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House Republicans Take Year-End Swing at IRS

House Republicans Take Year-End Swing at IRS

House GOP investigators blasted a “culture of bias” at the Internal Revenue Service in their final 2014 report on the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

“Documents and interviews show IRS officials failed to limit their professional judgments to enforcing the tax code and instead inserted their own beliefs and judgments into federal matters to influence outcomes and decisions,” the 210-page report said.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s sixth report represented an expanding view of the IRS scandal that erupted in 2013 and became a priority for Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. The report, based on 1.3 million pages of documents and 52 transcribed interviews with IRS, Treasury, and Justice Department employees, closed Issa’s four-year tenure as chairman, but it didn’t close the panel’s investigation: “The fact-finding is not yet complete.”

Incoming Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will assume control of the probe during the 114th Congress, including review of more than 30,000 Lois Lerner emails previously thought lost. Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, twice refused to testify before the committee, invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Among other things, the committee has found Lerner gave the FBI a 1.1 million-page database in 2010, allegedly violating rules that prohibit sharing confidential taxpayer information.

The year-end report highlights President Barack Obama’s initial outrage when a May 2013 Inspector General report revealed the targeting—which devolved into the president’s February proclamation that there’s not a “smidgen of corruption” at the IRS. Congressional Democrats have defended the agency by pointing to left-leaning groups also targeted for extra scrutiny, even though the progressive groups involved are far fewer than tea party organizations.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, criticized the latest GOP report as a partisan political exercise that didn’t include minority members: “It is revealing that the Republicans—yet again—are leaking cherry-picked excerpts of documents to support their preconceived political narrative without allowing committee members to even see their conclusions or vote on them first.”

The report found no direct link to the White House, but it claims Obama’s rhetoric in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision led to deep skepticism among agency employees tasked with approving organizations for tax-exempt status: “Evidence shows an IRS responsive to the partisan policy objectives of the White House and an IRS leadership that coordinates with political appointees of the Obama administration.”

As evidence, the report cites IRS staff emails discussing tax-exempt applicants, such as one unidentified employee saying, “This org gives me an icky feeling.”

Administration officials insisted the targeting originated with several low-level employees in Cincinnati, but the report lays blame at the highest levels of the IRS. It identified eight senior employees who Republicans say “could have and should have” done more to stop the targeting, including Lerner, former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman—who visited the White House 118 times in 2010 and 2011—and former acting Commissioner Steven Miller.  

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Publication date: January 6, 2015