January 17, 2017

IRS Victims to Testify Before Congress

irs_victimsConservative groups who claim they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service are getting their say on Capitol Hill as hearings on the growing agency scandals continue Tuesday.The hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee will feature leaders of groups allegedly targeted by the IRS, including several Tea Party groups and an anti-gay marriage organization that has claimed its donor details were inappropriately released.

Several of the six groups scheduled to testify say their applications for tax-exempt status were delayed while agents asked intrusive questions that the IRS has since acknowledged were inappropriate.

At a hearing Monday, the watchdog who exposed the IRS’ targeting testified nobody in the Ohio office being blamed for the scandal would tell his investigators who directed the program, as the new IRS chief vowed to “get to the bottom” of that growing question.

Nearly a month after the scandal broke, the issue of who directed agents in Cincinnati to single out Tea Party and other groups is perhaps the most glaring unanswered question. Inspector General J. Russell George, at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing, revealed Monday that his audit of the agency tried — unsuccessfully — to get to the root of the targeting.

“We did pose that question and no one would acknowledge who, if anyone, provided that direction,” he said.

Danny Werfel, testifying for the first time in his new role as acting IRS commissioner, acknowledged: “We have to get to the bottom of it.” However, he also said he has not yet asked who ordered the program.

George later testified that the scandal itself is “unprecedented.” He cited past attempts by the Nixon administration to use the IRS for inappropriate purposes, but said this program was unprecedented.

The two officials testified as Republican lawmakers voiced skepticism that the program started and ended with a few low-level staffers in Cincinnati. Fueling the skepticism, partial transcripts released over the weekend of an interview with an IRS field agent in that division showed the agent claiming Washington guided the program.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said “we will not rest” until they find out who is responsible.

Though George has been repeatedly pressed by Democrats to say that higher-ups were not involved, he stressed Monday that the issue of political appointees’ involvement was “not the focus of our audit.” George said there’s no evidence of White House involvement, but added “I cannot say that” about the possibility of IRS appointee involvement.

The IRS is now under fire for a pair of controversies — the targeting program, but also a forthcoming inspector general report expected to show the agency spent roughly $50 million on conferences from 2010 to 2012.

Republican leaders of the appropriations subcommittee holding Monday’s hearing made clear that the two scandals will result in the agency’s budget being put under the microscope.

Rogers said the committee might even consider placing “conditions” on the agency’s budget allowing Congress to monitor its spending. He said he’s “absolutely appalled” by the conference spending.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., head of the subcommittee hosting the hearing, said Congress will “have to think very carefully about the amount of money that we provide to the IRS.”

He noted that the agency has requested $12.9 billion for 2014 — or $1 billion more than it got for 2013.

“We cannot in good conscience continue to provide hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars and have them use those funds to abuse the rights of American citizens,” he said.

Werfel acknowledged that the public trust “has been violated,” and said he is committed to restoring it.

Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, though, cautioned against cutting funding to the IRS. The New York lawmaker said doing so is “asking for more trouble,” though he blasted the IRS program as inappropriate.

Meanwhile, the White House on Monday stood by claims that administration officials were not involved in the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the administration is “concerned” about both the conference spending and the targeting program. But he defended the administration following claims by an unnamed IRS employee that the targeting program was directed by Washington.

The inspector general, Carney said, “both in testimony and in his report, found no evidence that outsiders — those outside the IRS — influenced the behavior that took place there.”

He said: “That is the conclusion of the independent inspector general. And we certainly have seen no other evidence to contradict that.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Sunday called Carney a “paid liar” as he discussed the IRS situation. Carney, though, said Monday he’s “not going to get into a back-and-forth with” Issa.

Published June 04, 2013 / FoxNews.com / The Associated Press contributed to this report

Comments

  1. I found it interesting that the congressional oversight committee made the decision not to reveal their own involvement with the IRS’s investigation (of the tax-exempt status of some organizations which took advantage of the newly-relaxed rules to engage in campaign activities) prior to starting their investigation of the IRS for their misconduct in 2013.

    Senator Max Baucus, now investigating IRS, urged IRS to target conservative groups in 2010

    Sen. Max Baucus asked IRS in 2010 to investigate 501(c) groups, letter shows

    By Robert Romano

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) in a 2010 letter requested that then-Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Douglas Shulman deeply investigate 501(c) non-profit political organizations.

    The letter called on Shulman to “survey major 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) organizations involved in political campaign activity to examine whether they are operated for the organization’s intended tax exempt purpose and to ensure that political campaign activity is not the organization’s primary activity” and to “to determine whether they are acting as conduits for major donors advancing their own private interests regarding legislation or political campaigns, or are providing major donors with excess benefits.”

    In his own letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens noted, “Considering the invasive questions the IRS was asking the targeted organizations, it appears that Sen. Baucus got exactly what he asked for, which was a witch-hunt.”

    Baucus’ letter also instructed Shulman that “Possible violation of tax laws should be identified as you conduct this study. Please report back to the Finance Committee as soon as possible with your findings and recommended actions regarding this matter…..”

    Yesterday, Baucus issued a statement suggesting “Targeting groups based on their political views is not only inappropriate but it is intolerable, promising a “full investigation into this matter by the Senate Finance Committee.”

    But that is not possible, Mehrens said, considering Baucus’ letter to Shulman. “Senate Democrats were complicit in the IRS scandal targeting the tea party and other groups, per Baucus’ explicit letter to Shulman. The Senate majority must therefore recuse itself from any ensuing investigation in order to ensure that the public’s trust in the inquiry’s findings is not tainted.”

    The only good option, Mehrens wrote, was for Senate leaders to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to prosecute the case. “Just as the Senate majority cannot be trusted to investigate its own complicity in this affair, neither can the Obama Administration.”

    He concluded, “These targeted attacks by the IRS were not about restoring ‘transparency’ to our political process, they were a part of a brazen partisan assault using the instrumentalities of the state to harass political opponents and stifle dissent to achieve a partisan end. It is beyond Nixonian in its flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Only a special counsel can get to the bottom of this.”

    Mehrens joined others, including the Republican Governors Association, who today also demanded a special prosecutor be appointed.

    Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

    It should be noted: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) both stated that the IRS’s conduct threatened to “chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”

    Therefore, Sen. Hatch wrote a letter (in May of 2013) to Max Baucus, calling for a bi-partisan investigation and special committee hearing into the explosive reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups.

    The reason I included the above statement, is due to the fact that both the Democratic and/or the Republican members of congress were aware of Baucus’ explicit letter to Shulman in 2010. Therefore, both political parties involved in the IRS investigation should recuse themselves in order to ensure that the public’s trust in the inquiry’s findings is not tainted, due to there complicity in the IRS scandal targeting the tea party and other groups. ”

    “Complicity in criminal law refers to when someone is legally accountable, or liable for a criminal offense, based upon the behavior of another. Criminal complicity may arise in the following situations:

    With the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense:

    1. a person procures, induces or causes such other person to commit the offense; or

    2. a person aids or abets such other person in committing the offense; or

    3. having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, a person fails to make an effort he is legally required to make.”

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