top House Republicans on Tuesday accused the FBI of stonewalling their investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) say the FBI isn’t turning over requested documents, and has failed to follow through on a promised briefing for lawmakers.
Issa and Jordan said recent FBI actions suggest that the bureau and political appointees at the Justice Department are trying to hinder the Oversight panel’s investigation into the IRS targeting of tax-exempt groups. “The department's tactics have impeded a congressional investigation and interfered with the committee's access to documents and information,” Issa and Jordan wrote Monday to FBI director James Comey. “Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime. Making false statements to congressional staff is also a crime.”
The FBI opened its own investigation into the IRS’s singling out of Tea Party groups in May, shortly after the agency acknowledged and apologized for its treatment of certain tax-exempt organizations.
Nov. 26: Roll Call: Treasury and IRS rules target political nonprofits
Politically active tax-exempt groups, which spent tens of millions in the previous election without disclosing their donors, would face tighter restrictions under new guidelines proposed Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the IRS. The initial guidance, outlined in a Tuesday release and slated to be published shortly in the Federal Register, spells out that “candidate-related political activity” may not be defined as promoting the social welfare. The guidance defines such activity to include messages that picture or name a candidate on the eve of an election, potentially restricting the widespread use of campaign-style ads that evade disclosure as so-called issue ads by 501(c)4 social welfare groups.
“The proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” Mark J. Mazur, assistant treasury secretary for tax policy, said in a release. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing additional proposed guidance or final rules.”
The IRS and the Treasury Department have been under growing pressure from Capitol Hill and from activists on the left and the right over controversies involving tax-exempt groups, which have poured big money into campaigns in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to deregulate political spending.
An IRS scandal involving the agency’s targeting of tea party groups seeking tax exemption led to the ouster of several top officials and is still under investigation on Capitol Hill. At the same time, groups promoting political money restrictions have sued the agency for allegedly failing to follow its own regulations governing social welfare groups, rules that the watchdogs argue are at odds with tax statutes and have cleared the way for tens of millions of dollars in undisclosed campaign spending.
Nov. 18: The Daily Caller: Emails Reveal: IRS Officials said Lerner threw Cincinnati Office under the bus!
An IRS official blasted Lois Lerner for her attempt to blame the agency’s targeting scandal on low-level employees in Cincinnati, according to newly released emails. “Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ (but) instead was hit by a convoy of Mack trucks,” wrote Cindy Thomas, former director of the IRS exempt organizations office in Cincinnati, in a May 10, 2013 email to Lerner obtained by the House Ways and Means Committee. Thomas wrote the email on the very day that the IRS targeting scandal broke when Lerner, a senior agency official based in Washington, D.C., admitted that her exempt organizations division engaged in improper targeting of conservative groups.
Lerner initially claimed that the agency’s Cincinatti office was solely responsible for the practice. The New York Times went to bat for the administration, characterizing the Cincinatti office as a “backwater” filled with “low-level employees.” But Thomas wasn’t having it. “As you can imagine, employees and managers (in the Cincinnati tax-exempt division) are furious,” Thomas wrote to Lerner. “Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington office for assistance and the Washington office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?” Thomas wrote.
Nov. 11: The Daily Caller: IRS lost $4 billion to Identity Thieves while investigating the TEA party:
The Internal Revenue Service sent $4 billion to identity thieves filing fraudulent tax returns in 2012, at the same time it was devoting resources to invasive politically targeted audits of not-for-profit groups, according to a recent report released by Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George. The IRS, which is now overseeing Obamacare’s complicated implementation and collecting its tax penalties, sent 343 tax refunds to a single address in Shanghai, and another 655 tax refunds to one in Lithuania, according to CBS News.
A statement detailing a similar report filed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found 1.1 million fraudulent tax returns were filed with clearly fabricated Social Security numbers that IRS could have detected, costing taxpayers $3.6 billion in 2011. George, a former White House staffer who has volunteered for both Democrats and Republicans, incurred the wrath the wrath of House Democrats during the IRS tea party targeting hearings in July. His audit revealed that the IRS subjected conservative groups to extra delays and unconstitutional scrutiny — including asking Christian groups to provide “both sides of the issues” and detail the content of their members’ prayers — while withhold approvals and slow-walking applications.
Oct. 22: Fox News: IRS pays illegal immigrants while stalling TEA parties
While harrying and stalling Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status, the Internal Revenue Service mailed $4.2 billion in child-credit checks to undocumented immigrants. Critics say midlevel IRS bureaucrats continue to abuse the Additional Child Tax Credit program by dispensing $1,000 checks to families in this country illegally. “The law needs clarification that undocumented immigrants are not eligible,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) told Watchdog.org in a statement. Grassley co-sponsored a clarifying amendment with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) making this clarification. “Unfortunately, the majority leader (Harry Reid) cut off debate, so we weren’t given the chance to offer our amendment,” said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Oct. 9: The Daily Caller: White House and IRS exchange confidential taxpayer Information:
Top IRS Obamacare official Sarah Hall Ingram discussed confidential taxpayer information with senior Obama White House officials, according to 2012 emails obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and provided to The Daily Caller. Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations division, also received an email alongside White House officials that contained confidential information.
Ingram attempted to counsel the White House on a lawsuit from religious organizations opposing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Email exchanges involving Ingram and White House officials — including White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz and deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew — contained confidential taxpayer information, according to the Oversight Committee.
The emails provided to Oversight investigators by the IRS had numerous redactions with the signifier “6103.” Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code forbids a federal employee from “disclos[ing] any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee.” Federal employees who illegally disclose confidential taxpayer information could face five years in prison.
Oct. 1: The Daily Caller: Dr. Ben Carson: “I had my first encounter with the IRS after challenging Obama”
At an event in Birmingham, Ala. Monday night, former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson revealed that he had received a visit from the Internal Revenue Service following his much-noted remarks at a National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year. “I had my first encounter with the IRS this year, unsurprisingly after the prayer breakfast,” Carson told an audience that at the annual Business Council of Alabama Chairman’s Dinner, according to a report from Cliff Sims of the Montgomery, Ala.-based Yellowhammer News. Carson’s February speech made him a conservative darling for criticizing President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care reform law, while Obama was sitting just a few feet away.
Sept. 23: The Daily Caller:
Conservative group suing IRS receives tax-exempt status, DOJ seeks to have case dismissed:
The Internal Revenue Service has granted the Texas-based “election integrity” group True the Vote its tax-exempt status after more than three years, the organization announced Monday. “We are pleased and relieved that the IRS and the DOJ are finally doing what should have been done three years ago, which is to recognize TTV as a charitable and educational organization, which we have always been and will continue to be,” Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, said in a statement.
True the Vote filed for tax-exempt status in July 2010. When it came to light in May 2013 that the IRS was targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exemption, the organization filed suit against the IRS in the federal district court of Washington, D.C. The Department of Justice advised the court Friday that the IRS had granted True the Vote its tax-exempt status and filed a motion to dismiss the charges. “Since Plaintiff filed this action, the Service has determined, with the concurrence of the United States Department of Justice, to grant Plaintiff’s application for tax-exempt status and is in the process of issuing a favorable determination letter,” DOJ wrote in its motion.
According to Cleta Mitchelle, the lead counsel for the plaintiff in the case and a partner at Foley & Lardner, “this case is far from moot.” She highlighted questions that remain to be answered, such as when True the Vote will receive its tax-exempt status letter, what the government will do about the damages incurred while the group waited for over three years and what will happen to the confidential information the IRS demanded and the violation of True the Vote’s employees’ rights. “This lawsuit is about getting to the truth and we are not going to stop until we find out the answers to these and many other questions,” Mitchell said.
Sept. 23: The Daily Caller: IRS scandal figure Lois Lerner retires:
Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner is finally retiring from the scandal-plagued agency. Lerner has been on administrative leave since May. Lerner, head of the IRS division Washington, D.C. tasked with evaluating tax-exempt nonprofit applications from groups, apologized in May for her division’s improper scrutiny of conservative and tea party groups between 2010 and 2012. Lerner tried to plead the Fifth to avoid self-incrimination in congressional testimony, but the House Oversight Committee ruled that she waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she said “I have not broken any laws” before attempting her plea.
Sept. 18: Fox News:
IRS continued to target groups after granting then Tax Exempt Stutus, Lawmaker says:
The Internal Revenue Service continued to target conservative political groups even after approving their applications for tax exempt status, a key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday. The IRS acknowledged in May that agents had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups for additional, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. An investigation by the House Ways and Means Committee has uncovered evidence that IRS agents also subjected conservative groups to special scrutiny after they were granted tax-exempt status, said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-LA, who chairs the panel's oversight subcommittee.
Speaking at a committee hearing Wednesday, Boustany said the vast majority of groups subjected to special monitoring were conservative. The monitoring, known as a review of operations, fell short of a full audit in most cases. Instead, agents monitored the groups to assess whether they were adhering to the activities described in their applications for tax-exempt status. "The committee has discovered that among the hastily approved applications for exempt status in the early summer of 2012, a large number were flagged for IRS surveillance by Washington," Boustany said. "Of those flagged, more than 80 percent of the groups were right-leaning."
Acting IRS head Danny Werfel said all of the orders to more closely monitor tax-exempt groups have been rescinded while the IRS works to develop new guidelines. "They are no longer on a path of potential examination at this time," Werfel said at the hearing. "That whole process is on hold."
The IRS has been under siege since May when agency officials acknowledged that agents working in a Cincinnati office had improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Shortly after the revelation, President Barack Obama forced the acting IRS commissioner to resign and appointed Werfel to run the agency temporarily. In August, Obama nominated John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist, to a five-year term as commissioner. Werfel continues to run the agency while Koskinen awaits Senate confirmation.
Sept. 18: The Daily Caller:
Washington Post Coverage of TEA Party targeting inspired IRS officials to target conservatives:
The Washington Post’s anti-tea party coverage inspired IRS officials to improperly target conservative groups, according to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee memo. “The IRS first identified and elevated the Tea Party applications due to media attention surrounding the Tea Party…Media attention caused the IRS to treat conservative-oriented tax-exempt applications differently,” according to a September 17 House Oversight memo entitled “Interim update on the Committee’s investigation of the Internal Revenue Service’s inappropriate treatment of tax-exempt applications.”
While the memo acknowledged that President Obama’s and the White House’s anti-Citizens United, campaign finance reform-related rhetoric in early 2010 was not lost on IRS officials, the memo makes clear that the Washington Post’s heavy anti-tea party coverage directly inspired improper IRS targeting. “When other Tea Party applications were discovered, the cases were classified as ‘sensitive’ due to media attention and two more were transferred to Washington to be processed,” according to the memo, which explains that in February 2010 a Cincinnati-based IRS screener alerted a tea party group’s tax-exempt application to his superior, who brought the concerns to the agency’s Washington office, because “Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.”
Sept. 13: The Daily Caller:
Holder, IRS officials coached tax-exempt black ministers on how to engage in political activity:
Attorney General Eric Holder and IRS officials advised black ministers on how to engage in political activity during the 2012 election without violating their tax-exempt status. Holder, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, and Peter Lorenzetti, a senior official in the scandal-plagued agency’s exempt organizations division, participated in a May 2012 training session for black ministers from the Conference of National Black Churches at the U.S. Capitol hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Holder spoke at the event. “We’re going to, first of all, equip them with the information they need to know about what they can say and what they cannot say in the church that would violate their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS,” said then-CBC chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri. “In fact, we’re going to have the IRS administrator there. We’re going to have Attorney General Eric Holder there…the ACLU.” Cleaver’s session advised black ministers on “draconian laws” including voter ID laws. Cleaver was a sharp critic during the 2012 campaign of Republican Mitt Romney’s policies.
Sept. 12: The Daily Caller: Dangerous: Lois Lerner Knew about TEA Party Targeting in 2011, emails show:
House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp vowed that “there will be consequences” after revealing secret emails that embattled Washington-based IRS official Lois Lerner sent to her colleagues suggesting collusion between the IRS and Democratic operatives and claiming that tea party applications should not be processed through the agency’s Cincinnati office. “Tea Party Matter very dangerous… Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one… Cincy should probably NOT have these cases,” Lerner said in a February 2011 email, despite the fact that IRS officials initially claimed that the agency’s Cincinnati office was solely responsible for the improper targeting of tea party and conservative groups.
“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in an email, responding to a complaint the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The IRS and FEC reportedly collaborated on conservative targeting. “There is increasing and overwhelming evidence that Lois Lerner and high-level IRS employees in Washington were abusing their power to prevent conservative groups from organizing and carrying out their missions. There are still mountains of documents to go through, but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences,” Camp said.
Sept. 12: The Daily Caller:
IRS, FBI Investigators still have not contacted targeted conservative groups:
Federal government investigators probing the IRS targeting scandal have still not contacted any of the more than 40 victimized conservative and tea party groups represented in the American Center for Law and Justice lawsuit against the IRS. “Neither the FBI nor any of the investigations have contacted any of our clients,” ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow told The Daily Caller.
More than four months have passed since beleaguered IRS official Lois Lerner apologized for her agency improperly targeting conservatives with extensive and sometimes harassing audits. FBI director Robert Mueller and acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel have launched investigations into the matter, but have not contacted any of the conservative groups involved in the ACLJ’s class-action suit. Eric Holder’s Justice Department, which Holder claims is coordinating with the FBI on its investigation, has also not contacted any of Sekulow’s clients.
At least five different IRS offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Laguna Niguel and El Monte, California; improperly demanded extensive information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status between 2010 and 2012. The IRS demanded copies of training materials distributed by conservative groups, as well as personal information on college interns and even the contents of a religious group’s prayers.
Sept. 8: The Daily Caller: New IRS policy taxes automatic tips for waiters:
A new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policy will classify many waiters’ tips as taxable income instead of self-reported tips, leading to increased costs for restaurants. The IRS will begin classifying automatic tips at large restaurant tables — which are built into the bill, and which currently count as tips that are not subject to payroll tax withholding — as taxable service charges, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, is considering eliminating automatic tips altogether, and Texas Roadhouse is already planning to enact that policy before the end of the year, eliminating a program that helps waiters who make less than minimum wage get paid at least minimum wage. The new rule will make waiters even less likely to split their tips with the busboys, who often get cheated out of those tips anyway despite making less than minimum wage to clean tablecloths, fold napkins a certain way, and eat scraps in the kitchen while getting made fun of by the dishwashers. Restaurants will be saddled with more tax costs, which will make them even less likely to hire new waiters and waitresses, many of whom get fired or have their hours cut by greasy-haired managers named “Dave” for arbitrary personal reasons or for complaining about sexual harassment.
Aug. 23: The Daily Caller: See which Veterans group the IRS is targeting now
The Internal Revenue Service is targeting the veterans’ organization the American Legion, and a U.S. senator believes that Lois Lerner — a key figure in the IRS scandal – is to blame. “The IRS now requires American Legion posts to maintain dates of service and character of service records for all members… The penalty for not having the required proof of eligibility is, apparently, $1,000 per day,” the American Legion stated. The American Legion was referring to a 13-part section of Part 4, Chapter 76 of the Internal Revenue Manual pertaining to “veterans’ organizations.” The section falls under “Exempt Organizations Examination Guidelines,” which is the jurisdiction of Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner, who apologized for improperly targeting tea party groups and tried to plead the Fifth Amendment in a congressional hearing.
“The American Legion has recently learned of the so-called IRS ‘audit manual’ and is concerned that portions of it attempt to amend statutes passed by Congress and approved by the president,” American Legion legal counsel Philip Onderdonk, Jr. told The Daily Caller. “Resolutions recommending action by the Legion’s legislative division on two of the most egregious sections of the IRS document are being presented for a vote by members at The American Legion’s annual national convention in Houston [this] week. If the resolutions are adopted, the Legion will be empowered as a body to urge correction of the veterans service organization-related portion(s) of the IRS manual and suggest congressional review of the entire 38 section IRS document,” Onderdonk said.
“On the heels of Americans’ anger over revelations that the IRS intentionally targeted certain groups, it has been brought to my attention that the IRS is now turning their sights toward our nation’s veterans,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said. “The IRS seems to be auditing veteran service organizations by requiring private member military service forms.” “If a post is unable or not willing to turn over this personal information, it’s possible they could face a fine of $1,000 per day,” Moran continued.
Aug. 15: The Daily Caller: Congressman charges Secretary Lew is stonewalling responses to IRS questions:
A Republican congressman is charging Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew with stonewalling him on questions pertaining to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups. On June 7, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) sent a letter to Lew inquiring when he first became aware of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, even if only in rumors, and if he was at any of the numerous meetings former IRS chief Douglas Shulman had at the White House when Lew served as chief of staff for President Obama in 2012.
The Treasury Department finally responded to Garrett’s questions in a letter dated July 12, but the response didn’t directly answer Garrett’s questions.
Aug. 10: The Hill: 2010 TEA Party Senate Candidates face Establishment opposition in 2014 run:
Several Tea Party-backed GOP candidates who lost Senate races in the recent past are contemplating comebacks this fall. But, this time around, they could face even steeper climbs than they did in their initial quests. Ken Buck has said he is ready to try again to win a Senate seat in Colorado. Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller are also considering bids in Delaware and Alaska. Back in 2010, Buck and O’Donnell fell to Democrats Michael Bennet and Chris Coons, respectively. Miller vanquished sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the primary that same year, only for her to take revenge by winning the general election as a write-in candidate.
As party insiders tell it, weak candidates claimed GOP nominations in 2010 largely because of their ability to marshal Tea Party support. In so doing, they dispatched candidates who would have been stronger in the general election to oblivion. More recently, establishment Republicans have pledged to engage heavily in this cycle's primaries to ensure the nomination of candidates whom they see as more electable. Of course, one of the issues the grass-root Republicans have is when the “establishment” and their money selects candidates that are supposed to be “electable.” McCain and Romney are two examples and the grass-roots ask “How is that working for you?”
Overall, the GOP appears poised for a strong year in 2014, thanks in part to its recruitment. The party needs to win six seats to take control of the Senate. Strategists feel they are in a good position to win three open seats and to defeat three other Democratic incumbents.
Aug. 10: Fox News: Critics question IRS initiative to target small business:
Small business owners across the country are receiving letters from the IRS questioning if they are reporting all of their cash income, in a new push by the agency some are saying could unnecessarily create fear in the small business community. The Wall Street Journal reports the initiative is an attempt to respond to what the agency feels is a widespread failure by small businesses to report all their cash sales. The agency says the letters are not the same as an audit, and it is simply seeking more tax information from the businesses. However, some lawmakers and business owners who received the letters say the initiative is alarming.
"There's an emotional thing when you get a pretty ominous-looking letter from the IRS, [saying] you might have done some bad things," small business owner Tom Reese tells the Wall Street Journal. "I really work hard with my accountant to make sure that I not only follow the law, but follow the letter of the law." One letter the IRS sent is headlined, "Notification of Possible Income Underreporting." It notifies the business owner "your gross receipts may be underreported" and says they must complete a form "to explain why the portion of your gross receipts from non-card payments appears unusually low."
One lawmaker says the letter’s tone implies wrongdoing from the start. "The letter implies that this is a serious matter that could lead to assessments of additional tax, penalties and interest," says a letter sent to the IRS Friday by Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, chairman of the House Small Business Committee.
