IRS chief sidestepped Tea Party questions
WASHINGTON — Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven T. Miller repeatedly failed to tell Congress that Tea Party groups were being inappropriately targeted, even once he had been briefed on the matter.
The IRS said on Monday that Miller was informed on May 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra, sometimes burdensome, scrutiny.
At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without revealing that Tea Party groups had been targeted. On July 25, Miller testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, but again was not forthcoming on the issue — despite being asked about it.
At the hearing, Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, told Miller that some politically active tax-exempt groups in his district had complained about being harassed. Marchant did not explicitly ask whether Tea Party groups were being targeted. But he asked how applications were handled.
Miller responded, “We did group those organizations together to ensure consistency, to ensure quality. We continue to work those cases,” according to a transcript on the committee's website.
He added, “It is my hope that some of the noise that we heard earlier this year has abated as we continue to work through these cases.”
Earlier, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., raised concerns with the IRS about complaints that Tea Party groups were being harassed. Boustany specifically mentioned Tea Party groups in his inquiry.
But in a June 15, letter to Boustany, Miller gave a generic response.
He said that when the IRS noticed an increase in applications from groups that were involved in political activity, the agency “took steps to coordinate the handling of the case to ensure consistency.”
He added that agents worked with tax law experts “to develop approaches and materials that could be helpful to the agents working the cases.”
Miller did not mention that in 2011, those materials included a list of words to watch for, such as “Tea Party” and “patriot.” He didn't disclose that in January 2012, the criteria for additional screening was updated to include references to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
“They repeatedly failed to disclose and be truthful about what they were doing,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Camp's committee is holding a hearing on the issue on Friday, and Miller is scheduled to testify.
“We are going to need to find out how much he knew,” Camp said of Miller.
The Senate Finance Committee announced on Monday that it will join a growing list of congressional committees investigating the matter.
The IRS apologized on Friday for what it acknowledged as “inappropriate” targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election to determine whether they were violating their tax-exempt status. In some cases, the IRS acknowledged, agents inappropriately asked for lists of donors.
The agency blamed low-level employees in a Cincinnati office, saying no high-level officials were aware.
When members of Congress repeatedly raised concerns with the IRS about complaints that Tea Party groups were being harassed last year, a deputy IRS commissioner took the lead in assuring lawmakers that the scrutiny was a legitimate part of the screening process.
That deputy commissioner was Miller, who is now the acting head of the agency.
Camp and other members of the Ways and Means Committee sent at least four inquiries to the IRS, starting in June 2011. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, sent three inquiries. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent at least one.
None of the responses they received from the IRS acknowledged that conservative groups had been targeted, including a response to Hatch dated Sept. 11, 2012 — four months after Miller had been briefed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Navy destroyer Zumwalt’s seaworthiness questioned before sea trials
- Upstate New York town threatened by Arizona man in online post, reports say
- Storm lingers in southern Plains
- Hunt on for mother of baby buried alive in California
- Federal $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with policy deals
- Colorado clinic shooting suspect talked of baby parts, police say
- Nation’s $1 billion defense against biological terrorism faulty, GAO watchdog warns
- Democrats face long odds in battle for lost congressional seats
- Hawaii confronts dengue fever cases
- Slow-moving, wintry storm packs punch in Plains, Midwest
- Obama, Hollande pledge solidarity against Islamic State