Obama administration knew about IRS scrutinizing conservative groups in June: inspector general

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May 18, 2013

Even when President Obama was on the campaign trail last year, his administration knew the IRS was targeting conservative group, a witness testified Friday.

May 18, 2013

Even when President Obama was on the campaign trail last year, his administration knew the IRS was targeting conservative group, a witness testified Friday.

Russell George testified during the first congressional hearing on the IRS misconduct that he had told the Treasury Department’s general counsel of his investigation on June 4 of last year in a routine briefing of what his office was working on. It was revealed last week that the IRS had been more closely scrutinizing conservative groups that were trying to gain nonprofit status.

WASHINGTON — An Internal Revenue Service watchdog testified Friday that he told Obama administration officials in June that he was looking into allegations the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

The revelation by Inspector General Russell George came at the first congressional hearing on the IRS misconduct, which has generated a political firestorm since it was disclosed a week ago.

George’s testimony represented the first evidence that officials in the Obama administration knew of the allegations as long as a year ago, during the presidential campaign.

Appearing Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee, George said he told the Treasury Department’s general counsel of his investigation on June 4, in a routine briefing of what his office was working on.

IRS Inspector General Russell George (left) and Steven Miller detailed the administration’s knowledge.

George said he did not disclose that he had concluded the targeting was improper.

But his testimony that knowledge of the allegations was not limited to the IRS is likely to fuel efforts by Republicans to link the scandal to the White House and congressional Democrats.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Friday that he was briefed in March that an investigation was underway of IRS screening of conservative groups — though he didn’t learn the substance of the findings until last week.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Lew said he had “a getting-to-know-you conversation” with George in mid-March, a couple of weeks after he was sworn in as treasury secretary, and the investigation “was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.”

A Tea Party supporter at a 2009 protest likens Pres. Obama to Batman villain, The Joker.

“I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday,” Lew said.

Lew also disclosed that he has ordered Danny Werfel, whom President Obama named Thursday to take over as acting IRS commissioner, to come up with an action plan within 30 days to address the handling of applications for tax-exempt status.

Obama also has said he first learned of the matter last Friday — when a Treasury Department official, Lois Lerner, revealed during an American Bar Association conference that IRS workers in a Cincinnati office had subjected groups with “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their names for extra scrutiny to determine if they should be tax exempt.

During yesterday’s testimony, Steven Miller, who was forced to resign this week week as the IRS acting commissioner, revealed that Lerner made her disclosure in response to a planted question at the bar association conference.

“We talked about what would be said and how we might do it,” he said.

The revelation irked lawmakers already angry the IRS never told them it had been improperly targeting conservative groups, despite numerous inquiries by members of Congress.

Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) demanded Lerner resign or be fired.


Courtesy: NYDN

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