Aug. 10: The Daily Caller: Colorado conservative group files suit over “Gestapo-like” IRS over disclosure of tax documents:
A conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit whose application for tax exempt status was among several wrongfully given to ProPublica earlier this year is suing the IRS over the disclosure and demanding big bucks in damages. The Denver-based Citizens Awareness Project filed the suit in federal court Thursday, asking the court to award it $1,000 for every time unauthorized persons saw its confidential returns, as well as other unspecified damages. In addition to the IRS, the suit names the United States of America and Attorney General Eric Holder as defendants
“Defendants’ conduct has caused Plaintiff to incur actual damages in the form of harm to its reputation, harm to its fundraising ability, and direct costs for legal and public relations responses related to the release of this tax return information,” the suit reads. Citizens Awareness Project filed its application for tax-exempt status in October 2012 and was among scores of conservative groups that the IRS subjected to intensive scrutiny.. The application was finally approved after nine months, on July 25.
But long before it was approved, the group’s application was sent to ProPublica as part of a request for public documents by the news site. The IRS sent ProPublica reports and documents related to 31 groups, including nine for conservative groups whose applications were still pending, meaning they were supposed to remain confidential. IRS attorneys called Citizens Awareness Project and told them their application “may have been illegally or improperly released,” the suit says.
Aug. 9: Fox News Video: Camp, Chair of House Ways and Means says the targeting of TEA Party Group continues to this day.
Aug. 7: The Hill: Issa investigating alleged collusion between IRS and FEC:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to the Federal Election Committee (FEC) on Wednesday requesting documents he says are potentially related to “inappropriate coordination” between the independent regulatory agency and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). “Documents recently produced to the Committee demonstrate that FEC personnel communicated with IRS personnel about tax-exempt groups engaged in political activities,” Issa wrote. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee cited emails between an FEC official and then-IRS director Lois Lerner, who earlier this year plead the fifth in testimony before Congress, in which the FEC official asked Lerner about tax-exempt applications pertaining to two conservative groups.
Issa said the communications between the two groups “raise the prospect of inappropriate coordination between the IRS and the FEC about tax-exempt entities.” He’s requested documentation for all communication between FEC and IRS employees from Jan. 1, 2008 to the present. The Oversight chairman has fought to keep the investigation into the IRS’s alleged singling-out of Tea Party-affiliated groups in the public eye. Last week, Issa subpoenaed IRS documents from the Treasury Department, and on Tuesday wrote an op-ed urging the White House and IRS to be more cooperative in his investigations.
Aug. 7: Politico: Lawmakers line up to take over Chairman Issa’s Gavel:
About a half-dozen lawmakers are jockeying for the gavel of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, trying to prove to their colleagues that they have the chops to probe the Obama administration and savvy to flack their findings on television. Issa’s term as the Obama administration’s chief inquisitor expires at the end of 2014, and unless leaders waive party rules, he won’t be eligible to keep running the committee. It’s no wonder so many lawmakers are lining up to take his place. The Oversight chairman has jurisdiction over the flashiest topics of the day: IRS, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and Solyndra. It’s also one of the highest-profile chairmanships in the House — transforming Issa from an obscure Beltway name into a familiar face on televisions across America.
Aug. 6: The Hill: Chairmen Camp and Issa press White House to cooperate in IRS investigation:
Two House chairmen are pressing the White House and the IRS to be more cooperative in the investigation into the agency’s singling out of Tea Party groups. In a new op-ed, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said that the Obama administration had for weeks been trying to close the door on the inquiry into the IRS’s scrutiny of groups seeking tax-exempt status. “The administration’s own partisan anti-tea party rhetoric, its evolving and inconsistent explanations and the IRS’s own unwillingness to fulfill the president’s promises of cooperation with our investigation have fueled skepticism about how dedicated they are to holding the responsible parties accountable,” Camp and Issa wrote in The Washington Post.
The chairmen's op-ed comes after the House examination into the IRS’s behavior has become increasingly partisan. Issa himself raised the stakes last week by subpoenaing IRS documents from the Treasury Department. Camp and Issa, among others, have expressed frustration at what they say is the slow delivery of documents from the IRS. Before heading out for August recess, House Republicans passed several measures aimed at the IRS last week, including one that would bar the agency from implementing Obama’s healthcare law.
Aug. 1: The Daily Caller: House Chair slams President for calling Administration problems “phony scandals”
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California berated the Obama administration Thursday for its repeated dismissals of congressional investigations into the IRS, the 2012 Benghazi embassy attacks, and the Department of Justice’s Fast & Furious program as “phony scandals.” Speaking at a meeting of the House Republican Study Committee, Issa stressed the need for vigilance in the ongoing investigations, and lambasted the Obama White House for its blasé attitude toward the continuing revelations. President Obama, White House press secretary Jay Carney, and numerous Democratic members of Congress have labeled the events “phony scandals” in the last year.
“We will follow the facts, and we will conduct investigations,” Issa promised. “If the president hides those facts, we will still find them, and we will report them.” As chairman of the House oversight committee, Issa is one of the chief investigators of government wrongdoing. Issa also played a short montage of testimony from family members of the victims of the attacks on Benghazi and the Fast & Furious “gun running” program, as living evidence that the scandals were anything but phony.
July 29: The Hill: Tax-exempt groups were IRS targets:
The IRS subjected conservative groups already granted tax-exempt status to additional scrutiny during the 2012 election cycle, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) charged on Monday. Issa called on a Treasury watchdog already looking into the IRS to investigate the matter, and signaled he would expand his committee’s probe into improper targeting of political groups given the new revelations. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on Issa’s panel, accused the chairman of pushing a “political narrative” by picking choice quotes and disregarding contrary evidence.
He said the Virginia-based Leadership Institute was audited in 2011 and 2012 for activities it engaged in during the 2008 election year, even though it had functioned as a tax-exempt organization since 1979. It faced “invasive questions” — including about its interns and where they went on to work — and ended up turning over to the IRS more than 23,000 pages of documents at a cost of roughly $50,000 to comply with the inquiry, Issa said. “It has come to the attention of the committee that in addition to inappropriate treatment given to some applicants for tax-exempt status, existing organizations already recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS, appear to have faced questionable treatment by the IRS,” Issa wrote Monday in a letter to the Treasury inspector general (IG) for tax administration.
Issa said the Institute was told by the IRS office conducting the audit that there would be follow-up document requests and questions. About two months later, in July 2012, the IRS concluded the audit, which is roughly the same time the Treasury IG determined the IRS changed its process for scrutinizing potential political groups applying for tax-exempt status. Issa specifically questioned whether the IRS had a “systematic” plan in place to automatically review conservative groups several years after granting an exemption. He said that interviews with 18 IRS employees indicated that at least some Tea Party groups were referred to the unit that conducted follow-up scrutiny.
July 29: The Hill: Watchdog requests IRS review of group that is promoting ObamaCare:
A watchdog group is asking the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of a organization crucial in helping to promote ObamaCare. Cause of Action has asked the IRS to investigate Enroll America, a nonprofit that is encouraging people to enroll in new coverage options under the healthcare law. The watchdog group said Enroll America should not have received tax-exempt status because its work helps secure new customers for insurance companies. “If Enroll America is designed to benefit insurance companies instead of the American public, then its charitable status no longer applies,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action. “An organization that has been granted tax deductible status but is actually depriving the American people of taxable revenue warrants an investigation.”
Enroll America is a known ally of the White House, and was established to help raise awareness of new insurance options available under ObamaCare. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has made fundraising calls for the organization.
July 29: Roll Call: The Baucus-Camp Tax Road shows faces obstacles
Give them credit for this much: The top congressional tax writers are doing their level best to push for an overhaul of the nation’s outdated tax code. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) have their own website, a Twitter handle and a road show. The problem for Baucus and Camp is not Americans’ lack of interest in seeing their taxes get simpler — and possibly lower — but in the stark ideological differences between rank-and-file lawmakers when it comes to tax issues. And the leaders of their respective parties have taken a wait-and-see approach to the bicameral effort, which has hampered momentum in the halls of Congress.
Sen. Charles Grassley, a former Finance Committee head, said the two chairmen face tough odds, regardless of whether they travel outside the Beltway to drum up interest in a tax policy rewrite. “It might not be productive, but in — in public policy, you never know for sure if something’s going to work. So, if there’s no known negative, you ought to do it. So, in this case there’s no known negative, so they ought to do it,” Grassley said. “I believe the necessity of tax reform is complicated. You gotta educate the public about it. The ideal thing would be to have tax reform be part of a presidential campaign, you know, where you get a mandate to do it.”
July 28: The Hill: Lew: IRS exhibited ‘equal opportunity bad judgment’ in targeting:
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Sunday the Internal Revenue Service exhibited "equal opportunity bad judgment" in the improper targeting of political groups, and there was no evidence of political pressure. Just days after President Obama accused Washington of focusing attention on "phony scandals," Lew said on "Fox News Sunday" mistakes were made in the IRS, but there is no evidence the White House or political officials drove the improper targeting. "There's no political official who condoned it or authorized it," he said, adding that the mistakes that were made were "unacceptable" and "unjustifiable."
The scandal broke when IRS officials apologized for improperly targeting Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status, and has led to Republican accusations the White House used the tax collecting agency to intimidate political opponents. But Lew said the IRS review underway has found that both conservative and progressive groups were targeted. More conservative groups faced probing questions, but Lew argued there were more conservative groups to begin with.
Host Chris Wallace pressed Lew on whether he had spoken with William Wilkins, the IRS chief counsel and one of two political appointees at the agency, when he learned of the targeting. Lew said he was leaving the investigation up to investigators, and reiterated that no evidence has been uncovered of political pressure. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) did not agree with Lew, saying there were still more stones to be uncovered. "There's a big deficit of trust with this administration, particularly when it comes to the IRS," he said.
July 25: The Daily Caller: Obama Calls scandals “Phony”
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Republicans are trying to distract America from its economic problems by pushing “phony scandals,” echoing a line repeatedly used this week by White House press secretary Jay Carney. “With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” Obama said, according to prepared remarks released by the White House prior to his economic speech Wednesday at Knox College in Illinois. ”And I am here to say this needs to stop. Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires.” Obama’s statement echoes a line repeatedly used by Carney to describe the IRS targeting scandal and other Obama administration headaches, including the National Security Agency surveillance and the Benghazi terrorist attack.
July 25: Fox News: Victim speaks out about “phony” scandals: [Video Clip]
It's like the Captain of the Titanic calling the iceberg phony! (Becky Gerritson)
July 25: The Daily Caller: Fireworks erupt between Carney and MSNBC Host:
White House press secretary Jay Carney appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday to discuss President Barack Obama’s recent “pivot” back to economic issues, which is set to be kicked off with a speech in Illinois.
Host Joe Scarborough, however, also wanted to discuss the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, which a visibly irritated Carney dismissed as a “phony scandal.”
“At the beginning, you said it was just the Cincinnati office,” Scarborough said. “And then we find out more people in Washington are involved. And then this past week we found out, despite what any of us think of the investigations on Capitol Hill — and I see you smiling, I don’t know that there’s anything to smile about, that it wasn’t a couple of crazy people in Cincinnati, that this information actually went up to the Chief Counsel of the IRS, which was one of two political appointees by the president of the United States and the entire IRS. So it doesn’t sound phony to me, Jay.”
That led to a brief yet tense exchange between Scarborough and Carney:
- Carney: I greatly appreciate that that is the line pushed by Republicans who want Washington to be focused on scandals instead of the economy —
- Scarborough: No, no, no, no, no, no, Jay — is that the truth or not? Don’t give me talking points! That doesn’t work on this show. So answer my question, and then let’s talk about the economy.
- Carney: When you get to the question I’ll answer it—
- Scarborough: I gave you the question, and you decided to fight me, Jay. Stop your games with me. We’ve known each other for too long. I’m not playing your games. I’m not somebody you talk down to from your podium.
July 23: Roll Call: Blame the IRS or Fix It? Rules of the Game:
When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) launched his hearings into improper IRS targeting of tea party groups, some voiced hope that the probe would shed light not just on what went wrong at the IRS but on how to fix it. So far, things haven’t turned out that way. Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform panel has largely overlooked the problem at the root of the targeting scandal: convoluted and subjective regulations governing politically active tax-exempt groups. Instead, Issa and his GOP colleagues have focused almost exclusively on identifying how far up the Obama administration the scandal might reach. His panel’s latest finding is that the office of the IRS chief counsel, an Obama appointee, demanded information on the 2010 election activity of tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Democrats, too, have spent less time talking about how to clear up muddled IRS rules than they have pointing fingers at Issa and others. They have accused J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, of misleading them by failing to note in his report that progressive groups were also singled out for special scrutiny. Lost in all this is the question of how to clear up the muddled IRS regulations that have rendered the agency all but incapable of enforcing tax laws on social welfare and other nonprofit groups that spend millions on elections. Expenditures by such groups, which are not publicly reported, have soared in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling to deregulate independent political spending.
“It’s quite clear that the blurry standards are what led to the potential misconduct,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “The hearings so far have focused on that potential misconduct, and we haven’t seen a shift to discussing solutions.”
July 19: The Daily Caller: Retiring IRS Lawyer implicated Obama appointee in testimony:
Retiring IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull’s testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in which he implicated an Obama appointee, ensuring that the IRS proceedings last through the summer, according to insiders close to the situation. Hull has already implicated Obama-appointed IRS chief counsel William Wilkins and Washington-based IRS official Lois Lerner in his testimony. “In April of 2010, I was assigned by my supervisor to work on two applications of tea party groups. In that same month, I became aware that a group of tea party applications were being held by EO determinations in Cincinnati,” Hull testified in his opening statement. “It was my understanding that the applications assigned to me would be ‘test cases’ to provide guidance for those other applications. I was also told by my supervisor that I was to coordinate the review of the tea party applications that were assigned to Elizabeth Hofacre in Cincinnati,” Hull testified.
Hull, 72, implicated the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, headed by Obama appointee William J. Wilkins, and Lois Lerner, the embattled head of the IRS’s exempt organizations office, in the IRS targeting scandal and made clear that the targeting started in Washington. “According to Hull’s testimony, Ms. Lerner…gave an atypical instruction that the Tea Party applications undergo special scrutiny that included an uncommon multi-layer review that involved a top advisor to Lerner as well as the Chief Counsel’s office,” Oversight Committee documents revealed. In August 2012, the “Chief Counsel’s office held a meeting with Mr. Hull, Ms. Lerner’s senior advisor, and other Washington officials to discuss these test applications.”
Hull’s testimony set off a storm of controversy among figures close to the case. “This is one of the most extremely disturbing revelations yet,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents more than 40 tea party plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the IRS. “It is now clear that the IRS Chief Counsel, appointed by President Obama in 2009, was involved in examining and reviewing applications from Tea Party groups – many that were basically shut out of the 2010 election process because of delays in handling of their applications. This development raises significant questions about what the White House knew and when. In a politically charged run-up to the 2010 election, why was one of President Obama’s most trusted and partisan appointees involved in examining the applications for Tea Party groups? We look forward to tomorrow’s testimony and further information about the origins of this unlawful and unconstitutional scheme that violated the First Amendment rights of our clients,” Sekulow said.
July 18: The Hill: IRS IG: We didn’t get progressive documents until last week:
The Treasury inspector general who outlined the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups aggressively defended his office from Democratic attacks on Thursday, saying he had never seen an independent auditor treated that way. [Watch Video] Democrats at a House Oversight hearing charged that Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, had examined the targeting too narrowly and missed the IRS’s treatment of liberal groups. George, Democrats contended, is also standing in the way of a requested document release.
George told lawmakers he was “disturbed” that his office was not until recently given documents that showed how liberal groups were scrutinized. But the former GOP staffer at the Oversight panel added at the end of a two-and-a-half hour appearance that he’d never seen lawmakers be so confrontational toward an inspector general. “I have to admit, I’m a little concerned that this type of forum could have a chilling effect on the operations of inspectors general,” George said, adding that when he was at Oversight “we never treated an IG office like this.” George also expressed concern that the lawmakers were questioning the integrity of members of his career staff who weren’t political appointees. “If it were an allegation of personal wrongdoing on my behalf or on my organization’s behalf, that’s one thing,” George said. “But to just try to suggest that an audit could have been differently. This is unprecedented.”
July 18: The Hill: Issa vows IRS hearing will show DC involvement in Tea Party targeting:
Claims that the IRS controversy can be blamed on staffers in a Cincinnati office are "absurd," House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said Thursday. Issa said Thursday's hearing on the IRS controversy would definitively show that Washington officials were deeply involved in the targeting of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. He faulted the White House for casting blame on the Cincinnati staffers, saying that claim would be “debunked” at the hearing, where Elizabeth Hofacre, an Ohio-based staffer who dealt with tax-exempt applications, and Carter Hull, a D.C.-based tax law specialist, are testifying. “Washington made a catastrophic mistake” in dealing with the Tea Party applications, Issa said.
But Issa also struck a conciliatory tone in his opening statement, after the partisan rancor had ramped up between Republicans and Democrats on the Oversight panel in recent days. Issa said references to Washington shouldn’t be construed to mean the White House, and that references to the IRS chief counsel would refer to the full office — not just the Obama appointee at its head. “It is important that we understand that words matter, that nuances matter,” Issa said.
July 17: The Daily Caller | Fox News (Video): IRS Lawyer says scandal was overseen by D.C. and names names:
Top IRS officials in Washington, D.C. planned and oversaw the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups, according to the 72-year old retiring IRS lawyer who will testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.
Retiring IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull implicated the IRS Chief Counsel’s office and Lois Lerner, the embattled head of the IRS’ exempt organizations office, in the IRS targeting scandal and made clear that the targeting started in Washington, according to leaked interviews that Hull granted to the Oversight Committee in advance of Thursday’s hearing.
Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George will return to Republican chairman Darrell Issa’s committee Thursday along with two central characters in the IRS saga: Hull and Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre, who previously gave Hull’s name to congressional investigators, fingering him as her Washington-based supervisor.
Hull is naming names. “In April 2010, Mr. Hull was instructed to scrutinize certain Tea Party applications by one of his superiors in Washington. According to Mr. Hull, these applications were used as ‘test’ cases and assigned to him because of his expertise and because IRS leadership in Washington was ‘trying to find out how [the IRS] should approach these organizations, and how [the IRS] should handle them,’” according to Oversight Committee documents.
“According to Hull’s testimony, Ms. Lerner…gave an atypical instruction that the Tea Party applications undergo special scrutiny that included an uncommon multi-layer review that involved a top advisor to Lerner as well as the Chief Counsel’s office,” according to Oversight Committee documents.
In August 2012, the “Chief Counsel’s office held a meeting with Mr. Hull, Ms. Lerner’s senior advisor, and other Washington officials to discuss these test applications.”
Lerner eventually told Hull that tea party applications would have to go through a round of review at the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, which “created a bottleneck and caused the delay of other Tea Party applications in Cincinnati,” according to Oversight Committee documents.
July 15: Politico: Lawmakers wrestle with cutting big tax breaks:
When it comes to tax reform, it’s go big or go home. As lawmakers wade into the specifics of overhauling the Tax Code, they’ll find it tough to enact major cuts in tax rates — for many, the only reason to bother with all the controversy that will come with a once-in-a-generation overhaul — without slicing a wide swath of tax breaks benefiting millions of Americans. That means going well beyond “loopholes” and targeting popular breaks, including ones that benefit the middle class. That will make tax reform — an already heavy lift — exponentially more controversial.
Yet if they stop short of turning the Tax Code upside down, they could end up with so little savings that they won’t be able to afford cutting taxes by more than a percentage point or two — likely leaving lawmakers, especially Republicans, to wonder why they should bother. It’s a dilemma that’s often overlooked amid the ongoing impasse over whether any revenue generated by clamping down on tax breaks must be used exclusively for offsetting the cost of cutting tax rates or if some may go toward deficit reduction. It’s as though policymakers are haggling over the spoils of tax reform without much consideration of where they’ll get the money in the first place.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah are gaging support for specific individual and corporate provisions, giving their colleagues until July 26 to explain which ought to survive any overhaul. They haven’t said how much they’d like to cut rates. “We don’t know — that’s why we’re going through this process,” Hatch said.
