An Internal Revenue Service watchdog testified Friday that he told Obama administration officials in June that he was looking into allegations the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
The revelation by Inspector General Russell George came at the first congressional hearing on the IRS misconduct, which has generated a political firestorm since it was disclosed a week ago.
George’s testimony represented the first evidence that officials in the Obama administration knew of the allegations as long as a year ago, during the presidential campaign.
Appearing Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee, George said he told the Treasury Department’s general counsel of his investigation on June 4, in a routine briefing of what his office was working on.
George said he did not disclose that he had concluded the targeting was improper.
But his testimony that knowledge of the allegations was not limited to the IRS is likely to fuel efforts by Republicans to link the scandal to the White House and congressional Democrats.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Friday that he was briefed in March that an investigation was underway of IRS screening of conservative groups – though he didn’t learn the substance of the findings until last week.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Lew said he had “a getting-to-know-you conversation” with George in mid-March, a couple of weeks after he was sworn in as treasury secretary, and the investigation “was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.”
“I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday,” Lew said.
Lew also disclosed that he has ordered Danny Werfel, whom President Obama named Thursday to take over as acting IRS commissioner, to come up with an action plan within 30 days to address the handling of applications for tax-exempt status.
Obama also has said he first learned of the matter last Friday – when a Treasury Department official, Lois Lerner, revealed during an American Bar Association conference that IRS workers in a Cincinnati office had subjected groups with “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their names for extra scrutiny to determine if they should be tax exempt.
During yesterday’s testimony, Steven Miller, who was forced to resign this week week as the IRS acting commissioner, revealed that Lerner made her disclosure in response to a planted question at the bar association conference.
“We talked about what would be said and how we might do it,” he said.
The revelation irked lawmakers already angry the IRS never told them it had been improperly targeting conservative groups, despite numerous inquiries by members of Congress.
Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) demanded Lerner resign or be fired.
During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing today, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., grilled outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller about the IRS targeting a pro-life group in Iowa.
“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,’” Schock declared.
“Would that be an inappropriate question to a 501 c3 applicant?” asked Schock. “The content of one’s prayers?”
“It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either,” Miller replied.
After Schock pressed him further, Miller explained that although he couldn’t comment on the specific case, it would “surprise him” if that question was asked.
The report comes from the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm for religious liberty.
From their report:
Coalition for Life of Iowa found itself in the IRS’s crosshairs when the group applied for tax exempt status in October 2008. Nearly ten months of interrogation about the group’s opposition to Planned Parenthood included a demand by a Ms. Richards from the IRS’ Cincinnati office unlawfully insisted that all board members sign a sworn declaration promising not to picket/protest Planned Parenthood. Further questioning by the IRS requested detailed information about the content of the group’s prayer meetings, educational seminars, and signs their members hold outside Planned Parenthood.
No kidding, you mean it wasn’t done for “efficiency”?
In House testimony Friday, former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller explained that the IRS mistakes in handling applications for non-profit status from tea party groups were due, in large part, to a flood of applications following the Citizens United decision. Miller said the targeting was a botched attempt to centralize the process to account for the increased workload. There were fewer applications in 2010, when the IRS began targeting conservative groups, than the year before, however.
In 2009, before IRS began targeting tea party organizations, 1,751 groups applied for 501 (c)4 status. That number dropped in 2010 to 1,735. In fact, applications were down across all areas in the Tax Exempt division’s jurisdiction. So, they had more staff available for processing. While the number of applications did increase in 2011 and 2012, there was no increase in applications when the IRS began isolating tea party groups.
Moreover, the IRS reportedly abandoned the targeting in early 2012. It presumably had little trouble handling the increased number of applicants in advance of the 2012 election.
For whatever reason the IRS chose to target tea party organizations for special scrutiny, it wasn’t due to a flood of new applications.
IT GETS WORSE!
The Obama IRS demanded that several Tea Party groups provide back-end access to their websites.
And, from reliable sources: This happened to several Tea Party groups!
The source has this in writing. It states they wanted access to everything the members had access to, which would be chats, email, contact information, etc. The group raised less than $600. She was targeted as early as October 2010.
Central Texas 912 President, Maria Acosta joined Kristina Ribali from FreedomWorks to discuss being singled out by the Feds.
The IRS asked for back-end access to the group’s website.
And this is a tax question?
Here is the latest creepy story of IRS harassment and abuse.
UPDATE: The IRS also demanded the Richmond Tea Party in Virginia to provide access to the back-end of their website.
The Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued a statement to ProPublica saying that the agency’s release of pending confidential tax-exempt applications from conservative groups last year had been found to be “inadvertent and unintentional disclosures by the employees involved.”
In the statement, the IRS said the cases had been referred to and reviewed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
“When these two issues were previously raised concerning the potential unauthorized disclosures of 501(c)(4) application information, we immediately referred these cases to TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] for a comprehensive review,” the statement said. “In both instances, TIGTA found these instances to be inadvertent and unintentional disclosures by the employees involved.”
This is not my country. The Chicago thugocracy we have in the White House is every bit what Michelle Malkin has always said it was, using government to target and oppress political ‘enemies’.
In this segment, Frank Vandersloot tells BillO that after he gave Romney one million to help his campaign, he was then targeted by the Obama campaign on their official website along with seven others. Shortly after that he received a letter from the IRS saying he would be audited. And then on top of that, he also had the Labor Dept. come calling because they wanted to look at his books.
He tells BillO his story: