Political storm over IRS targeting scandal shifts to Congress

Steven Miller faces questions
Steven Miller faces questions

A U.S. House of Representatives panel this morning opens the first in a series of investigative hearings in Congress on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny, as the political storm over the scandal shifts to Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers from both parties are expected to grill the outgoing acting head of the agency, Steven Miller, and the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, about the growing scandal that threatens to eclipse President Barack Obama’s second-term agenda.

Miller was forced to resign on Wednesday, and Obama has since appeared in public twice to condemn the IRS’s actions and promise full cooperation with three congressional investigations and a Justice Department probe.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee are expected to press Miller at the hearing about why he did not disclose the practice of targeting conservative groups after learning about it in 2012, even when he was questioned about it by members of Congress.

Republicans, who have demanded more answers and angrily accused the administration of using government powers to target political foes, also are likely to question whether other groups or donors were singled out because of their political views, and whether the White House knew of the practice.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).

“There are still far too many unanswered questions and until we know what truly happened, we cannot fully fix what is wrong,” said Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican from Michigan.

“The IRS has demonstrated a culture of cover up and has failed time and time again to be completely open and honest with the American people,” Camp said.

George, who investigated the complaints against the IRS, issued a public report earlier this week that blamed ineffective management and bureaucratic confusion at the IRS for the agency’s inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups for extra scrutiny when considering applications for tax-exempt status.

But George also could face vigorous questioning from Republicans about why he did not issue warnings about the practice earlier.

The political storm over the scandal has put Obama on the defensive at a time when he is negotiating with Republicans on a budget deal and trying to push a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress.

Two other committees, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, also will hold IRS hearings next week.

“COMMON SENSE”

Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican member of the Ways and Means panel, said Friday’s hearing will kick off a months-long investigative process. Nunes said he was suspicious of the tax agency’s motives in targeting groups with names that included “Tea Party” or “Patriot.”

“Common sense tells me it probably just wasn’t two low-level employees in Cincinnati sitting around strategizing about how to go after the Tea Party,” Nunes told reporters on Thursday.

Representative Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the panel, said he was concerned that Republicans could turn the probe into a partisan witchhunt.

“There is a tendency to politicize. That would be a terrible mistake,” Levin told reporters. “There are people who conjecture, who are trying to make connections. If there is no basis for it, that is also a mistake.”

Camp and Levin sent the IRS a letter on Tuesday outlining the information they were seeking in the probe, including all documents relating to the targeting and any information on who knew about the practice and when they became aware of it.

The letter also asked for any other organizations singled out for their political views and the search terms used to find them, as well as all documents related to possible special reviews of groups whose missions involved Israel and all communication with the White House on the process.

Given the three congressional investigations and the Justice probe, Obama said, there was no need for a special prosecutor to look into the allegations.

“Between those investigations I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it,” Obama said at a Rose Garden news conference on Thursday.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

National

Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.