House Republicans want to cut the top rate for individuals and corporations to 25 percent. Statutory rates for individuals currently top out at 39.6 percent while corporations pay a maximum 35 percent rate. At least on the corporate side, Baucus has questioned whether lawmakers could ever reach a 25 percent rate, calling such targets a “stretch.”
July 10: Politico: House to IRS: It’s Payback Time!
It’s payback time for the agency Congress loves to hate. After two months of pummeling the IRS in the wake of the tea party targeting scandal, Republicans are trying to starve the agency of its funding and ensure $70 million in scheduled bonuses aren’t paid out while handing more money to the watchdog charged with keeping tabs on the tax collectors. More legislative hits are in the offing.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wants the House to pass multiple bills this month that would, among other things, suspend employees under investigation without pay and allow Americans to record conversations with federal employees, including IRS agents. Perhaps most importantly, a House subcommittee on Wednesday hit the IRS where it counts: in the wallet. “Hopefully this will finally get their attention, because they haven’t been as forthcoming as we’d like them to be,” Congressman Tiberi (R-OH), a senior Ways and Means Committee member, told Politico. The House Appropriations subcommittee with IRS jurisdiction cleared a spending measure gutting the tax-collecting agency’s budget next year by 24 percent in fiscal 2014. That $9 billion allocation is 30% less than President Barack Obama requested for the agency charged with rolling out his signature health care law.
Congressman Roskam (R-IL), the chief deputy whip in the House, called the appropriation a “reckoning for the IRS.” “The IRS has abused power, abused the taxpayer, abused discretion and been unwise and foolish in how they’ve carried out the authority that was delegated to them … and they will be held to account in the appropriations process,” Roskam said. The spending bill now heads to the full Appropriations Committee before passage on the House floor. It faces more significant hurdles in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
Congressman Yoder (R-KS), who sits on the Appropriations subcommittee with IRS jurisdiction, said the budget cuts combined with Cantor’s proposals are attempts to “clean house,” “send a message” and “try to begin the process to fix the challenges” at the IRS. The congressional purse strings are “one tool that Congress can use to ensure that agencies do not continue a pattern of mismanagement,” he said.
July 9: Fox News: House Republicans push to slash IRS Budget by 24% citing abuses and sequestration:
House Republicans want the IRS to pay for targeting political groups and are pushing legislation that would cut the tax collecting agency’s budget by $3 billion -- nearly a quarter of what it received last fiscal year. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to start “marking up” the spending bill Wednesday. While it’s unlikely that such a severe cut will pass both congressional chambers, it does give lawmakers another opportunity to verbally punish the agency for unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. The bill would place additional restrictions on spending at the IRS and prohibit employees from implementing the individual mandate in ObamaCare. [This is a step in the right direction but does not go as far as I suggested earlier regarding the Continuing Resolution] It also bans conferences, the production of videos and curbs what lawmakers see as a number of abuses at the IRS.
The fiscal 2014 spending bill figures were released Tuesday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers. The legislation would give $9 billion to the IRS - $4 billion less than what President Obama requested and $3 billion less than what House Republicans gave last year. In fiscal 2013, the agency’s budget was around $12 billion.
The cuts aren’t sitting well with the National Treasury Employees Union which represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments. President Colleen Kelley said, “In terms of the ability of the IRS to meet its mission on behalf of the American people, such a budget would absolutely devastate the agency.” Kevin Brady (R-TX) said, “I can’t think of a federal agency in a weaker position than the IRS. [It] should resign itself to not getting more money.” Separately, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told workers in an email that he is canceling annual bonuses for managers because of sequestration cuts. The union's collective bargaining agreement calls for about $70 million in performance bonuses this year, but there is a clause that could enable the IRS to renegotiate.
July 9: The Daily Caller: Congressman introduces bill to make IRS political targeting a fire-able offense:
IRS employees who inappropriately target people because of their religious beliefs could be fired under a bill proposed Tuesday by Congressman Renacci (R-OH).
Renacci, introduced the bill Tuesday in response to the controversy surrounding the IRS’s applying extra scrutiny to groups based on their political beliefs. “Americans are rightly upset no one has been fired by the IRS for the admitted targeting of political groups by employees at the agency,” he said in a statement. “There are, however, policies in place to immediately terminate an IRS employee for specific offenses. Unfortunately, targeting a group or individual for their political beliefs is not one of them. My bill would close that loophole by giving the head of the IRS the ability to fire an employee for engaging in political targeting.”
July 9: Fox News: Meanwhile the IRS releases Tens of Thousands of Social Security Numbers: [Video]
The IRS routinely posts financial information about non-profit entities on a public database, this time they forgot to redact many of the Social Security Numbers. The numbers were up for a little less then 24 hours before it was discovered and the database removed from the IRS website, but in the interim the damage had already been done and yet another black eye given to the tax collecting agency.
The IRS says that those submitting reports to the IRS are told not to include confidential information like Social Security numbers because their information may be released to the public.
July 5: The American Thinker: Another Potentially explosive development in the IRS Scandals:
One of the most important, and yet so-far least noted, threads in the IRS sandal cloth is the inexplicable remark made by Austan Goolsbee, at the time the Chairman of the White Council of Economic Advisors about the taxes paid by the Koch brothers that would have required his having knowledge of their confidential tax returns. This raises the question did, or does, the White House senior staff illegally browse through the tax records of their political enemies? The Washington Free Beacon has been trying to find out, and uncovered an interesting response:
This week the Treasury Department refused to confirm or deny the existence of an inspector general report investigating whether former White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee illegally accessed tax information on the Koch brothers. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Washington Free Beacon, declined to acknowledge the existence of the report. "With regard to your request for documents pertaining to a third party, TIGTA can neither admit nor deny the existence of responsive records," said in its response. "Your request seeks access to the types of documents for which there is no public interest that outweighs the privacy interests established and protected by the FOIA (5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(7)(C) and (b)(6))."
Former White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee apparently had access to the private tax returns of Kock Industries in 2010 when he told reporters that they paid no taxes.
Some have contended the American public deserves to know whether White House staff are rummaging around through the tax returns of their supposed enemies. The Congressional committees investigating the IRS scandals should start pressing the question on Goolsbee, who has now returned to the University of Chicago. He might well be in a position to let the public know what the president knew, and when did he know it, the column contends.
July 5: The Washington Free Beacon: Treasury Department IG Refused FOIA on Goolsbee Investigation:
Former White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee sparked a mini-scandal in 2010 when he told reporters during a background press briefing that Koch Industries—the company of libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch—paid no income taxes. Conservative lawmakers and activists said Goolsbee’s statements not only unfairly singled out the president’s political opponents but also used confidential IRS documents to do so.
TIGTA announced in a response to a letter from six Republican senators it was launching an investigation into Goolsbee’s comments and whether he violated the law. However, the report was never released to the senators or the public. The Washington Examiner obtained an Aug. 10, 2011, email from Treasury Special Agent Daniel K. Carney, in which he wrote, “The final report relative to the investigation of Austan Goolsbee’s press conference remark is completed, has gone through all the approval processes.” So we know it was done. The question is what is in it and why isn’t it being release to legislators and the public?
Koch Industries also filed a FOIA request in 2011 and received a similar response. The response from TIGTA essentially argues that the privacy rights of a former White House adviser trump the public interest in whether or not he illegally accessed the tax information of a private company owned by the president’s political opponents. “Almost three years since his remarks and the inspector general’s investigation of those remarks, we still don’t know what Mr. Goolsbee really relied upon nor has it ever been explained why Mr. Goolsbee was talking about Koch in the first place,” Koch Industries legal counsel Mark Holden told the Free Beacon in May.
July 3: The Daily Caller: Coburn, Gingrey demand answers in 201 full-time IRS Union Reps
Republican congressional leaders are demanding to know why the Internal Revenue Service pays hundreds of full-time employees to do union work. As reported last month by the Daily Caller, 201 IRS employees receive full-time pay while doing no actual work, instead devoting their entire work days to union business. The revelation came as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request from Americans for Limited Government.
"Recently, it has come to our attention that the IRS pays a number of employees full time salaries, funded by taxpayer dollars, for work they do not perform. Instead, these employees spend their time working for government employee unions,” according to a letter sent to IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia. These workers collect taxpayer salaries to serve full-time as exclusive representatives of a union in dealing with the Department of Treasury, according to information the IRS provided to Americans for Limited Government. More than 200 IRS employees spend 100 percent of their work time doing union work, according to IRS documents cited in the letter.
“Known as ‘official time,’ in this arrangement (permitted under Title V of the U.S. Code, section 7131, enacted under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act) federal employees are paid to perform union duties instead of the jobs they were actually hired to do. While the IRS continues to request more funding to further close the more than 14.5 percent tax gap, especially under the current budget crunch and sequestration, it makes little sense to use taxpayer resources to pay for union work. This kind of practice takes place only in the government – in the private sector, union work and staff are paid for by union dues,” according to the letter from Coburn and Gingrey. “Documents from your department list more than 200 IRS employees serving in 100 percent official time capacity from January 20, 2012 through the date of response, June 6th of 2012. The IRS has shut down on certain days, and required employees to take unpaid furloughs, due supposedly to the effects of sequestration. However, the IRS is also planning to pay out $70 million in employee bonuses, and pays more than 200 employees to work for the union, instead of fulfilling the duties described in their positions of record,” according to the letter.
July 3: The Daily Caller:
FBI investigators still have not contacted any of the 41 conservative groups abused by the IRS:
FBI and IRS investigators working on the federal government’s probe into the IRS targeting scandal still have not contacted any of the conservative groups involved in a class-action lawsuit against the tax agency. “No one from the FBI or the IRS investigative team has contacted any of the 41 conservative groups we represent or any of our attorneys,” American Center for Law and Justice spokesman Gene Kapp told The Daily Caller. ACLJ is representing tea party and other conservative groups in the lawsuit.
At least five different IRS offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Laguna Niguel and El Monte, California; improperly demanded extensive information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status between 2010 and 2012. The IRS demanded copies of training materials distributed by conservative groups, as well as personal information on college interns and even the contents of a religious group’s prayers.
FBI director Robert Mueller and acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel have both launched investigations into the matter, but have not contacted any of the conservative groups involved in the ACLJ’s class-action suit.
The IRS targeting scandal broke in the media in early May. Mueller was excoriated by Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio at a June 13 hearing for knowing very little about his own bureau’s investigation into IRS conduct. “You’ve had a month now to investigate. This has been the biggest story in the country and you can’t even tell me who the lead investigator is. You can’t tell me the actions the inspector general took which are not typically how investigations are done. You can’t tell me if that’s appropriate or not. This is not speculation. This is what happened,” Jordan said to Mueller.
Acting IRS commissioner Werfel also garnered criticism from congressional investigators at a June 6 hearing for knowing little about the scandal he is investigating. “I have been here for two weeks. There is a lot to cover. I am not ready to make assurances because I have not completed the review,” Werfel said at the hearing in response to a tough line of questioning from North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows.
July 3: Politico: IRS’ Lois Lerner:
The price for testimony is immunity to prosecution! But if you do that, perhaps the guilty goes unpunished!
Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner will not testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unless she’s given immunity from prosecution, her lawyer told Politico. “They can obtain her testimony tomorrow by doing it the easy way … immunity,” William W. Taylor III said in a phone interview. “That’s the way to resolve all of this.” The comments reflect the hard-line approach Lerner, the former head of the IRS division that scrutinized conservative groups, and her legal team are taking in defending her role in the agency’s scandal.
Taylor, a founding partner of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, is even shrugging off the possibility that the full House might vote to hold Lerner in contempt. “None of this matters,” he said. “I mean, nobody likes to be held in contempt of Congress, of course, but the real question is one that we’re fairly confident about, and I don’t think any district judge in the country would hold that she waived.”
The oversight panel voted along party lines last week that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights at a May 22 hearing when she boldly declared her innocence in the IRS scandal and said she violated no laws — then invoked her constitutional protections to ward off self-incriminating questions from lawmakers.
Republicans immediately argued that Lerner forfeited her Fifth Amendment right by speaking and they should be allowed to question her opening statement.
June 30: Fox News: Justice with Judge Jeanie (Video):
Referring to the IRS scandals and witness testimony, Judge Jeanie says the Obama playbook is “first, deny, then lie, then commit perjury, and if you can’t beat the clock and they are still coming after you plead the fifth.”
June 28: The Hill | The Daily Caller: Issa Committee declares Lerner of the IRS waived her Fifth Amendment Rights:
The House Oversight Committee declared Friday in a party-line vote that Lois Lerner, a central figure in the IRS targeting controversy, waived her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in testimony last month. The 22-17 vote on the resolution makes it more likely that a federal court will ultimately decide whether Lerner can still claim her Fifth Amendment right. Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) stressed that the panel’s decision — which could pave the way for Lerner to be hauled back before the committee — wasn’t taken lightly. But the one-sided vote shows the partisan divide over the committee's IRS investigation is growing.
On May 10, Lerner became the first IRS official to apologize for the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups. Issa and other Republicans, such as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), said Lerner voluntarily made more than a few statements of fact in her May 22 appearance before the committee that opened her up to cross-examination. “She made four specific denials,” Issa said. “Those denials are the core of the committee’s investigation in this matter.” Lerner told members of the Oversight panel she had done nothing wrong and had broken no laws or IRS regulations. Lerner’s attorney, Bill Taylor, has denied that his client waived her right.
Committee leaders have not said when they might recall Lerner, who could still refuse to testify. That could open the door for the House to hold Lerner in contempt, which would move the dispute into federal courts. Democrats at Friday’s hearing agreed that Lerner’s testimony could bring needed clarity to the IRS investigation, and they broached the idea of offering her some sort of immunity to answer questions. Lerner is currently on administrative leave at the IRS after declining a request from the new acting IRS chief, Danny Werfel, to resign. Werfel has installed a replacement for Lerner at the top of a division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
June 25: Fox News: IRS credit cards used for wine and pornography, IG report says:
Another government watchdog report has flagged inappropriate behavior at the IRS, this time claiming government credit cards were used to make questionable purchases on items ranging from wine to online pornography. The report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that between fiscal 2010-11, the more than 5,000 IRS card accounts racked up $103 million in purchases. "While the majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly, TIGTA's audit identified some troubling instances of inappropriate usage," J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a statement.
The report said the cards were at one point used to pay for a dinner that cost roughly $140 per person -- four times the amount allowed by federal rules. They were also used to pay for a lunch that cost about $100 per person, five times the allowed amount. The report said IRS credit cards paid for 28 bottles of wine at the 2010 luncheon for tax officials from other countries. There were 41 guests. In another case, cards were used to make questionable purchases of decorative and give-away items including plush animals, bandanas, kazoos and a rented popcorn machine. Another cardholder allegedly made $2,655 worth of personal purchases -- the report said credit card information indicates it was spent on diet pills, romance novels and other items, and that the purchaser may have provided false receipts to justify it. Two IRS credit cards were also used to buy online pornography, though the employees reported the cards stolen. One of the workers reported five agency credit cards lost or stolen.
The report said the IRS has inadequate controls to stop inappropriate purchases. The report was issued by the same watchdog that flagged the IRS' inappropriate screening of conservative groups that were seeking tax-exempt status. The IG office has also criticized the agency for its conference spending practices, though agency leaders say that spending has been curbed.
June 23: Fox News: Judge Jeanine: IRS bonuses on our buck? (Video)
The IRS spends our money foolishly while it makes sure that it gets every nickel and dime out of us, says Judge Jeanine. "Why even give them bonuses?" she asks. "Our govenment is colapsing under the weight of federal spending, but not just spending; irresponsible, unnecessary and foolish spending." "Why give it to people who are already paid an agreed upon salary?" she continues. "Why? Because they are in a union?" "Read the contract Mr. President! If there is a budget shortfall you don't have to give them the money!" Judge Jeanine continued.
June 23: The Daily Caller: What being targeted looks like: The Human Face of the IRS scandal:
Gerritson is the president and founder of the Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama. In an exclusive — and at times, emotional — interview with The Daily Caller, she spoke about the fear and mistrust in her life since the IRS targeted her and other Americans on the basis of their political beliefs.
Gerritson and her testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee put a human face on the IRS scandal and made her an overnight sensation. In an interview with TheDC’s special correspondant Ginni Thomas, Gerritson said that it appears that the government wants its citizens to fear it. “It’s almost as if the government has given the citizens the reason to be fearful of them, and it’s just scary to think the government is so emboldened to come down on their citizens like they have with this IRS scandal,” she said. “I don’t know if this is true, but this is what it feels like. It’s that the government wants us to fear them. They are not our friends. They want us to fear them, and they want us to come under their submission.”
June 19: Politico: IRS bonuses to labor unions fuel GOP anger:
The embattled IRS is poised to give employees $70 million in bonuses, according to a Republican senator. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a senior member on the Finance Committee, said his office has learned that the IRS is preparing to negotiate an agreement with its union to pay out the bonuses. In a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Tuesday, Grassley said it violates an April directive from the White House to agencies to halt all bonuses because of budget constraints. Werfel, who worked at the Office of Management and Budget at the time, was the author of those guidelines. “The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses.”
The bonuses, which were reported earlier Wednesday by The Associated Press, are sure to provide the GOP with an explosive new line of criticism of the agency, which has come under fire for targeting conservative groups for extra review as they applied for a tax exemption. Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT) a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said “further scrutiny” is required.
“It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. On the one hand, the IRS claims it’s short on resources, but on the other hand, it appears they’re ready to dole out $70 million in bonuses that looks like a payoff to union workers at a time when we’re drowning in a sea of red ink.” The IRS says it is legally required to pay out the bonuses because of a collective-bargaining agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union, raising the discussion of the power given to unions representing public servants. In the case of the NTEU about 95% of its campaign contributions went to Democrat candidates.
June 16: Fox News: IRS Supervisors in DC scrutinized TEA Party groups’ cases:
An Internal Revenue Service supervisor in Washington says she was personally involved in scrutinizing some of the earliest applications from tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status, including some requests that languished for more than a year without action. Holly Paz, who until recently was a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, told congressional investigators she reviewed 20 to 30 applications. Her assertion contradicts initial claims by the agency that a small group of agents working in an office in Cincinnati were solely responsible for mishandling the applications. Paz, however, provided no evidence that senior IRS officials ordered agents to target conservative groups or that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved. Paz was among the first IRS employees to be interviewed as part of a joint investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressional investigators have interviewed at least six IRS employees as part of their inquiry.
June 14: The Daily Caller: Congressional investigators vow to expand IRS investigation:
Top congressional investigators from both parties vowed Friday to expand their respective investigations into the IRS targeting scandal, with one leading House investigator suggesting the Obama administration had a role in the scandal and slapping down claims that the IRS’ misconduct was not planned and coordinated. “We’re going to get the truth and we’re going to hold people accountable,” said Republican Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which along with Rep. Darrell Issa’s Oversight Committee is one of the two House committees investigating the IRS for its improper targeting of conservative groups and individuals between 2010 and 2012. “The IRS is part of the [Obama] administration,” Camp said at a newsmaker breakfast on Friday. “There is a lot more work to do.”
June 14: The Daily Caller: IRS Official Holly Paz Reportedly fired:
Embattled IRS official Holly Paz is believed to have been fired from the scandal-ridden agency, indicating that the growing IRS scandal could end up implicating more IRS agents than previously thought. Paz, the director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements division, has virtually disappeared since her reported Friday firing, and her computer is now inactive.
