Five and counting: Yet another IRS hearing
By Josh Hicks, Updated: June 4, 2013
The Republican-led House Ways and Means committee on Tuesday plans to hold the fifth hearing on the IRS’ inappropriate targeting of conservative groups.
Previous hearings have featured testimony from top IRS officials and the Treasury Department’s inspector general, J. Russell George, whose office unveiled the controversial tactic in a report last month. This one will focus on six groups that were subjected to special scrutiny and delays.
Viewers who watch Tuesday’s hearing can expect to see the congressional panel — especially its GOP members — draw out dramatic accounts of the worst experiences from the review process. Conservative and apolitical groups alike shared some of the details for a Washington Post article last month.
A representative from one of the targeted groups said the review process was “pretty much a proctology exam through your earlobe,” while others complained that their applications had been lost or that the IRS demanded names of board members, copies of meeting minutes and résumés, among other detailed information.
The constant hearings are likely to be taking a toll on morale within the IRS community, particularly among the rank-and-file employees and managers in the agency’s tax-exemption division, who have been blamed for lack of oversight and proper management in the affair.
“The constant hammering the IRS is taking right now will be detrimental for those who are doing a good job,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. “It’s demoralizing for the whole system.”
No one in the administration, not even the inspector general, has named a high-ranking individual or individuals responsible for the inappropriate search criteria used to filter out certain tax-exempt groups for special scrutiny. That leaves lingering questions about just who ordered the targeting campaign.
George’s comments during testimony on Monday before a House Appropriations subcommittee suggest the IG’s office and the Department of Justice are conducting further reviews to determine who should be held accountable.
President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have also ordered the new IRS acting commissioner, Daniel Werfel, to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency and to determine who should be held responsible for the targeting campaign.
George on Monday cautioned Werfel against going too far with that process, saying such efforts might disrupt those of DOJ and the IG’s office.
Adding to the IRS’ troubles is another IG report expected to come out Tuesday, showing that the agency spent an estimated $49 million on at least 220 conferences over a three-year period beginning in 2010.
The House oversight committee is scheduled to hear testimony on that matter Thursday, marking the sixth congressional hearing to involve the IRS since the agency admitted to using inappropriate search criteria on May 10.
Stier suggested the recent glut of IRS hearings overshadows any good work the agency has done.
“We see very little context and a lot of concerns,” Stier said. “The IRS is a 100,000-person organization that does a lot of things right — it’s one of the most effective tax-collection systems in the world. None of that comes out.”