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
National

Actor Tracy Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in June…

By Jonathan Stempel(Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts when their vehicle was struck by…

National

Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its…

By Marina Lopes and Bernie WoodallWASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest…

Local

Grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner…

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July. Garner, 43, of Staten Island,…

Local

Mayor announces plan for solar panels at city…

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the planned installation of 24 new solar panels at city schools on Monday morning. The panels, a $28 million investment,…

Going Out

Taste what Lower Manhattan is cooking at today's…

The Lower Manhattan food scene has changed a lot in three years, which you can taste first hand when the neighborhood's food festival returns. On…

Television

Review: 'Selfie' tries to coast on the charm…

"Selfie" offers cute leads and some good jokes, but focuses too much on a vague distaste for social media.

Movies

Review: Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' is…

Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" takes a hysterical and melodramatic look at disconnection in the digital age, turning strong actors into zombies.

Television

TV watch list, Monday, Sept. 29: 'Castle,' 'Mom'…

Tune in for the season premieres of "Castle," "Mom" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

MLB

Joe Girardi not confident David Robertson will return…

David Robertson was as seamless as anyone could be replacing Mariano Rivera as he converted 39 saves, with a 3.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony preaches patience with new coach, offense

While star forward Carmelo Anthony said he’s “enthusiastic” and “optimistic” for the upcoming season, he still wants everyone — from within the locker room and…

Education

How to ace your private school interview

Getting ready for a private school interview can be daunting for many, most of whom might never have been in an interview situation before. We’ve…

Education

5 questions parents should ask while visiting private…

It can be hard to know what to look for when searching for a new school for your child. Parents considering several different schools can…

Education

3 ways to save money on college application…

With the average high school student applying to 5 or 6 schools, hefty application and test score fees can add up quickly. We’ve compiled some…

Education

Nap rooms: The latest college campus trend

College is a time filled with new experiences (and lots of schoolwork), leaving little time for students to get a good night’s rest. University of…