A Fox News anchor said Friday that Paz’s firing has been confirmed. Paz, a former private-practice attorney, personally sat in on 36 of the 41 interviews conducted for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George’s report last month on the IRS’ improper targeting of conservative groups between 2010 and 2012. “Why was Holly Paz… in almost all of the interviews you conducted? Why would you have someone from the IRS in those meetings? Is that proper protocol?,” North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows, a member of the House Oversight Committee, asked George in a May hearing. “I am unaware of it. This is the first I’ve heard this,” George replied.
June 14: The Daily Caller: The FBI hasn’t contacted a single TEA Party group in IRS probe, groups say
There is no evidence that the FBI has contacted a single tea party group in its criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, according to the groups the IRS abused. “We have not been contacted by any federal investigative agency and, to date, none of our clients have been contacted or interviewed by the FBI,” Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice told The Daily Caller on Thursday. The ACLJ has filed suit against the IRS on behalf of 25 conservative groups, with additional groups being added in the next couple weeks, according to a spokesman. “I have been very surprised that I have not heard from anybody and frankly, none of my clients have. I talk to other tea party leaders on a regular basis,” said Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer largely credited with pushing the IRS abuses to the forefront.
The revelation suggests that the FBI is in no hurry to get to the bottom of the scandal, despite the Obama administration’s promise to investigate the IRS’s multi-year abuse of conservative groups.
June 13: National Review: Did the IRS Fire Holly Paz?
An IRS source says that the agency has fired Holly Paz, the director of the agency’s Rulings and Agreements office. The source says Paz was fired last Friday, and a second IRS source tells National Review Online that Paz “dropped off the edge of the world” that day, and that her agency-issued computer, phone, and Blackberry show no activity since then. The IRS would not confirm or deny reports of Paz’s firing, citing her right to privacy as protected by federal law.
Paz became the subject of controversy when, in an interview with the House Oversight Committee, she revealed that she participated in an IRS internal investigation about the agency’s discrimination against tea-party groups and was aware of its findings, which emerged a year before the inspector general’s report and reached similar conclusions. Paz, however, did not notify Congress of those findings. Lawmakers have also raised eyebrows at the fact that Paz was present when members of the inspector general’s team interviewed her subordinates during the course of their investigation.
June 13: Fox News: FBI director in the dark about IRS probe while defending surveillance programs:
The country’s top investigator seemed to be in the dark Thursday when pressed to provide details of the IRS investigation into the tax agency’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) seemed to rattle FBI Director Robert Mueller for not knowing the specifics surrounding the IRS probe. “You’ve had a month now to investigate,” Jordan said. “This has been the biggest story in the country and you can’t even tell me who the lead investigator is. You can’t tell me the actions the inspector general took which are not typically how investigations are done. You can’t tell me if that’s appropriate or not. This is not speculation. This is what happened.” Mueller repeatedly declined to answer Jordan’s questions, saying he couldn’t because the investigation was ongoing or that he’d have to get back to the lawmakers with answers. When Jordan asked again,” Can you tell me who the lead investigator is?” Mueller responded, “Off the top of my head, no.” Mueller, who is stepping down from his post in September.
June 13: The Daily Caller:
Freedom of Information Response shows 201 IRS employees work full-time on union business:
In a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Americans for Limited Government, the IRS revealed this month that 201 of its employees work full-time on union activities. “A lot of people are not aware that under federal law, a federal agency is allowed to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union that has provisions where employees of the agency, in this case the IRS, are allowed to do union work on the taxpayer’s time and get paid for it,” ALG president and Nathan Mehrens explained in an interview with The Daily Caller.
As Office of Personnel Management documents explain, the performance of union duties instead of official government business is allowed, as it is a part of the government’s collective bargaining system. Really? Then perhaps someone ought to change the terms of the labor agreement!
June 12: The Daily Caller: House Committee looks into IRS seizure of 60 million medical records:
Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are looking into allegations that the Internal Revenue Service seized 60 million medical records from a California health care provider. “The Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in the course of executing a search warrant at a California health care provider’s corporate headquarters in March 2011, improperly seized the personal medical records of millions of American citizens in possible violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” members of the committee wrote in a letter Tuesday to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel.
The letter requires a response by June 25, comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by an unnamed health-care provider against the IRS in California Superior Court.
The lawsuit alleged that 15 IRS agents improperly stole medical records during search of the facility in March 2011, according to a report about the incident from Court House News. The search warrant the agents were executing, the committee noted in citing the Court House News report, was allegedly limited to financial records of a former employee of the company, not medical records.
June 11: The Daily Caller: Cummins (D-MD): Conservative Republican is behind IRS abuses:
Rep. Elijah Cummings has yet to reveal the name of the “conservative Republican” IRS agent he claims started the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups, despite evidence that the targeting was overseen by a registered Democrat working out of Washington, D.C.
Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland and the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, claimed this week that an unnamed Republican manager in the IRS’s Cincinnati office started the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, and that “the case is solved” with no evidence of White House wrongdoing.
Cummings claimed in a letter to Republican Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa, dated June 9, that his staff had interviewed a “conservative Republican” manager from the IRS’ Cincinnati office who took the blame for the improper targeting.
June 11: The Daily Caller: TEA Party group targeted by Hull: Our members are afraid to send in donations:
The tea party group targeted by infamous Washington-based IRS attorney Carter C. Hull said that its members are now afraid to send in donations, for fear that their names will be linked to conservative politics in the view of the federal government. “It takes some courage to stand up to stand up to what President Obama wants to,” Albuquerque Tea Party president Rick Harbaugh told The Daily Caller, adding that the federal tax agency’s pursuit of tea party and conservative groups caused his organization financial hardship.
As The Daily Caller reported, Hull, a registered Democrat, was fingered by two employees of the IRS Cincinnati office as the overseer of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. Hull instructed Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre to target tea party groups and provided her a copy of a letter he wrote to a conservative group requesting additional information in an audit. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” Hofacre told congressional investigators.
June 9: Fox News:
Ranking Member of House Oversight and Government Affairs Accuses Chair of “Accuse now and prove later” tactics:
Elijah Cummings (D-MD) suggested Sunday that the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee that is leading probes into controversial Obama administration activities is squashing testimony in the recent IRS scandal and taking an overall “accuse, then prove” approach to investigations. The Committee has released closed-door testimony that indicates two Cincinnati IRS field agents were directed by Washington officials to target Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. Cummings complained that the entire transcript was not released. In the partial transcript that was released, the unidentified manager said he or she was unaware of any political motivation in giving extra scrutiny to the groups.
Cummings also sent a five-page letter to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, accusing the California Republican of withholding information in the IRS probe and criticizing how he has investigated the Justice Department’s flawed gun-tracking program Operation Fast and Furious, the fatal Benghazi terror attacks last year, and now the IRS. In response Chairman Issa said "I strongly disagree with … Cummings' assertion that we know everything we need to know. His extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth.”
June 9: The Daily Caller: Washington IRS official who oversaw “targeting” is a registered Democrat:
Carter C. Hull, a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, is the Washington-based Internal Revenue Service attorney who oversaw improper targeting of tea party groups and he is a registered Democrat, according to the Real Voters Database. As the Daily Caller reported, Hull instructed Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre to target tea party groups and provided her a copy of a letter he wrote to a conservative group requesting additional information in an audit. Hull signed a May 12, 2010 letter to the Albuquerque Tea Party grilling the group on the recent content of its newsletters and its website. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” said Elizabeth Hofacre, an employee of the Cincinnati IRS office, according to an interview with congressional investigators.
June 9: The Hill: Republicans demand “decisive action” from new IRS Chief and soon:
Republicans are warning the new IRS chief that his honeymoon will be short unless he does more to clean up the agency and explain how and why the targeting of conservative groups began. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that the acting commissioner, Danny Werfel, is saying the right things and has been aggressive in his first two weeks on the job — especially compared to his predecessors, and given the IRS's reputation for being a slow-moving bureaucracy. But GOP members say that Werfel will soon have to move beyond placing staffers on administrative leave and prove to Congress that he’s working to get to the bottom of the situation.
Werfel eagerly told Congress in his two appearances this week how unacceptable he found both the agency’s improper targeting of Tea Party groups and its past spending on conferences, and has vowed to restore the public’s trust in the tax collector. Republicans who have been hotly critical of the IRS have taken a softer touch with the man tapped by President Obama to steer the agency through the crisis, and have pledged to back his efforts. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has doggedly pursued the improper targeting of Tea Party groups, said Thursday that Werfel’s first steps had been reassuring. “No doubt something bad happened. It didn't happen on your watch. We're not blaming you,” he told Werfel. “But you're the person we're looking to take immediate and decisive action, and to the extent you have so far, I want to personally thank you.” But Republicans warn that their support for Werfel could get dialed back if they don’t start getting more answers from the IRS.
June 8: The Daily Caller: White House blamed for IRS scandal:
A clear majority of independents, and even a plurality of Democrats, believe high-ranking IRS officials were aware of the agency’s harassment of conservatives’ political organizing, according to a new Gallup poll. The poll’s results are risky for Obama, whose political approval rate has remained relatively high, despite the lousy economy, because of his relatively high personal ratings. Sixty-two percent of adults disapprove of his handling of the IRS scandal, said the Gallup poll. Only 32 percent of adults approve of his reaction to the scandal. If his approval ratings falls, he’ll have even more difficulty accomplishing his top political goals which includes winning back the a majority in the House during the mid-term election.
- Fifty-seven percent of independents say high IRS officials were “aware of conservative targeting,” said the Gallup poll, released Friday. Only 23 percent believe the “knowledge [was] limited to IRS employees in one office.”
- Fifty-four percent of independents also believe that “high-ranking Obama administration officials” knew of the targeting.
- Forty-three percent of Democrats said they believe high-level IRS officials were aware, and 41 percent said the knowledge was limited to employees in one office.
- Twenty-six percent of Democrats also believe high-ranking Obama officials knew of the targeting.
GOP voters, in contrast, overwhelmingly believe top IRS officials knew, by 84 percent to seven percent. Seventy-two percent believe top administration officials knew of the targeting. Forty-eight percent of independents think the scandal is very serious, and 24 percent believe it is “somewhat serious.”
June 7: The Daily Caller: IRS lawyer who oversaw conservative targeting is retiring and his Facebook page has been removed:
Carter Hull, the Washington-based IRS attorney who oversaw targeting of conservative groups beginning in 2010, will retire this summer. Hull was fingered in interviews with two IRS employees as the overseer of the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups beginning in 2010. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” Elizabeth Hofacre, an employee of the IRS’ Cincinnati office, told congressional investigators, according to Hofacre’s interview with the investigators.
Hull provided Hofacre a sample letter requesting additional information to send to Tea Party groups in March 2010, after Hofacre appealed to the IRS’ Washington headquarters for help with new applications from Tea Party groups for tax-exempt nonprofit status. Hull signed a letter dated April 21, 2010 to the Albuquerque Tea Party requesting additional information related to its tax-exempt application.
It is unclear at this time whether Hull, an elderly Maryland resident and longtime IRS employee, was planning to retire anyway. Meanwhile
Hull’s Facebook page has been remived since Thursday’s revelation that he was responsible for overseeing the improper targeting.
June 7: CBS Washington, DC: IRS workers say supervisors directed targeting:
Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency’s Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month. The Cincinnati agents didn’t provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators. Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.
The revelation could prove to be significant if investigators are able to show that Washington officials were involved in singling out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny. IRS officials have said repeatedly that the targeting was initiated by front-line agents in the Cincinnati office and was stopped once senior officials in Washington found out.
June 7: Deseret News: Finding the Root of the IRS Corruption:
The Obama administration, claiming it has been forced by sequestration to cut corners wherever it can, has indefinitely canceled all White House tours. Closing the Executive Mansion off from the public is cutting the multi-trillion-dollar federal budget less than $4 million dollars a year. At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service has revealed that it spent more than 10 times that amount on employee conferences — a whopping $50 million to fund 220 meetings between 2010 and 2012.
There may be no logical connection between the two; no conscious decision by the president, for instance, to place a higher priority on meetings for bureaucrats than public access to taxpayer-funded buildings. The IRS operates with a high degree of independence, or at least it is supposed to.
But the public is likely to draw the connection, anyway, and it is not unreasonable to do so. Both are funded with tax dollars.
The federal government has become so bloated and pervasive that $50 million doesn't attract much attention. This is especially upsetting when the culprit is the IRS, an agency with a reputation for ruthlessness in pursuit of every cent owed to it under the law. Its agents offer little leniency as they gather money, then show little accountability once it is safely in their hands.
June 6: Fox News: Lawmakers Rip IRS over Conference Spending:
Lawmakers pummeled the IRS on Thursday for spending millions of the taxpayer dollars it collected on lavish conferences, with one Republican calling the behavior "maliciously self-indulgent." The IRS was summoned to a House oversight hearing to explain how it blew through $50 million on conferences between 2010 and 2012, including spending more than $4 million on a single California conference in 2010. For the agency's many critics, it compounded frustrations which had already mounted over the agency's targeting of conservative groups. "Not only does the IRS take your money, not give you proper answers, but then when it comes to tens of millions of dollars, use it in a way that is, at best, maliciously self-indulgent," said Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) chairman of the HouseOversight and Government Reform Committee.
Inspector General J. Russell George ticked off a list of over-the-top expenses incurred at the 2010 conference in Anaheim. He said the agency spent $35,000 on planning trips, $64,000 on gifts and trinkets including squirting fish toys, and $135,000 on outside speakers.
A personal insight: While serving in Washington, DC and overseeing the Bureau of Export Administration’s seminar program, we annually held two Export Control conferences – one in Washington the other in California. The typical cost of these events was about $450-$500 per participant. That cost, which was paid for by the members of the business community who attended this three-day event, included several meals, conference kits, and the use of the hotel facilities. We would never have even considered using taxpayer money. And what we did benefitted both the exporting community and our agency, which was tasked with regulating exports for national security and foreign policy reasons. The use of taxpayer money for the gratification of IRS employees is outrageous and should not be tolerated.
June 5: The Daily Caller:
IRS Employees: Washington IRS official Carter Hull oversaw the targeting of conservative groups:
A Washington IRS attorney named Carter Hull closely oversaw the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups and suggested questions that IRS employees could ask of conservative and Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status, according to interviews that two IRS employees gave with Congressional investigators. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” said Elizabeth Hofacre, an employee of the Cincinnati IRS office, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.
Hofacre’s office, which oversaw tax-exempt applications, reportedly requested help from the agency’s Exempt Organizations Technical unit in Washington, D.C. in 2010 to deal with an influx of new applications from Tea Party groups. IRS attorney Hull sent Hofacre additional information request letters [pdf] that he’d already sent to two tea party groups and instructed her to use them as a “foundation to prepare and review” cases and prepare her own letters to new applicants.
June 5: The Hill: Chaffetz: Generally, those with subpoena power don’t get a two-by-four against the head!
David Plouffe, former White House senior advisor, took on Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) personally on Sunday. Plouffe felt he had no choice: There was simply no other Obama aide with the stature or street creed with the Democratic base to confront Issa — even though he was a key player in the administration during the period covered by Issa’s inquiry. His decision to trash Issa in such a personal way stunned Plouffe admirers who privately fret about poking such an ambitious and unpredictable adversary in the eye, fearing it will only reinforce the California Republican’s determination to prove that the orders to scrutinize conservative groups came from high-ranking administration officials.
“Generally, those with subpoena power don’t get a two-by-four against the head,” said Issa ally Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), referring to broad authority vested in Issa as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Does the White House really need to out-source the pit bull stuff?” added Chaffetz. “It was a very aggressive statement from someone who is known to be very calculating and sure of themselves. He is usually not one to just tee off indiscriminately, so they must think it serves a purpose. I don’t know what it good it does to have a guy that close to the president say that kind of thing.”
June 5: Politico: IRS-targeted groups cry foul after playing GOP politics:
The conservative groups testifying about overzealous IRS scrutiny during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday can’t get around a simple fact: All have been involved in the kinds of political activity that’s ripe for red flags. Simple searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and other news engines point to plenty of political activities that are the essence of what the IRS looks for when deciding who gets an exemption from Uncle Sam. But for the murky world of charitable exemptions now under heightened political scrutiny, their backgrounds underscore the gray area the IRS was in as it posed questions to the groups. "Certainly, one of the IRS’s responsibilities is to wring out the ambiguity as much as possible in order to ascertain what the organization is going to do, and then make not necessarily the easy call of whether the political activity is less than a primary activity,” said Marcus Owens, the head of the IRS’s exempt organizations division from 1990-2000. The IRS is in a bind when it comes to the regulation of nonprofit groups. Agency regulation prohibits nonprofits from primarily engaging in political activity but offers no public guidance to judge what unacceptable behavior means.
June 5: The Daily Caller: Shulman met with Werfel two days before the IRS resumed improper targeting:
Former White House budget office controller Danny Werfel, the man President Obama has tapped to lead the scandal-ridden Internal Revenue Service, met with embattled then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman just two days before the agency decided to resume its improper targeting of conservative groups. Werfel, who as acting commissioner had vowed to restore “trust” in the IRS, met with Shulman at the tail end of an approximately six-month period in which the IRS was officially practicing a nonpartisan approach in reviewing the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups. Two days after the meeting between Shulman and Werfel, the IRS renewed its improper focus on conservative groups.
In May 2010, the IRS Determinations Unit began developing a spreadsheet known as the “Be On the Look Out” (or “BOLO”) listing that identified Tea Party groups as targets for extra scrutiny, and by July 2010 the Determinations Unit management had requested that its specialists look out for Tea Party groups. But on July 5, 2011, the IRS changed its criteria used to identify tax-exempt applications for review, cutting out specific references to conservative groups and returning the operation to its proper nonpartisan bent. On January 23, 2012, Shulman met personally with Werfel in Room 234 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, according to White House visitor logs. Two days later, on January 25, 2012, the criteria used by the IRS to identify tax-exempt applications for review was once again revised, according to the Inspector General report, in order to resume targeting small-government groups.
June 4: The DC Caller: Conservative groups reveal “chilling” information requests from the IRS:
Leaders of conservative groups targeted for extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the “chilling” demands from the agency as they sought tax exempt status over the last several years. The organizer of an educatyional group called Linchpins of Liberty said the IRS wanted the names of all his students, many of whom are minors. The organizer of a tea party group said the IRS requested copies of all their communications with legislators. The organizer of a pro-life group said an IRS official even asked the group to pledge not to picket the pro-abortion organization Planned Parenthood if they wanted their application to go through. “The questions were chilling,” said Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka Tea Party, while testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee. “I was shocked that I was getting those questions.”
June 4: Associated Press: IRS Officials Enjoyed Luxury at Conference
Already heavily criticized for targeting conservative groups, the IRS absorbed another blow Tuesday as new details emerged about senior officials enjoying luxury hotel rooms, free drinks and free food at a $4.1 million training conference. It was one of many expensive gatherings the agency held for employees over a three-year period. One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 a night. Another official, Faris Fink, stayed four nights in a room that regularly goes for $1,499. Fink was later promoted to head the IRS division that staged the 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., a position he still holds.
A total of 132 IRS officials received room upgrades at the conference, according to a report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration. The tax agency paid a flat daily fee of $135 per hotel room, the report said, but the upgrades were part of a package deal that added to the overall cost of the conference. The report was made public on the same day leaders of six conservative groups testified at a congressional hearing, where they told lawmakers they had endured abuse from IRS agents as they spent years trying to qualify for tax-exempt status.
June 4: The Daily Caller: Liberal Campaign finance reform activist linked to IRS Commissioner meetings with Obama:
Nick Nyhart, the CEO of a liberal organization that criticizes corporate campaign spending and employs the wife of former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, visited the White House seven times and had two visits with President Obama around the time that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny. Nyhart, the president and CEO of Public Campaign, appears on the White House visitor logs seven times between September 16, 2009 and September 22, 2010. Public Campaign is a liberal Washington-based organization that “aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics” and operates on the same office floor as the liberal groups Center for Progressive Leadership and Common Cause, which also urged Shulman to scrutinize the tax-exempt status of conservative nonprofit groups.
June 2: The Daily Caller:Cincinnati IRS employee: Washington was “basically throwing us underneath the bus”
In interviews with House Oversight Committee investigators, Cincinnati IRS employees said that they believed that targeting of conservative groups came from Washington, not from a couple of “rogue agents.“ Sunday the House Oversight Committee released partial transcripts of Oversight Committee investigators’ interviews with unnamed Cincinnati IRS employees, which contradicts the line coming from the White House. “It’s impossible,” an IRS employee responded to an investigator’s question about the allegations that the targeting of conservative groups was due to “two ‘rogue agents.” “As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.”
Answering a question about the employee’s reaction to news reports that the targeting was contained in Cincinnati and the fault of the Cincinnati office, the employee said that Washington has been throwing them under the bus. He noted further that it was a supervisor who requested they do a search for tea party and similar applications in March of 2010.
“Did [your supervisor] give you any indication of the need for the search, any more context?” an investigator asked.“He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” the employee responded, going on to answer that by April 2010 the group was handling fewer than 40 cases and had sent seven cases to Washington, D.C.
June 2: Politico: Issa charges Washington involvement with IRS Scandal:
Issa contends that the interviews show the targeting was not solely done by the Cincinnati office and that officials in Washington requested that searches identifying applications by conservative groups be conducted and then asked to see certain files.
“As late as last week, the [Obama] administration was still trying to say there was a few rogue agents from Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” Issa (R-CA) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Oversight panel did not release the full transcripts from the interviews and it did not identify the two IRS employees who spoke with the committee. In addition, the transcripts do not identify who in Washington was involved or the specific office. The question and answers in the transcripts mostly refer to “Washington, D.C.” rather than a specific person or office.
June 2: The Daily Caller: Darrell Issa rips Jay Carney on abuses: a “paid liar” [Video]
On Sunday’s broadcast of CNN’s “State of Union,” Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa also took a jab at White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, calling the spokesman a “paid liar.” Issa unveiled a part of his committee’s investigation that included interviews with Internal Revenue Service workers in Cincinnati who maintained the IRS targeting of tea party groups was coordinated out of Washington, D.C. In light of those revelations, Issa took issue with the White House’s claim that a “local rogue” was responsible when the White House knew better.
“...He’s still making up things about what happens in calling this [a] ‘local rogue.’ There’s no indication — the reason the Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth [Amendment] is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati. It’s because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we’re getting to proving it. We have 18 more transcribed interviews to do.” The California Republican said that despite the White House’s messaging, he believes documents will eventually show the truth.
June 2: Politico: RNC Chair says White House culture led to IRS targeting:
The culture of the Obama administration, which sees conservatives as political foes, led to the IRS targeting scandal, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday. “The culture of the president calling tea party groups terrorists and tea-baggers, and that entire culture has been cultivated by the president and his people, and everyone has been following,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.” Priebus added that he doesn’t buy the Obama administration’s explanation that the targeting of conservatives was the act of lower government employees acting independently. If the White House didn’t know about what was going on at the IRS, that means that the government has gotten too big, he added.
“Government under Barack Obama has gotten so big that his main defense is, ‘Look, I don’t know anything about these scandals, because everything under me is so big and unwieldy that I can’t possibly know about it,’” Priebus said. “Well that’s a world and that’s an America that the founding fathers didn’t fight for.”
June 1: The Hill: Report: IRS sought gift tax on conservative group’s donors:
The IRS tried to impose a gift tax on donors to a conservative group formed to support former President George W. Bush’s 2007 troop surge in Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. The timing of the effort coincided with the time-frame of the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, and it began under the unit led by Lois Lerner, who is the subject of a congressional investigation into the Tea Party targeting.
The probe centered on a group called Freedom’s Watch and involved five separate audits, the Journal reported. It was halted in 2011 after an outcry from Congress, although the identity of the organization was not revealed at the time. Freedom’s Watch is now defunct, but tax experts told the Journal that the effort to impose gift taxes on its donors was highly unusual. The IRS declined to comment in the story.
May 31: The Hill: Report said to expose lavish spending at 2010 IRS conference:
The House Oversight Committee is holding another hearing on the IRS — but not one dealing with the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The panel, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), will hear on Thursday from Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration about “excessive spending” at IRS conferences. “The IRS is an agency in crisis," Issa said in a statement. "The American people expect that their tax-dollars will be used responsibly and not for financing lavish hotel suites and entertainment for government employees. The Oversight Committee will examine these egregious abuses of the public trust and an IRS culture that shuns accountability." Danny Werfel, the acting IRS chief, said that the inspector general report would discuss an IRS conference from 2010 — "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era," as Werfel put it.
May 31: CNN: IRS collects documents from 88 employees in investigation of targeting:
The Internal Revenue Service has told House GOP investigators they have identified 88 IRS employees who may have documents relevant to the congressional investigation into targeting of conservative groups, according to a congressional source familiar with the investigation.
The IRS asked these employees to preserve all the "responsive documents" on their computers, and it has been in the process of collecting it all to comply with congressional requests for information. The IRS missed its May 21st deadline to turn over documents to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The same source said the IRS argues it missed its deadline because of the scope of documents it is collecting.
The request for documents was a bipartisan one, but Republicans are privately preparing to seize on the fact that if nearly 90 IRS employees may have been somehow involved in this targeting, it is evidence that the controversy extends well beyond the mistakes by a few low level employees.
May 31: The Daily Caller:
Former IRS commissioner Shulman’s wife works for liberal group fighting open campaign spending:
Former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, a frequent White House guest during the period when the IRS was targeting conservative nonprofits, is married to the senior program advisor for Public Campaign, an “organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.” The IRS is under fire for improperly scrutinizing the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups between 2010 and 2012.
IRS supporters have defended the beleaguered agency by railing against outside spending and special interest money supposedly pumped into the 2012 campaign by conservative benefactors. One of those defenders is the group of which Shulman’s spouse is an executive. Shulman’s wife, Susan L. Anderson, is the senior program advisor for the Washington-based nonprofit organization Public Campaign, which claims that it “is laying the foundation for reform by working with a broad range of organizations, including local community groups, around the country that are fighting for change and national organizations whose members are not fairly represented.
May 31: Fox News: Criticism of IRS grows amid allegations of targeting beyond the TEA Party.
What started as a scandal over the IRS's targeting of conservative groups has broadened, with lawmakers and other critics now questioning whether other kinds of organizations were unfairly flagged for additional scrutiny. Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, wrote a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Friday asking a series of questions about the agency's audit practices for small businesses. He made no specific allegation, but said that lawmakers' investigations to date prompted the letter. "(Congressional) investigations have only raised more questions as to the extent these practices may have extended beyond conservative groups," Graves wrote. Indeed, the scope of the IRS' heavy auditing and scrutiny appears to go beyond Tea Party groups.
A report by the IRS' Taxpayer Advocate Service found the IRS improperly targeted adoptive families -- flagging for further review 90 percent of those who claimed the adoption tax credit in 2012. Further, nearly 70 percent of them endured at least a partial audit of their returns.
By contrast, just one percent of all returns are audited. The report fueled concerns that the IRS is unfairly lumping categories of filers together for additional review, in turn scrutinizing small-fry individuals and groups while ignoring bigger and richer organizations.
May 31: The Daily Caller: White House defense?
Visitor logs are too unreliable to reveal whether Shulman actually visited the White House 157 times:
The White House on Friday pushed back against the discovery that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times from 2009 to 2012. When challenged last week by Congressional investigators, Shulman, a central figure in the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, did not dispute the number, only identifying several reasons why he visited so often. The Daily Caller first reported on Thursday that White House visitor access records show “Douglas Shulman” with 157 publicly disclosed visits in that time frame. By comparison, no Obama cabinet member comes close in terms of publicly disclosed visits.
May 31: The Daily Caller: White House avoids apologizing for IRS scandal:
During Friday’s White House press conference, Special Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to apologize for the Internal Revenue Service targeting President Barack Obama deemed “outrageous.” A video of the exchange between Earnest and The Daily Caller is available on YouTube.
Mark Meckler, president of the conservative Citizens for Self Governance, told TheDC the Obama administration “should apologize on behalf of the IRS and on behalf of the U.S. government,” calling it “a simple human courtesy.” He also said that he thought “the president was behaving worse than a child,” by not owning up to the actions taken by the IRS.
May 31: BreitBart.com: IRS Ignores Senate deadline to answer questions about scandal:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) declined Friday afternoon to meet a Senate Finance Committee deadline for answering detailed questions about the origins of the IRS scandal. The questions had been submitted jointly nearly two weeks ago by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In a joint statement to Breitbart News, Baucus and Hatch said: “It’s disappointing that the IRS failed to produce any of the documents requested by the Committee. This is an agency that revolves around making the American taxpayer meet hard deadlines each and every year when they file their taxes, oftentimes penalizing those that are late. The IRS needs to do much better.”
Baucus and Hatch wanted to know who at the IRS made the decision to target conservative organizations, as well as who was aware of the conduct, and what specific actions they took to address it once they found it. They demanded that the IRS respond to each of the forty-one questions asked "no later than May 31, 2013."
May 30: The Daily Caller: Republican who ran against Durbin says Lois Lerner told me never to run for office again!
Former Illinois state representative Al Salvi, who ran as a Republican against Democrat Dick Durbin in his state’s 1996 U.S. Senate race, said that embattled IRS official Lois Lerner intimidated him in her then-capacity as a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) official and told him she would drop various complaints against him if he never ran for office again. Lerner is currently on administrative leave from her position at the IRS, where she oversaw groups’ applications for tax-exempt nonprofit status, and where she admittedly targeted conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny.
Salvi told Illinois Review this week that he went head-to-head with Lerner after his 1996 electoral loss to Durbin, when she was head of the commission’s Enforcement Division. The FEC hit his campaign committee with a small handful of complaints related to a $1.1 million personal loan he made to his campaign in its final weeks. Though a federal district court dismissed the case against Salvi, the FEC appealed it to the 7th U.S. District Court of Appeals, and featured Salvi’s case multiple times in the official FEC magazine. Salvi said that Lerner offered to drop the case if Salvi agreed never to run for office again.“She said, ‘If you promise to never run for office again, we’ll drop this case,’” Salvi said, noting that he thought Lerner was helping Durbin keep him out of Illinois politics in the future.
May 30: Politico: House panels to interview Cincinnati IRS employees:
House investigators will interview four Internal Revenue Service employees over the next two weeks, Politico has learned. The House Ways and Means and Oversight committees hope the four front-line employees from the agency’s Cincinnati office will help lawmakers better understand how the IRS targeting of conservative groups first began. A committee aide declined to name the employees to be interviewed. But House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said earlier this month he wants the IRS to make available five employees for transcribed interviews including John Shafer, a screening group manager, Gary Muthert, a screener in the tax-exempt division, Liz Hofacre, a former case coordinator from April to October 2010, and Joseph Herr, a former advocacy group manager. Two of the interviews will take place this week with the second pair of interviews happening next week.
May 29: The Daily Standard: Mysterious Tweets About Koch Brothers' Taxes
In August 2010, Austan Goolsbee, serving at the time as economic adviser to President Obama, told reporters during an anonymous background briefing that Koch Industries doesn't pay corporate income taxes. That statement was made at the same time that top Democrats, including President Obama himself, were denonizing Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries, for giving money to Tea Party groups. Goolsbee's remark led to a federal investigation, the results of which have never been released.
In a September 2010 Weekly Stanard interview, Mark Holden, a lawyer for Koch Industries, disputed Goolsbee's claim and asked how Goolsbee came up with the idea that Koch Industries doesn't pay corporate taxes. Holden raised the question of whether someone in the Obama administration might have looked at Koch Industries' tax returns -- which would be a violation of a federal law that was enacted in 1976 in response to Watergate.
May 29: Associated Press: Congressional Committees Plan More Hearings on IRS Scandal:
At least two congressional panels are planning more hearings next week on the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Underscoring how the IRS controversy is spreading, 25 tea party and conservative groups filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against the government, saying the IRS illegally obstructed their efforts.
When Congress returns from a weeklong recess on Monday, Danny Werfel is scheduled to appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee in his first congressional testimony since becoming acting IRS commissioner last week. Also appearing will be J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general whose report detailed the IRS tactics. Florida Republican Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees financial services and general government, said he wants to make sure Americans are treated fairly, whatever their political beliefs. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee plans a hearing with groups targeted by the IRS. The panel did not identify which organizations would testify.
May 26: The Hill: Democrats prepare game plan as House investigates Benghazi:
Democrats vow they won't be caught flat-footed when the co-author of the State Department's independent audit on Benghazi appears for a closed-door interview with congressional investigators next month.
Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering has agreed to be deposed by Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) Oversight panel on June 3 after being threatened with a subpoena. Democrats say they're wary of a trap, and want to be able to counter what they say is Issa's habit of leaking “cherry-picked” portions of witnesses' testimonies to the press.
May 26: The Hill: Dems want more time before weighing in on the need for an IRS special prosecutor:
Leading congressional Democrats say they don’t believe the investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups needs a special prosecutor – at least not yet. They have expressed deep anger about how the IRS handled applications from Tea Party groups.
Like Republicans, top Democrats also want to give their own probe into the issue more time, two weeks after news first broke and following three hearings left many questions unanswered. “I think it’s too soon,” said Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), whose committee held one of those three hearings. “I don’t think there’s enough evidence to warrant a special prosecutor.” Of course, Democrats don’t agree with every reason why Republicans aren’t on board with a special counsel. GOP lawmakers, for instance, are troubled that Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom they’ve sparred on more than a couple occasions, would be in charge of appointing the prosecutor.
But Democratic lawmakers do believe that Congress is more than capable of handling a deeper dive into the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups, and aren’t ready to see another investigation take any momentum away from what’s happening on Capitol Hill.
May 26: The Hill: Senator Durbin: No regrets in calling out "Crossroads" to the IRS:
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Sunday defended his decision to single out a key GOP group in a 2010 letter to the IRS. Durbin said Crossroads GPS, co-founded by Karl Rove, had been boasting about how much money they had been raising, and the role they were playing in the 2010 midterms. “Citizens United really unleashed hundreds, if not thousands of organizations, seeking tax-exempt status to play in political campaigns,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Durbin said he didn’t mention any liberal groups in his letter because an IRS examination into Crossroads would have put organizations across the political spectrum on notice.
During the current IRS scandal, Democrats like Durbin have said there need to be broader questions raised about how and if political groups like Crossroads and Tea Party groups should be allowed the tax-exempt status reserved for social welfare groups. “There is no basis for targeting within the IRS,” Durbin said. “What we basically need to say is all groups need to have the law applied to them equally.”
May 24: Fox News: IRS official who refused to testify signed letters to Tea Party groups under review:
The IRS official who refused to testify this week -- while claiming she had done nothing wrong -- signed letters to Tea Party groups a year ago that asked them to turn over everything from printouts of their Facebook pages to the credentials of speakers who participated in their events. A group representing more than a dozen Tea Party groups now suing the IRS released a sample of one of the letters overnight, after the official Lois Lerner was placed on administrative leave. According to one lawmaker, she was only placed on leave after she refused to resign.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice, said the March 2012 letters show a "paper trail" that reveals her "direct involvement in sending intrusive and harassing questionnaires." "It appears Lerner did nothing to stop the abusive conduct. And our evidence suggests she was actively participating in the improper targeting in March 2012," he said in a statement.
It was no secret that Lerner, as head of the exempt organizations division, was aware of the program that had developed in the Cincinnati office under her watch. A time-line provided in the inspector general's report on the practice showed she was first briefed in June 2011. But while she apparently raised concerns at that briefing over the criteria used, the ACLJ said the March 2012 letters show she was still involved in carrying out the policy. At the time, the program itself was in flux. Lerner had earlier ordered the criteria to be changed in June 2011. The criteria was then broadened, but somehow it was changed again in January 2012 "without executive approval," according to the IG report.
After that, the unit in question sent out a new round of letters requesting additional information, while giving groups that had not responded to the prior requests an additional 60 days to comply. These appear to be the letters that, in some cases, Lerner signed.
May 24: Politico: What is next for the IRS?
In the two weeks since the news surfaced that the Internal Revenue Service wrongly targeted conservative groups applying for a tax exemption, the debacle has unfolded at a breathless pace — complete with resignations, three congressional hearings and the transformation of civil servants into household names. Lois Lerner, the embattled IRS official, provided many of the more bizarre twists and turns by defiantly proclaiming her innocence at a congressional hearing before invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and ultimately rejecting a request from her new boss to step down.
Congress has hauled virtually every conceivable witness before several committees to testify on their role in the debacle. And lawmakers are heading out of town for a week — meaning Republicans risk losing a news cycle that has been unusually kind to them as the IRS scandal collided with other Washington meltdowns. The GOP — and many Democrats — insist the investigation is only getting started. But where can the saga go from here?
May 23: Fox News: IRS official on leave refused to resign GOP Senator Says:
First she refused to testify. Now Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of the tax agency scandal, is refusing to resign, according to a top Republican senator. Sources confirmed to Fox News earlier Thursday that Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversaw the unit targeting conservative groups, had been placed on administrative leave, with pay. But Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, claimed she was only put in that status after refusing to step down.
He said the commissioner was in his right to demand her resignation, and said taxpayers should not continue to pay her salary indefinitely.“My understanding is the new acting IRS commissioner asked for Ms. Lerner’s resignation, and she refused to resign. She was then put on administrative leave instead,” Grassley said in a statement. “The IRS owes it to taxpayers to resolve her situation quickly. The agency needs to move on to fix the conditions that led to the targeting debacle."
Lerner, the official who first acknowledged the controversial IRS practice earlier this month, asserted her innocence at a House hearing on Wednesday. She then refused to testify, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. The move angered many who say she should have been forced to answer why the tax agency targeted conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. Republican leaders of that committee, though, now say she waived that right by giving a statement and want to haul her back to testify. It's unclear whether Republicans will succeed in trying to recall her before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chairman of the panel, said through an aide Thursday that her Fifth Amendment assertion is "no longer valid," since she delivered remarks at the start of Wednesday's hearing. That hearing was never technically adjourned, and Republicans hope to bring her back.
May 23: Fox News: The IRS Controversy May have started because of push by Democrat lawmakers:
The 2010 Congressional midterm elections were approaching. Attacks on the Tea Party and groups calling for less government spending and taxation were in full swing. President Barack Obama in his state of the union address in January had attacked the Supreme Court with the justices in attendance for signing off on the Citizens United case, for opening the ”flood gates” for special-interest money in U.S. elections.
And 2010 was the year Democrats went full bore pressuring the IRS to investigate nonprofit politicking, which resulted in the IRS targeting Tea Party and other nonprofit applicants who were ideological opponents. Again, this is when Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who pushed through Obamacare was the Speaker of the House. Letters from 10 high-profile Democrats to then-IRS commissioner Doug Shulman pressured the IRS to investigate nonprofit politicking, even threatening legislation to change IRS standards if the IRS didn’t act. The letters show how elected officials pressured the IRS during an election season, fearing opponents were unfairly using the tax law to raise money to their advantage.
Shulman testified yesterday that back in March 2012, there was “absolutely” no special targeting of conservative groups going on. “At no time, to the best of my memory, was I ever given the impression that these [IRS employees] were only [looking closely] at conservative groups,” Shulman told Congress on Wednesday. IRS official Lois Lerner has already publicly apologized for the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt applications by using key words such as "Tea Party" and "Patriots.” The time-line of the events show top-ranking Democrats were sending a flurry of letters to Shulman, demanding that the agency act, and act fast.
May 23: The Wall Street Journal: Peggy Noonan: At the IRS A Battering Ram Becomes a Stonewall:
"I don't know." "I don't remember." "I'm not familiar with that detail." "It's not my precise area." "I'm not familiar with that letter." These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They're surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they'd get away with it.
So what did we learn the past week, and what are the essentials to keep in mind? We learned the people who ran and run the IRS are not going to help Congress find out what happened in the IRS. We know we haven't gotten near the bottom of the political corruption of that agency. We do not know who ordered the targeting of conservative groups and individuals, or why, or exactly when it began. We don't know who executed the orders or directives. We do not know the full scope or extent of the scandal. We don't know, for instance, how many applicants for tax-exempt status were abused.
We know the IRS commissioner wasn't telling the truth in March 2012, when he testified: "There's absolutely no targeting." We have learned the Lois Lerner lied when she claimed she had spontaneously admitted the targeting in a Q-and-A at a Washington meeting. It was part of a spin operation in which she'd planted the question with a friend. We know the tax-exempt bureau Ms. Lerner ran did not simply make mistakes because it was overwhelmed with requests—the targeting began before a surge in applications. And Ms. Lerner did not learn about the targeting in 2012—the IRS audit time-line shows she was briefed in June 2011. [The article goes on.... it is well worth reading... just click on the link]
May 22: Real Clear Politics: Gowdy says Lerner “Waived her 5th Amendment Rights” by giving an opening statement:
Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC): Mr. Issa, Mr. Cummings just said we should run this like a courtroom, and I agree with him. She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege. You don't get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross examination. That's not the way it works. She waived her Fifth Amendment privilege by issuing an open statement. She ought to stand here and answer our questions.
May 22: Real Clear Politics: Krauthammer: Lerner “Clearly Gave Up Her 5th Amendment Right” (Video)
Krauthammer: She clearly gave up her Fifth Amendment right, if not entirely, at least on the things she said: ‘I didn’t break any laws, I didn’t break any of the regulations, I did nothing wrong.’ On those she must speak with the Committee.
May 22: Politico: Chairman Issa slams IRS Watchdog:
Until now IRS inspector general J. Russell George is one of the few people to emerge from the agency’s scandal looking good thanks to his just-the-facts report on the controversial practice of targeting conservative groups. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa slammed George on Wednesday for not alerting Congress to the targeting of conservative groups earlier. It’s the toughest swing anyone has taken at George over the course of three congressional hearings probing the IRS scandal.
“Despite numerous requests from the committee for information and updates, including an Aug. 3 letter, the request for the inspector general to inform Congress about serious problem … the inspector general failed to do that,” the California Republican said at the hearing today.
Issa called his failure to inform lawmakers the “greatest failing of an otherwise well regarded inspector” and implied that he didn’t live up to what is expected of such watchdogs in the law. “You have a responsibility to keep us continually, and according to statue, equally informed,” Issa said. “In this case, it appears you did not. Would you agree with that?”“No actually,” George answered, explaining that he should not brief Congress until all the information had been analyzed and a solid, correct conclusion has been made. “There are established procedures for conducting an audit. … It would be impractical to give you partial information which might not be accurate. It would be counterproductive, sir, if we were to do that.”
May 22: The Hill: Chairman Issa may haul IRS’s Lerner back:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said Wednesday that the official at the center of the uproar over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups effectively waived her Fifth Amendment right, strongly suggesting the staffer could be hauled back before the panel. Issa (R-CA) and other GOP lawmakers say that Lois Lerner, who heads an IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, might have tossed aside her rights against self-incrimination by emphasizing in her opening statement that she had done nothing wrong.
Hours later, Issa decided to recess — not adjourn — his panel’s hearing looking into the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups, increasing the prospects that Lerner could once again find herself sitting before the committee. “I am looking into the possibility of recalling her, and insisting that she answer questions,” Issa said. Issa’s comments were on a hearing in which Republicans gave their sharpest criticism to date to the inspector general for tax administration, Russell George, who examined the IRS, and to former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, testifying in a separate hearing down the hall, also absorbed charges from Republicans that he was dodging their questions on the IRS targeting, as GOP lawmakers continue to skeptically eye the idea that Treasury and White House officials could have been totally in the dark about the extra scrutiny. Lerner, making her first public appearance since disclosing the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups almost two weeks ago, had informed House Oversight through her attorney that she would assert her Fifth Amendment rights. At the end of the hearing, Issa said that led him to believe that Lerner, who has hired the same high-profile attorney that defended Dominique Strauss-Kahn against sexual assault charges, would not give an opening statement. But Lerner ended up vigorously defending her actions, saying that she had broken no laws or IRS regulations.
May 22: Politico: IRS Scandal hearing: Best Moments
Two weeks in and the IRS scandal isn’t turning into any less of a spectacle on Capitol Hill. Check out the highlight reel from a House hearing Wednesday: bizarre plot twists, witness missteps and new revelations from IRS officials. The hearing was so action-packed that the scandal itself is feeling no less interesting — or even strange — than it did on the first day.
May 22: The Daily Mail: IRS tea-party bloodbath continues in Congress, as evidence emerges that IRS's own internal probe ended in May 2012, six months before election, but was hidden from legislators:
Tempers flared in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, with members on both sides of the aisle castigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups with special scrutiny, and then hiding the practice from Congress. Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee's chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed. But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.
'Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,' Issa said. 'While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General's report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 - May 3 of 2012 - and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later.'
May 22: The Daily Caller: Head of the IRS, Shulman, never looked into IRS targeting:
Even though 132 congressmen contacted the former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, Shulman reiterated Wednesday that he did not have the full story until the inspector general’s report came out.“In the two years that this targeting was taking place, did any member of Congress contact you? Write you? About this particular subject? Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked during a House Oversight hearing. “Did you get letters from Congress?”“Yes,” Shulman replied.
Jordan pointed out to Shulman that there had been 42 news stories about potential IRS targeting in that two-year time-frame as well. “So here is what everyone wants to know: You’ve got 132 members of the United States Congress contacting you about this issue, 42 news stories about this issue in the time period in question, and you never checked it out. You never researched it. I mean, are you sure you’re being square with us today, Mr. Shulman?” “I am absolutely telling you the truth today,” Shulman said.
Jordan also delved into the number of times Shulman visited the White House. “One hundred and eighteen times you were at the White House, 132 Members of Congress contact you about this information, 42 major news stories about this very subject and you told Congress a year ago, ‘I can give you assurances nothing is going on, everything is wonderful, we’re not targeting conservative groups,’” Jordan said. “That is why the American people are like, ‘This is unbelievable.’”
May 22: Daily Caller: Former IRS Director Didn’t Discuss Targeting with the White House:Former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas Shulman told members of the House Oversight Committee that he had not discussed the IRS targeting of conservative groups during his numerous visits to the White House. Shulman, according to Jim Jordan (R-OH), visited the White House 118 times in 2010 and 2011, when he was IRS commissioner.
Asked whether, during his myriad of visits he had brought up the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Shulman said “No, I did not,” he said, saying that he went as “a nonpartisan, nonpolitical person trying to implement the laws that were on the books. It would have been inappropriate and nobody ever asked me.”
Under further questioning from Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Shulman said he did not remember at any point discuss Citizens United or 501(c)(4)s during his White House visits. Shulman said the numerous visits in the log were likely when he met with the Office of Management and Budget, and that he would have met with “a variety of people” to discuss a variety of topics, primarily “the budget, general tax policy, and the Affordable Care Act.” He also expressed skepticism that he had visited 118 times. “I don’t accept the premise that there are 118 visits to the White House,” he objected. “That may or may not be true.”
May 22: The Washington Times: Democrats raise the prospect of Special Prosecutor for IRS Scandal:
A Democrat on the House’s investigative committee raised the specter of a special prosecutor on Wednesday to investigate political targeting of conservative groups at the IRS from 2010 to 2012. Congressman Lynch (D-MA) warned IRS and Treasury Department witnesses before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee not to stonewall congressional efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal.“We know where that will lead, it will lead to a special prosecutor. … There will be hell to pay if that’s the route that we choose to go down,” he said. The Democrat’s reference to a special prosecutor was noteworthy, since the most vocal criticism for the IRS has come from GOP ranks in recent weeks.
May 22: The Washington Post: Administration Officials Clam Up:
For the second straight day and the third time in one week, IRS officials will testify Wednesday in front of Congress about the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups. Highlighting today’s House Oversight Committee hearing is IRS official Lois Lerner’s decision to invoke the 5th amendment and not answer questions. Lerner is still under subpoena to testify, meaning she will have to invoke her rights in person — and likely repeatedly. Also appearing is Douglas Shulman, the former IRS commissioner who also testified in front of a Senate committee on Tuesday. Rounding out the witnesses are the inspector general who investigated the wrongdoing — J. Russell George — and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin, who learned of the investigation into the IRS’s targeting last summer.
Related story: May 22: Fox News
May 22: The Daily Caller: Lois Lerner’s blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance at the House IRS Hearing [DC Edited Video]:
Lois Lerner appeared before the House Committee On Oversight & Government Reform today but you probably missed it. Having stated in advance that she was going to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Lerner guaranteed that the appearance would at best yield some entertaining grandstanding by Republicans. Even that didn’t happen, though, as committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California let Lerner leave after making an exculpatory statement. So in case you missed it because you went to get a coffee, had a potty break or just blinked at the wrong second, here are the edited highlights (now with added Richard Nixon).
May 21: Fox News Video: IRS officials could potentially face criminal felony charges:
IRS officials could face perjury and charges of making false statements to Congress. “If the officials knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, or covered up a “material fact” or if they were making a materially false statement they could be facing prosecution for a felony,” former federal prosecutor, Douglas Burns contended.
May 21: The Hill: Former IRS chief denies knowing full extent of targeting at agency:
Former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman told Congress Tuesday that he only learned the “full extent” of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups after he left his post and did not know why employees initially implemented the policy. Shulman said IRS staffers should have more quickly alerted their superiors about the higher scrutiny given to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status — a feeling shared by the acting commissioner, Steven Miller. The two officials faced tough questions about the IRS scandal before the Senate Finance Committee, as lawmakers probe when senior officials at Treasury and the White House first learned about it and what steps they took to stop it. A Treasury inspector general’s report found ineffective management at the agency led to Tea Party groups being subjected to delays and additional questioning.
Shulman, in his first testimony on the controversy, said the report left him “saddened” and “dismayed,” but he also noted that it didn’t find any political motivations by the employees. “While the inspector general's report did not indicate that there was any political motivation involved, the actions outlined in the report have justifiably led to questions about the fairness of the approach taken here,” Shulman, who left the agency in November 2012, told the committee. The testimony frustrated Republicans already irritated by Miller’s contentious appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee last Friday and shed little additional light on when key figures in the White House and Treasury found out about the IRS targeting.
Related Story: May 21: The Hill: Boehner: The American people deserve the truth:
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday said the House would continue to investigate the growing list of scandals plaguing the Obama administration, and said it would do so because people "deserve the truth." "We have a responsibility to the American people to provide oversight of the Executive Branch," Boehner said in rare remarks on the House floor. "And I think Americans understand, and our colleagues understand, that the American people deserve the truth."
"Whether it's Benghazi, whether it's the IRS, whether it's the Justice Department investigating journalists, the Congress of the United States and the American people need to know what the truth is, to hold this administration accountable. Those of us in public office understand that our job is to serve the American people, not the other way around."
May 21: Fox News: IRS official calls decision to use planted question on scandal an “incredibly bad idea”
The outgoing IRS commissioner expressed regret Tuesday for a decision to use a planted question to go public with the agency's practice of targeting conservative groups, calling the move "an incredibly bad idea." Steven Miller, appearing on the Hill for a second hearing in two weeks on the scandal, acknowledged that the agency was trying to get ahead of a damning investigative report at the time. As was confirmed over the weekend, he admitted the agency had a question planted at a conference two Fridays ago -- a senior IRS official, in response to the question, then confessed to a long-running program that singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny. "Obviously the entire thing was an incredibly bad idea," Miller said.
Miller explained that the agency had been trying to brief lawmakers on the Hill, in advance of the release of the inspector general report. But that "did not work out," he said, so they used the planted question. "The report was coming, we knew that," he told the Senate Finance Committee.
May 21: The Hill: Carney: The White House & IRS strategized how to tell the public:
Officials in the White House discussed how and when the Internal Revenue Service would tell the public that the agency had targeted political groups, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. Carney said that Mark Childress, the White House deputy chief of staff, twice spoke with Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversaw the agency's tax-exempt organization, about the strategy for revealing conservative targeting. Childress and Lerner discussed the possibility that either Lerner would reveal that an inspector general's investigation had found misconduct in a speech or that then-acting IRS director Steve Miller could receive questions about the IG investigation in congressional testimony.
According to Carney, the pair discussed “what [Miller] would say” if asked about the issue. The press secretary went on to characterize the discussion “as just part of trying to find out when and under what circumstances this information would be released, made public, and what those findings would be.” But Carney insisted that the White House had no knowledge of the agency's eventual plan — to plant a question at an ABA conference for Lerner earlier this month. Carney said that while multiple senior staff were made aware of the findings of the IG report, the decision by the IRS to plant the question and publicly apologize for the targeting came from outside the White House.
May 21: The Associated Press: Former IRS Chief: Can’t say how targeting happened:
The man who led the Internal Revenue Service when it was giving extra scrutiny to tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status told Congress on Tuesday that he knew little about what was happening while he was still commissioner. Douglas Shulman, who vacated his position last November when his five-year term expired, told the Senate Finance Committee he didn't learn all the facts until he read last week's report by a Treasury inspector general confirming the targeting strategy.
In his first public remarks since the story broke, Shulman said: "I agree this is an issue that when someone spotted it, they should have brought it up the chain. And they didn't. I don't know why." Shulman testified at Congress' second hearing on an episode that has largely consumed Washington since an IRS official acknowledged the targeting and apologized for it in remarks to a legal group on May 10. Shulman and the two officials who testified at Tuesday's three-and-a-half hour session - the outgoing acting commissioner, Steven Miller, and J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general who issued the report - were all sworn in as witnesses, an unusual step for the Finance panel.
May 21: WashingtonExaminer.com: IRS went after 83 year old TEA party granny:
Internal Revenue Service officials not only wanted a wide variety of information from the Albuquerque Tea Party's application for non-profit status, it also wanted to know what contacts it had with people from other political organizations too. That included an 83-year-old great-grandmother who was once held in a World War II internment camp, New Mexico Watchdog has discovered. "I've always paid my taxes and everything," Marianne Chiffelle told New Mexico Watchdog. "What I do think is, it doesn't surprise me... because of this government we have at the moment."
According to a review of documents conducted by the online news organization Politico the IRS asked the Albuquerque Tea Party about connections to other groups, including "Marianne Chiffelle's Breakfasts." It took New Mexico Watchdog less than an hour to learn that "Marianne Chiffelle's Breakfasts" is not some restaurant chain, but a reference to the volunteer work of Chiffelle, a retiree who helps organize informal 9 a.m. meetings for members of the Bernalillo County Republican Party. The group meets on Fridays at a Golden Corral restaurant. "We've had these meetings for a long time," Chiffelle said. "It's not a business."
May 20: The Daily Caller: IRS Targets College Interns:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanded information about conservative groups’ college-aged interns, prompting outrage from one of the country’s top conservative activist organizations and leading one former intern to wonder whether his family’s pizza parlor would be endangered. The IRS requested, in an audit, the names of the conservative Leadership Institute’s 2008 interns, as well as specific information about their internship work and where the interns were employed in 2012, according to a document request the IRS sent to the Leadership Institute, dated February 14, 2012. The request states:
– In regards to such internships, please provide information regarding where the interns physically worked and how the placement was arranged.
– After completing internships and courses, where were the students and interns employed?”
The Arlington, Virginia-based Leadership Institute is a conservative activist training organization founded in 1979 by Virginia Republican National Committeeman Morton C. Blackwell, the youngest elected delegate to the 1964 Republican convention that nominated Barry Goldwater. The institute was audited in 2011. The Daily Caller has reported, at least two different IRS offices made a concerted effort to obtain the group’s training materials.
May 20: Politico: The White House’ shifting IRS account:
The White House on Monday once again added to the list of people who knew about the IRS investigation into its targeting of conservative groups — saying White House chief of staff Denis McDonough had been informed about a month ago. Press secretary Jay Carney said again that no one had told President Barack Obama ahead of the first news reports: not his top aide McDonough, nor his chief counsel Kathy Ruemmler, nor anyone from the Treasury Department.
Monday’s revelation amounts to the fifth iteration of the Obama administration’s account of events, after initially saying that the White House had first learned of the controversy from the press. Republicans said they were on the lookout for the next installment in the White House’s ever-shifting narrative.
The Politico Story lays out the time line of the revelations.
May 20: The Washington Post: (Related Story)
White House senior aides knew details of IRS probe but didn’t tell Obama, spokesman says!
Senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, learned last month about a review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general into whether the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but they did not inform President Obama, the White House said Monday. The acknowledgment is the White House’s latest disclosure in a piecemeal, sometimes confusing release of details concerning the extent to which White House officials knew of the IG’s findings that IRS officials engaged in the “inappropriate” targeting of conservative non-profits for heightened scrutiny.
Previously, the White House said counsel Kathryn Ruemmler did not learn about the final results of the investigation until the week of April 22nd, and had not disclosed that McDonough and other aides had also been told about the investigation. On Monday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said a member of Ruemmler’s staff learned of the probe the week of April 16; Ruemmler learned of the investigation on April 24th; and after that point she informed the chief of staff and other aides about the probe’s findings.
May 20: Fox News: Fact Check Story Rips IRS official over TEA Party Targeting claims:
A detailed fact-check published Monday tore into an IRS officials claim that the agency's scrutiny of conservative groups started in response to an influx of nonprofit applications, showing the practice started well before the forms started flooding in.
The piece in The Washington Post disputed a central claim that Lois Lerner, head of the exempt organizations division, and other IRS officials made as they admitted to targeting conservative groups for additional scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status. Lerner claimed they did so in response to a "very big uptick" between 2010 and 2012 in the number of applications for a status known as 501(c)(4). Indeed, there was an uptick recorded in that time period. But, as the Post wrote, "it was relatively small." "The real jump did not come until 2011, long after the targeting of conservative groups had been implemented," the Post wrote. The inspector general report released last week said a Cincinnati office began drafting the new criteria as early as May 2010. But statistics included in the report show the number of applications in that group actually declined between 2009 and 2010 -- from 1,751 to 1,735.
May 20: ABC News: An IRS Chronology of what was happening on the ground in Cincinnati, OH
Three days into the scandal IRS staffers in Cincinnati were hard to find as reporters descended on the city. The mail at the home of Elizabeth Hofacre, at the center of the controversy, was piling up . A few miles away IRS analyst Mitchell Steele, in a bath robe, answered the door to his home as the work day was just beginning. He seemed genuinely beaten down and told ABC News “This isn’t fair to me.” Meanwhile Stephen Seok, another IRS staffer in Cincinnati and one of the supervisors failed to answer his phone or his front door even though his family could be seen coming and going.
At the IRS office, a woman who answered the buzzer referred reporters to officials in Washington, though they were not returning very many calls. That staffer also said she was not allowed to speak to anyone – a line that was repeated by agency personnel during the week. IRS headquarters in Washington denied that a no-talk rule was official policy because, after all, agency staffers still have a constitutional right to talk to whomever they want.
So what is really going on at the IRS? Only God and the Obama Administration leadership seem to know!
May 20: The National Journal: Ways Obama might restore public trust and rescue His Presidency:
Swamped in controversies, President Obama and his slow-footed team are essentially telling the American public, “We’re not crooked. We’re just incompetent.” The IRS targeting conservatives, the Justice Department snooping at The Associated Press, the State Department injecting politics into Benghazi – each of these so-called scandals share two traits. First, there is some element of “spin," the cynical art of telling just enough of the truth to avoid political embarrassment. Second, there is almost comical bungling. While denying involvement in high crimes and misdemeanors, the Obama administration appears to be pleading guilty to lesser crimes of bureaucratic incompetence.
The backdrop to this parade of buffoonery is a decades-long decline in the public’s faith in government, a trend continued under Obama. Restoring the public’s trust in his governance is the only way Obama can survive the controversies with his agenda and legacy intact. In interviews, allies of the White House privately suggested a few things Obama could do, including:
- Appoint a bipartisan oversight board to oversee the implementation of Obamacare. There is no way around the fact that a vast majority of voters will not trust the IRS to implement the greatest piece of social legislation in decades. Before the tempests, Obamacare was unpopular and largely misunderstood by most Americans. The law’s success hinges on the government recruiting young adults into insurance pools. And polls show young adults are the least likely to trust government.
- Layer the White House communication team with experienced crisis managers. Obama needs to realize that the dedicated public servants in the West Wing are not getting the job done.
- Apologize to the AP and announce a new policy for leaks investigations. The White House needs to punish people who leak classified information that endangers national security. But the scope of the snooping at AP combined with Obama's unprecedented zeal for leaks investigations raises doubts about his commitment to transparency and to an unfettered media.
- Appoint a special prosecutor on the IRS. We need a special prosecutor with a narrowly defined mission to investigate the actions and motives of IRS agents and their superiors. Is there a better way to restore the agency’s integrity? The administration investigating itself will not lift the cloud from Obama’s White House
May 18: Politico: What to take away from the IRS Hearings:
The ousted head of the IRS was grilled for four hours Friday, but we still don’t know how the tea party targeting really started. What we do know from the first hearing since the scandal broke is that IRS officials haven’t convinced lawmakers they played it straight with Congress. It’s not over for the IRS workers. And witnesses are being beat up too much for these to be “just the facts” hearings.
Here are the top takeaways from Friday’s hearing:
How’d this really start: Who knows?
The big question that’s on everyone’s mind didn’t get answered during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing Friday: Who, exactly, had the bright idea at the IRS to zero in on conservative groups with search terms like “tea party” and “patriot”? Lawmakers asked Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner who has since been forced to resign, to detail how the targeting program began — but his answers didn’t clear up what happened or why. Miller and inspector general J. Russell George both denied that there were political motives behind the extra review given to conservative groups. “My understanding is that the cases that went into this queue included groups from across the political spectrum,” Miller said. But under questioning from Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Miller said agents did not create search terms more commonly associated with liberal groups like “progress” or “organizing.”
May 18: Fox News: Republicans: IRS scandal shows agency 'rotten at the core,' needs major reform:
The IRS targeting Tea Party groups and other conservative-leaning political organizations has reignited calls for reform and the argument among Capitol Hill Republicans that the federal government has become too big and out of control.
Among those leading the calls for reform is Michigan Congressman Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which held a hearing on the scandal five days after the targeting was made public and two days after the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. “This systemic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation,” Camp said at the start of the hearing Wednesday. “This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers.”
May 18: The Daily Caller: “It’s scary”: Records show IRS officials independently targeted conservative groups:
In what former Republican executive and activist Dylan Nonaka is calling a massive invasion of privacy that suggests a coordinated effort to target conservative groups, two IRS offices last year independently and simultaneously conducted costly audits and sought tea party-related training materials that they apparently believed could be tied to Nonaka. Nonaka, who is the former executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party and a faculty member of the Arlington, VA-based conservative activist training organization the Leadership institute, is little-known outside of Hawaii. So when the now-infamous Cincinnati IRS office in 2012 demanded that the Hawaii Tea Party explain its “relationship with Dylan Nonaka” and the Leadership Institute, and “provide copies of the training material used by Dylan Nonaka” — all almost at the same time that the Baltimore IRS office separately began auditing the Leadership Institute and requesting its training materials — it wasn’t long before Nonaka became suspicious. “It’s a little bit scary,” Nonaka told The Daily Caller, adding that the apparent coordination made it extremely unlikely that only two IRS officials were primarily behind the agency’s efforts to target conservative groups, as the IRS has claimed.
May 18: The Hill: Complaints of IRS targeting of religious groups on the rise:
The number of religious groups reporting they were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing.
At least a half-dozen conservative groups say they received an unusual degree of scrutiny from the IRS, according to the Religion New Service, a non-profit news service operated out of the University of Missouri’s journalism school. Earlier this week Rev. Billy Graham’s son made headlines with a letter to President Obama accusing the administration of targeting the Samaritan's Purse charity and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in an attempt to intimidate the group. Since then, the Catholics United Education Fund and the Christian Voices for Life have reported significant delays in their applications for tax-exempt status from the IRS.
The Coalition for Life of Iowa also said that it took unusually long to receive their tax exempt status, according to the Thomas More Society, a non-profit group focused on supporting pro-life causes.
At a House hearings investigating the IRS abuses on Friday, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) called attention to The Coalition for Life of Iowa’s complaint, citing one particular question that the group was asked by the agency. “Their question, specifically asked from the IRS to the Coalition for Life of Iowa: ‘Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers. Would that be an inappropriate question to a 501 c3 applicant? The content of one’s prayers?” asked Schock of the IRS’s former acting commissioner, Steven Miller.
Additionally, a North Carolina newsletter, the Biblical Recorder, reported receiving an audit after coming out in support of a state amendment banning gay marriage.
May 17: Politico: Darrell Issa calls top Treasury official to testify on IRS:
The Obama administration will face more questions over its role in the IRS scandal next week when a top Treasury Department official will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin will appear at a panel hearing on Wednesday, a committee aide tells Politico. He’ll testify alongside J. Russell George, the IRS inspector general who released a damaging report this week that slammed lax management at the agency. IRS commissioners technically report to the deputy Treasury secretary so Wolin’s testimony will provide important insight into what the administration knew about the agency’s practice of subjecting conservative groups to extra scrutiny as they applied for a tax exemption. In the first congressional hearing on the debacle this morning, acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller reiterated earlier agency statements that there wasn’t any communication with the White House about the program. President Barack Obama has said he only learned of the activity when news reports surfaced on May 10. Wolin will be the first administration official to testify before Congress on the scandal, which has cost two IRS officials their jobs this week. Wolin worked closely with former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and speculation has swirled that he plans to soon leave the administration.
May 17: The Weekly Standard: Report: IRS Deliberately Chose Not to Fess Up to Scandal Before Election:
NBC's Lisa Myers reported this morning that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election: [video] The IRS commissioner "has known for at least a year that this was going on," said Myers, "and that this had happened. And did he share any of that information with the White House? But even more importantly, Congress is going to ask him, why did you mislead us for an entire year? Members of Congress were saying conservatives are being targeted. What's going on here? The IRS denied it. Then when -- after these officials are briefed by the IG that this is going on, they don't disclose it. In fact, the commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this. Imagine if we -- if you can -- what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different."
May 17: The Daily Caller: Lerner’s admission of IRS’s inappropriate behavior was pre-planned public disclosure:
Last week, Lois Lerner, head of the tax exempt division of the Internal Revenue Service dropped a bombshell: The IRS had been applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups claiming tax exempt status.
The revelation came seemingly out of the blue, in response to a question during a panel at an American Bar Association conference, leaving the audience baffled, according to reports.
As it turns out, it was not a spontaneous revelation. The question, said outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Friday, was planted, as part of a prepared strategy for the IRS to release this information to the public.
Under questioning from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Miller said it was a “prepared Q and A,” and the question, which came from tax lawyer Celia Roady had been discussed in advance as well. Roady told U.S. News and World Report later Friday afternoon that Lerner had personally contacted her and requested she ask the specific question. Roady said she did not know at the time what Lerner’s answer would be. Later, Miller, questioned by Rep. Peter Roskam, explained that the disclosure had been made to coincide with the conclusion of the inspector general’s report. Miller said he and Lerner discussed, in a what he believed was a phone conversation, whether “now that the TIGTA report was finalized, now that we knew all of the facts … did it make sense for us to start talking about this in public.” Asked why he had not first reached out to the committee to tell them, Miller first said they had planned “to do that at the same time,” but that “did not happen.” He later said they “were reaching out to this committee at the same time,” and that they had “called to try to get on the calendar.”
May 17: Real Clear Politics: GOP Congressman Mike Kelly Receives Standing Ovation After He Rips IRS Commissioner:
Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA): This has nothing to do with political parties. This has to do with highly targeted groups. This reconfirms everything the American public believes. This is a huge blow to the faith and trust that the American people have in their government. Is there any limit to the scope where you folks can go? Is there anything at all? Is there any way that we could ask you is there any question that you should have asked?
My goodness. How much money do you have in your wallet? Who do you get emails from? Whose sign do you put up in your front yard? This is a tax question? And you don't think that's intimidating? It's sure as hell intimidating. And I don't know that I got any answers from you today. And I don't know that -- what Mr. George said is great work -- but you know what? There's a heck of a lot more that has to come out in this. Any anybody that sat here today and listened to what you had to say, I am more concerned today than I was before, and the fact that you all can do just about anything you want to anybody?
You know, you can put anybody out of business that you want. Any time you want. I gotta tell you. You could talk about how you're a horribly run organization, if you're on the other side of the fence, you're not giving that excuse. And the IRS comes in, you're not allowed to be shoddy, you're not allowed to be run horribly, you're not allowed to make mistakes, you're not allowed to do one damn thing that doesn't come in compliance, and if you do, you're held responsible right then. I just think the American people have seen what's going on right now in their government. This is absolutely an overreach and this is an outrage for all Americans.
May 17: The Washington Times: Rep. Dave Camp accuses White House of ‘cover-up’ in IRS scandal
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday said the IRS scandal shows a “culture of cover-ups” and “political intimidation” within the Obama Administration.
Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, while speaking at a hearing his panel held regarding the IRS's improper targeting of tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, suggested the White House hid the scandal until after the 2012 elections. “This appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” said Camp at the nearly four-hour hearing, the first of several that will take place on Capitol Hill on the matter. Camp said the IRS scandal shows the tax-collecting agency has become too large and powerful and called for widespread reforms within he agency.“This systematic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation or two,” he said. “And as much as I expect more people need to go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem.” Lawmakers from both parties — though especially Republicans — grilled Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, the hearing key witness, who apologized for his agency’s targeting conservative groups. “The effected organizations and the public deserve better,” Miller said. “Partisanship or even the perception of partisanship has no place at the IRS.”
May 17: The Washington Examiner: Senator Baucus warns of more to come in IRS scandal:
Senior Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who recently slapped Obamacare as a "train wreck," believes that the IRS scandal is just beginning and that "a lot more" damaging information will be revealed, likely at congressional hearings. "I have a hunch that a lot more is going to come out, frankly," Baucus, whose pending retirement seems to have freed him up to speak bluntly, told Bloomberg Government's "Capitol Gains" TV show."It's broader than the current focus. And I think it's important that we have the hearings, and I think that will encourage other information to come out that has not yet come out. I suspect that we will learn more in the next several days, maybe the next couple three weeks which adds more context to all of this," added Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
But a House leader, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, said the scandal hasn't reached the level where a special prosecutor is warranted. "I don't think we're [at the point of appointing a special counsel]. At least I'm not there yet," Camp told the show. "We need to know how and why and certainly try to restore the faith that's been broken and the trust that's been broken as people have been targeted for their political beliefs, which is completely unacceptable."
May 17: Fox News: Tables turn on IRS, lawmakers grill outgoing agency chief at heated hearing:
For the first time in years, the IRS was knocked down a peg or two. In a hearing that escalated into a boisterous public shaming of one of the country's most-feared government agencies, lawmakers took turns Friday calling outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller on the carpet for his department's scandalous practice of targeting conservative groups. Miller rebuffed attempts to extract the names of those responsible, saying he did not know. But lawmakers vowed that the tense hearing would mark only the start of a series of investigations, in which criminal activity could be probed.
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., seemed to capture the angst against the agency toward the end of the hours-long hearing, as he described the ways its agents are capable of ruining lives. "You can put anybody out of business that you want. ... When the IRS comes in there, you're not allowed to be shoddy," he said, suggesting the agency's leadership was being held to a different standard now that it is coming under scrutiny. "This is absolutely an overreach, and this is an outrage for all Americans," he said.
May 17: C-Span: Video of the House Ways and Means and Committee Hearing on IRS Targeting Abuses:
Fifty minutes into the hearing Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) who represents the Huntsville-Conroe area questioned Steve Miller, the outgoing IRS Commissioner. I think you will find the dialogue interesting. Here is a summary:
Mr. Brady describes what happened to one of his constituents, a small businesswoman, when she applied in July 2010 for tax exempt status for the TEA party she headed. Twenty months later she received a follow up letter from the IRS with numerous questions, many of them intrusive, but she answered them well within the two weeks required in the letter. Now, nearly three years later, her application is still pending. But let’s look at what happened to her in the three years since she applied: In Dec 2010 she was visited by the FBI Domestic Anti-terrorism Unit; her personal and business returns were both audited by the IRS; she received four FBI inquiries; her business received audits, unscheduled audits, by OSHA, the Commission on Environmental Quality, and the ATF (twice). “Now this is a small businesswoman who had never been audited by any of these agencies until she applied for tax exempt status to you (the IRS) for her TEA Party. There is a broader question here. Is this still America? Is this government so drunk on power that it would turn its full force, its full might, to harass and intimidate and threaten an average American who only wants her voice heard?” Congressman Brady then asked the IRS witness, Steve Miller, for the names of the people who are responsible for these abuses. The witness evaded the question.
“Can you assure this committee that none of the information provided to the IRS by these groups was shared or given to any other federal agency?” Brady asked. “I believe that would be a violation of law and I do not believe that happened.” Miller responded. "I would be shocked if that happened!"
May 16: WashingtonExaminer.com | Fox News:
IRS “Targeting” Executive Gets $100K+in Bonuses and Promotion to Oversee Obamacare Enforcement!
Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS executive in charge of the tax exempt division in 2010 when it began targeting conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups for harassment, got more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012. More recently, Ingram was promoted to serve as director of the tax agency's Obamacare program office, a position that put her in charge of the vast expansion of the IRS' regulatory power and staffing in connection with federal health care, ABC reported earlier today. Ingram received a $7,000 bonus in 2009, according to data obtained by The Washington Examiner from the IRS, then a $34,440 bonus in 2010, $35,400 in 2011 and $26,550 last year, for a total of $103,390. Her annual salary went from $172,500 to $177,000 during the same period.
May 16: The Daily Caller:
Tea Party Leaders Want Media Apology for failing to take reports of IRS targeting seriously.
At least one tea party leader has had employees at a major national newspaper and a major Ohio newspaper apologize to him for failing to take his concerns about the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party groups seriously last year, though he wouldn’t say who specifically. “I actually have had several [members] of the media apologize to me today and yesterday,” Tom Zawistowski, former leader of the Ohio Liberty Coalition and current president of We the People Convention, Inc. and head of the Portage County Tea Party, said at a FreedomWorks roundtable event Thursday. “They said, ‘Tom I want to apologize to you because when this story came out last year it was so over the top I didn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it and I questioned it and I didn’t really look into it and then when the IRS commissioner came out and testified to Congress and said, ‘There is no targeting of the tea party, I shut it down,’” he said.
I can tell you that when I addressed this issue in March of last year it went absolutely nowhere! See the press release I provided to the media and posted on this Website.
May 16: The Daily Caller: Obama evades question on White House knowledge of IRS targeting
President Barack Obama dismissed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal, and evaded a question asking if White House officials knew of the IRS targeting of conservative political groups. “I can assure that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general] report before the IG report had been leaked through the press,” he told reporters during a Thursday lunchtime press conference held in the White House Rose Garden. Obama’s evasion will likely spur public suspicions that White House officials knew about, or even supported, the IRS targeting. When asked about a special prosecutor, Obama said he would work with investigations begun by Congress and the Department of Justice.
May 16: The Hill: Obama Appoints Werfel as New IRS Commissioner:
President Obama on Thursday appointed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Controller Danny Werfel as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, stepped down on Wednesday amid a growing scandal after it was discovered that the IRS targeted conservative groups based on their politics. Over the last year at OMB, Werfel, who also worked at OMB under President George W. Bush's administration, has been charged with planning out how the sequester would be implemented.
The White House announced President Obama was appointing Werfel, 42, in a press release. “Throughout his career working in both Democratic and Republican administrations, Danny has proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill," Obama said. "The American people deserve to have the utmost confidence and trust in their government, and as we work to get to the bottom of what happened and restore confidence in the IRS, Danny has the experience and management ability necessary to lead the agency at this important time.”
May 16: The Daily Caller: Tea party groups speak out against the IRS: ‘Folks, this is bad’
Tea party leaders spoke out Thursday about their experience with the Internal Revenue Service and warned others that it could happen to them too. “We want to make sure every American understands what tyranny looks like and what we can do as citizens to regain our voice, to regain our rights, to ensure that this administration or the next one after it never does this again,” Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks said at a tea party roundtable Thursday afternoon.
Katrina Pierson of the Dallas Tea Party said that the scandal has shed further light on one of the reasons the tea party started: concern about overreach and abuse of government.
The IRS requested the Dallas Tea Party’s campaign contribution lists and membership communications. The group ended up having to compile and send about six inches of documents in two weeks. The group still has yet to receive its tax-exempt status. “How many scandals is it going to take for the American people to stand up and take back what is rightfully theirs?” Pierson asked.
May 16: Fox News Latino: Conservative Hispanic Groups Targeted In IRS Scandal:
The Internal Revenue Service scandal involving the apparently unjustified targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups has also hit home with the Hispanic community. George Rodriguez, former president of the San Antonio Tea Party, said that when the organization applied for non-profit status, leaders were intimidated by IRS workers with excessive paperwork and meddling questions.
“They asked us all sorts of things that were out of the norm,” Rodriguez, now head of the conservative South Texas Alliance, told Fox News Latino. “We knew these questions were not the norm and we had our suspicions about them.”
Rodriguez said the group received a questionnaire from the IRS with “well over 50 questions,” including inquiries into who the group met with, where they held their meetings, who was in attendance and what the subject of their internal emails were. “They should have been worried about the numbers, not who we were meeting with,” he added. “It was flat-out dirty politics.”
May 15: The Daily Caller: IRS to be sued over targeting
The American Center for Law and Justice expects to file suit in federal court over the targeting of fourteen of its clients by the IRS soon. Jay Sekulow, ACLJ chief counsel, told The Daily Caller Wednesday he expects to file suit next week and has a team of lawyers working on the issue. ACLJ has not decided whether it will file one class action suit on behalf their aggrieved clients or separate suits. “We are looking at the issue of whether it could be certified as a class or whether we would have to bring each claim as an individual claim,” he explained. “Which would mean we would be filing some in Cincinnati or the District Courts in Ohio, some in the district courts in California, some in the District of Columbia. We are looking at all that.”
According to Sekulow, it is too early in their review process to know whether the conservative groups that the IRS targeted for enhanced scrutiny would qualify as “a class certifiable action.” “You have a number of aggrieved parties coming out of the same targeting, so we are looking at [a class action suit],” he explained. “The difference in our case is — this is the technical side — some have been granted status and they still may be filing suit because of the fact that they were targeted.”
Of the 27 Tea Party groups ACLJ represents, 10 are still awaiting responses on their tax exempt status and this week received another letter of inquiry about one of their clients from the IRS. Currently ACLJ has 14 plaintiffs.
May 15: Townhall.com: IRS Spared Liberal Groups as Tea Party Languished – Appears 500 may have been targeted:
Remember what we were told when this explosive story first broke less than a week ago? The IRS official in charge of tax exemptions for organizations said the improper methods employed within her division were executed by "low level workers" in Cincinnati who weren't motivated by "political bias," and impacted roughly 75 organizations? Wrong, wrong and wrong:
- "Seventy-five organizations effected" - That number almost immediately swelled to 300. Now it's closer to 500;
- "Low Level" - Officials within the highest echelons of the agency were aware of the inappropriate targeting, including the last two commissioners -- at least one of whom appears to have misled Congress on this very question. Now Politico reports that Lerner herself sent at least one of the probing letters to an Ohio-based conservative group.
- "No Political Bias" - This claim was laughable on its face from the start, in light of the agency's surreal criteria for added scrutiny and the "red flag" words and phrases that triggered investigations. Now add to the mix this scoop from USA Today
May 15: The Hill | The Daily Caller: First Heads Roll in IRS Scandal
Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller resigned on Wednesday over his role in the agency’s controversial singling out of conservative groups. President Obama announced the resignation — which Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked for earlier in the day — at the White House. Miller, a 25-year veteran of the IRS, became the first official to lose his job in the uproar over the agency’s actions, which have consumed Washington and the Obama administration since they were revealed last week. The president said he has urged Lew to quickly implement recommendations from a Treasury audit, and vowed that the White House would work closely with Congress as it investigates the matter. Top Republicans had said that Miller, who found out about the targeting in May of 2012, had misled them about the IRS’s actions.
May 15: The Daily Caller: Krauthammer: Obama IRS scandal statement ‘a holding operation,’ ‘the absolute minimum’
Immediately following President Barack Obama’s remarks on Wednesday about the current scandal embroiling the Internal Revenue Service, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer reacted by downplaying the gesture. “That was a holding operation,” Krauthammer said. “That was the absolute minimum he could have done. He relieves one person. He obviously had to. He had to relieve at least one person. And he chose, of course, the acting commissioner. But, I would have expected more. The other actions he announced are, up to now, meaningless. Obama and this administration have said a hundred times they’re going to hold x, y, z accountable for all kinds of behavior — in Benghazi, regarding a lot of other scandals. It means nothing.”
May 15: Politico: Resignation won’t plug the IRS leadership gap
The resignation of Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller might offer a cathartic moment for an angry tax paying public — but it won’t right the ship at the troubled agency. There are no clear candidates inside the agency who would have the gravitas to overhaul the IRS, rehabilitate it, and bring a sense of moral authority to the job — while effectively dealing with a voracious congressional opposition. But it might also be impossible to get a prominent outside candidate confirmed in a divided Senate. President Barack Obama did not announce a replacement for Miller in his brief remarks Wednesday night announcing the resignation, and it remains unclear whether he’ll tap someone from inside the bureaucracy or look for a high profile outsider to come in and shape up the agency.
The new commissioner will face two major challenges: First, the nominee will have to fix the flawed internal policies that led to the scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups, and the new commissioner may be charged with overhauling the entire process for auditing politically oriented nonprofits. Second, the next IRS leader has a massive public relations job to carry out, convincing Congress and the American public that the agency can get back on track and become a trusted government entity again.
May 15: The Daily Caller:
Holder: We will bring criminal actions -- against whom is yet to be determined -- so this doesn’t happen again:
Attorney General Eric Holder promised criminal action Wednesday in the Internal Revenue Service scandal, but said he does not know who will be targeted. On Tuesday, Holder announced he would launch a criminal investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups for heightened scrutiny. “We have to bring criminal actions so that this kind of activity does not happen again,” Holder said Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. Against whom those criminal actions would be taken, however, Holder was not yet sure. Was he saying we need to take some kind on action and hang this on somebody? If so, watch out, they are looking for a person other than themselves to pin it on!
May 15: Politico: The IRS wants you to share Everything!
The Internal Revenue Service asked tea party groups to see donor rolls. It asked for printouts of Facebook posts. And it asked what books people were reading. A Politico review of documents from 11 tea party and conservative groups that the IRS scrutinized in 2012 shows the agency wanted to know everything — in some cases, it even seemed curious what members were thinking. The review included interviews with groups or their representatives from Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.
The long-awaited Treasury Department inspector general report released Tuesday says the agency itself decided some of its questions to conservative groups were way over the line — especially the one about donors. But interviews with members of the groups paint a more dramatic picture than the bland language of the report, which just says the IRS “requested irrelevant (unnecessary) information because of a lack of managerial review, at all levels, of questions before they were sent to organizations seeking tax-exempt status." " They were asking for a U-Haul truck’s worth of information,” said Toby Marie Walker, the president of the Waco Tea Party.
May 15: The Blaze: ‘Very Frightening’: Prominent Catholic Prof. Claims IRS Audited Her After Speaking Out Against Obama and Demanded to Know Who Was Paying Her:
In the midst of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal, individuals and groups, alike, are continuing to come forward with ever-startling allegations. On Wednesday, Dr. Anne Hendershott, a devout Catholic and a noted sociologist, professor and author, exclusively told The Blaze that she believes she may have been one of the IRS’s targets.
According to Hendershott, the IRS audited her in 2010 and demanded to know who was paying her and “what their politics were.” It all started with a phone call she received at her home in May of that year — a call during which Hendershott was told she would be audited. A letter that followed on May 19, 2010 solidified the IRS’s request to meet her in person two months later in July. While IRS investigations are certainly not uncommon occurrences, the professor believes that the situation surrounding hers was more-than-curious. “The IRS calls my house and says … ‘I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to be auditing your business’ and I said ‘My businesses?’ and he said, ‘You know the expenses you take off for writing,” the academic recalls.
May 14: USA Today: Interesting Data on IRS Approvals of Tax Exempt Applications:
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn't be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive," the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups. They included:
• Bus for Progress, a New Jersey non-profit that uses a red, white and blue bus to "drive the progressive change." According to its website, its mission includes "support (for) progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people's interests and make tough choices." It got an IRS approval as a social welfare group in April 2011.
• Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment says it fights against corporate welfare and for increasing the minimum wage. "It would be fair to say we're on the progressive end of the spectrum," said executive director Jeff Ordower. He said the group got tax-exempt status in September 2011 in just nine months after "a pretty simple, straightforward process."
• Progress Florida, granted tax-exempt status in January 2011, is lobbying the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama's signature accomplishments. The group did not return phone calls. "We're busy fighting to build a more progressive Florida and cannot take your call right now," the group's voice mail said.
Like the Tea Party groups, the liberal groups sought recognition as social welfare groups under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, based on activities like "citizen participation" or "voter education and registration."
May 14: Politico: Watchdog: The IRS used criteria:
The Internal Revenue Service used “inappropriate criteria” to select conservative groups applying for nonprofit status for additional scrutiny, according to a watchdog report obtained by Politico. The 48-page report is a stinging rebuke of an agency suddenly surrounded by scandal. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday he is launching a criminal probe of the agency’s actions. “The inappropriate and changing criteria may have led to inconsistent treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status,” according to the report prepared by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
The criteria led to “substantial delays in processing certain applications and allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued,” the report says. IRS employees also inappropriately requested the political affiliations of members of the groups seeking nonprofit designation. [See a copy of the Report]
May 14: The Weekly Standard:
Just because the IRS apologized, it doesn't mean they did something wrong! Really?
"If I could then go back to the IRS issue," said a reporter from the AP. "The president did use the word 'if these activities had taken place,' but there has been an acknowledgment on the part of the IRS leadership that these things did indeed occur. I wondered why the president used that phrasing in claiming that it was outrageous?"
"Those from the IRS that have spoken about this obviously have much greater insight into what took place than we do. We have not seen the report. We have not independently collected information about what transpired. We need the independent inspector general's report to be released before we can make judgments. One person's view of what actions were taken or what that individual did is not enough for us to say something concretely happened that was inappropriate," Presidential spokesman Carney said.
May 14: The Daily Caller:
Reports of IRS sending confidential info on conservative groups to liberal non-profit organization:
The division of the Internal Revenue Service that improperly scrutinized the tax-exempt status of conservative groups sent confidential information on 31 conservative groups to the well-funded liberal nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica, according to a revelation made by ProPublica Monday. “The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year,” the report discloses.
“In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved — meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.),” according to ProPublica.
May 14: Fox News: Hatch: The IRS purposefully misled me!
Republicans are training their attacks on acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller amid new revelations that he and the agency’s former top official knew employees were targeting conservative groups but failed to notify Congress despite repeated requests. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, and 10 other GOP lawmakers wrote to then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman on June 18, 2012 demanding answers about why the agency requested donor information from groups seeking nonprofit status. (Also see March 2012 post below)
By the time this letter was sent, Shulman and Miller, who was the deputy IRS commissioner at the time, were aware of the extent of the targeting program for about a month. Still, in a Sept. 11, 2012 response to the letter, Miller offered a broad interpretation of the law allowing the request for donor information and said nothing about the targeting practice. “They purposefully misled me,” Hatch told reporters on Tuesday. “I am very upset about it. This should have never happened.”
May: 14: Politico: Scandal and politics sweep Capitol Hill:
Just days after news broke that the IRS targeted conservative nonprofits, Speaker John Boehner's House committees will morph into mock courtrooms where the White House will be the defendant in what amounts to a number of high-stakes political trials. The most recent scandal to grip the Obama administration came Monday evening, when The Associated Press disclosed that the Justice Department sought its reporters’ phone records — including those of correspondents who sit in the Capitol. Within hours, House Republicans vowed to investigate. To make things worse for President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to be on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
That’s hardly the president’s only problem. Two separate committees — Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means — will probe whether the IRS was treating right-leaning groups unfairly. Republicans moved swiftly to secure the IRS acting director for a Friday hearing, just a week after the news broke. GOP aides hinted Monday afternoon that widespread calls for the director’s resignation could come shortly.
May 14: CNSNews.com: IRS will not confirm whether it will comply with request from House Ways and Means:
The Internal Revenue Service has given no indication to the House Ways and Means Committee about whether it will respond to the committee’s demand, delivered in writing last Friday, that the agency hand over copies of all internal communications containing the words “tea party,” “patriot,” or “conservative” and the names and titles of all IRS officials involved in discriminating against tea party and conservative groups when they submitted applications for tax-exempt status.
IRS spokesmen also did not respond to repeated emailed and telephone inquiries that CNSNews.com made between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning asking if the IRS intended to comply with the committee’s demand--and if not, why not.
May 13: Larry Conners - KMOV News Facebook Post: IRS: Direct Hit or Co-incidence?
Shortly after I did my April 2012 interview with President Obama, my wife, friends and some viewers suggested that I might need to watch out for the IRS. I don't accept "conspiracy theories", but I do know that almost immediately after the interview, the IRS started hammering me. At the time, I dismissed the "co-incidence", but now, I have concerns ... after revelations about the IRS targeting various groups and their members.
Originally, the IRS apologized for red-flagging conservative groups and their members if they had "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their name. Today, there are allegations that the IRS focused on various groups and/or individuals questioning or criticizing government spending, taxes, debt or how the government is run ... any involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, or social economic reform/movement.
May 13: The Hill: House Ways and Means sets hearings on IRS Targeting of Conservative Groups:
The House Ways and Means Committee will examine the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups at a hearing Friday. The panel announced the hearing Monday, which will occur exactly one week after IRS officials apologized for applying additional scrutiny to groups applying for tax-exempt status that had the words "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names. Members of both parties vowed a thorough investigation into the matter.
"News that the agency admits it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both astounding and appalling," said Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). "The Committee on Ways and Means will get to the bottom of this practice and ensure it never takes place again.”
"The nation deserves a complete understanding of this matter, and as Chairman Camp and I discussed this morning, it is essential that there be a thorough and bipartisan investigation and effective remedial action," said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), the ranking member of the panel.
May 13: The Hill: Majority Leader Reid Promises Actions on IRS Scandal:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday said the Senate would act if a report suggests more investigation is needed of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups for scrutiny. “These allegations of course are very troubling,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “As soon as we have the inspector general's report, the Senate will swiftly take appropriate action." Reid said that targeting groups for political reasons was “terrible" and a "breach of the public's trust."
May 13: Fox News: IRS scrutiny went beyond Tea Party, targeting of conservative groups broader than thought:
An IRS campaign to apply additional scrutiny to conservative groups went beyond targeting "Tea Party" and "patriot" groups to include those focused on government spending, the Constitution and several other broad areas. The additional guidelines created by the agency were part of a time line, obtained by Fox News, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which is looking into the controversial IRS practice. IRS officials apologized Friday for the scrutiny, but new information suggests senior leaders were apprised of the effort as early as 2011 despite public denials from the top. Republican lawmakers have vowed to investigate and hold hearings, calling the revelations deeply troubling.
May 13: Politico: TEA Party Groups Threaten to Sue the IRS
Tea party groups on Monday are threatening to sue the Internal Revenue Service after the agency admitted last week that it wrongly targeted conservative groups applying for nonprofit status. “We are looking at it pretty seriously,” said Dan Backer, a lawyer who represents a half dozen conservative groups targeted by the IRS, including Combat Veterans Training Group and TheTeaParty.net. “Given the sheer scope of maleficence at the IRS, there may be a legal recourse.” Backer said the IRS asked some of his clients for donor lists and extensive information from their Facebook pages. The agency has maintained that although its actions were inappropriate, laws weren’t broken.
May 13: The Hill: White House knew of the IRS activities in April:
Press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Monday that the White House was informed in April that the Treasury Department's Inspector General was investigating the IRS's Cincinnati field office, which is accused of targeting conservative political groups for extra scrutiny.
"My understanding is that the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22 of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. "But that’s all they were informed as a normal sort of heads up. And we have never — we don’t have access to, nor should we, the IG’s report or any draft versions of it."
May 13: Politico: Obama says he has "No patience" for "outrageous" IRS mess
President Barack Obama said Monday that the alleged Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative political groups for extra scrutiny is “outrageous,” and promised those responsible would be “held accountable.”
“You don’t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate,” Obama said at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. “I’ve got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it and we will make sure we find out exactly what happened on this.” Obama’s comments were his first on the situation since the IRS’s scrutiny of groups with “tea party” and “patriot” in their names came to light on Friday. We have learned that the White House Counsel's Office was informed of the IRS activities in late April.
The IRS also targeted groups working to make “America a better place to live” and ones focused on government spending and debt, according to a draft report from the agency’s inspector general.
May 12: Associated Press | Politico: IRS Targeting of TEA Party called Chilling:
The Editor discussed this story on March 16th of last year.
The IRS has been targeting conservative groups and in particular the TEA party. AP now reports Republicans said Sunday that the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative political groups was "chilling" and further eroded public trust in government.
Lawmakers said President Barack Obama personally should apologize for targeting tea party organizations and they challenged the tax agency's blaming of low-level workers. "I just don't buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME. "After all, groups with `progressive' in their names were not targeted similarly." If it were just a small number of employees, she said, "then you would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved, apologized to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way."
The IRS said Friday that it was sorry for what it called the "inappropriate" targeting of the conservative groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware. But according to a draft of a watchdog's report obtained Saturday by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner, senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011.
The Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week.
Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, said last week that the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. But on June 29, 2011, Lerner learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog's report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with "Tea Party," `'Patriot" or "9/12 Project" in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said "the conclusion that the IRS came to is that they did have agents who were engaged in intimidation of political groups is as dangerous a problem the government can have." He added, "This should send a chill up your spine. ... I don't know where it stops or who is involved." Congressional Republicans already are conducting several investigations and asked for more.
May 12: Politico: IRS officials Knew of TEA Party Targeting [Related Story]
May 12: The Daily Caller: ISSA – IRS “mea culpa” on TEA Party “not an honest one”
On this weekend’s broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa dismissed the Internal Revenue Service’s apology for targeting groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” for audits, something the AP reported the agency had known about going back to 2011. Issa, a California Republican, told moderator David Gregory that the apology from the IRS on Friday was an insincere one only put out to spin the news. And he likened it to the Obama administration handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.
The IRS quietly dropped the news of the audit abuses Friday, the traditional day for burying embarrassing news. The announcement came ahead of a pending inspector general’s report on the targeting of Obama administration foes.
“They targeted conservatives for tax exempt status, but the bottom line is they used keywords to go after conservatives,” Issa said. “This is something where you have to institute changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There has to be accountability for the people who did it. And quite frankly, up until a few days ago, there’s got to be accountability for people who were telling lies about it being done.”
“And lastly, to be honest, one of the most offensive parts is, my committee and — Jim Jordan and I instigated this investigation, got the IG to do the investigation, before the IG’s report comes to the public or to Congress as required by law, it’s leaked by the IRS to try to spin the output,” he continued. “This mea culpa is not an honest one. The honest one is, in fact, let’s see the– the IG report, let’s go through it. And then let’s– just like the ambassador [Thomas Pickering] said on the 29 changes, which we agree with, let’s see what the instituted changes need to be to make this not happen again.”
May 11: National Review: IRS Inquisition of Jewish Groups:
In a related story the Associated Press revealed that the IRS may also have given extra-special attention to the tax-exempt status of some Jewish groups for political reasons. The passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was “connected to Israel,” its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny. This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy reveiw of Z STREET’s tax exempt status application.
In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
And at least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel. Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”
May 10: CNSNews.com: Ways and Means Committee to IRS: “Provide All Communications Containing the Words ‘TEA Party’, ‘Patriot’, or ‘Conservative’ by Wednesday”
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight has thrown down an investigative gauntlet to the Internal Revenue Service, demanding that the agency hand over by next Wednesday every communication in its records that includes the words “tea party,” “patriot” or “conservative.”
The committee is also demanding of the IRS that by next Wednesday it provide the committee with the names and titles of all individuals who were involved in targeting conservative non-profit groups for more intensive review of their applications for non-profit status.
The request follows a report this morning from the Associated Press that Lois Lerner, director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, said at an American Bar Association conference that the IRS had targeted for special review applications of non-profit groups that included the words “tea party” or “patriot.”
“That was wrong,” the AP quoted Lerner as saying. “That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review.”
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” Lerner said.
Lerner’s statement at the ABA conference, however, seems to contradict testimony that then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman made in the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight on March 22, 2012.
At that hearing, Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) specifically asked Shulman about allegations that the IRS had been targeting Tea Party groups.
Mar. 16, 2012: Bill Sargent Calls for Ways and Means Committee Hearing on IRS Abuses:
Today, (March 2012), Bill Sargent, Candidate for Congressional District 14, contacted Dave Camp (R-Mi), Chairman of House Ways and Means and Chairman Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of Ways and Means and urged them to hold hearings on whether the IRS has been overreaching in its review process and the extent to which there may have been targeting of various conservative organizations such as the Liberty groups and the TEA Party. Sargent strongly believes that the TEA Party brings an important perspective to the table and would oppose any effort by the IRS to treat them in a way that is different from any other 501(c)4 organization.
The House Ways and Means Committee and, in particular, their Oversight Subcommittee, has direct oversight over the operations of the Internal Revenue Services. "That is why I contacted them and asked them to take a serious look at whether the IRS is targeting conservative groups like the TEA Party," Sargent said. "It can be very threatening when you get a 30-page questionnaire from the IRS and your tax-exempt status hangs in the balance. We need to ensure that there is no political motivation behind it," Sargent contended.