Entries in IRS (12)


Congress to Hold IRS Hearings this Week

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Monday, a House Appropriations subcommittee will hear from Internal Revenue Service Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel about what steps the agency is taking to address the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and to hold those responsible accountable.

Also at the witness table will be J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

The House Ways and Means committee will hold their own hearing on Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS after some of those groups filed a joint lawsuit against the agency last week.

On Thursday, George will return to Capitol Hill to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “about a newly-released audit uncovering information about excessive spending at IRS conferences.”

The hearing comes roughly a week after the release of a video showing IRS officials line dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” at a 2010 agency conference in California.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


David Plouffe: IRS Targeting Was Not a Political Pursuit

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Former White House senior adviser and Democratic strategist David Plouffe fought back against assertions from GOP strategist and George W. Bush's former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups was a political pursuit driven by Democrats.

“There’s been no suggestion — the Inspector General said there was no politics involved in this,” Plouffe said this morning on This Week. “This was not an effort driven by the White House. It would be the dumbest political effort of all time.”

Rove, who co-founded the GOP-affiliated outside spending group American Crossroads, argued that IRS workers in offices across the country may have taken direction, inadvertently, from top Democrats.

"I think people sitting in Cincinnati, Laguna Niguel, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. listen to people like Senator Max Baucus, Senator Chuck Schumer, President Obama,” Rove said. “When President Obama goes out in 2010 and calls these groups ‘a threat to democracy’ he’s blowing a dog whistle.”

Rove said that he believes further investigations into the situation will reveal a focus on conservative political groups, as well as a targeting of individuals.

“We’re going to find that the IRS targeted conservative political groups, not liberal groups, and that they targeted specific individuals,” he said. “This is just ridiculous.”

The two top strategists agreed however that the various controversies facing the administration right now should not eclipse Washington’s work on fixing the economy.

“All these things deserve thorough investigation,” Plouffe said. “The question is, is that all Congress is going to do? Are we just going to be obsessed with scandal and trying to score political points, or the American people could not be screaming any more loudly, ‘worry about us.’ ‘Work on the economy.’”

“This has to be a concern for the administration too,” Rove responded. “People don’t think the economy is good, and they don’t approve of the president’s handling of the economy, so I think it is important.”

Plouffe and Rove were joined on the This Week by editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post media group Arianna Huffington, Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Director Paul Gigot and PBS’ Washington Week Moderator and managing editor Gwen Ifill. The powerhouse round table debated all of the week’s politics, in addition to the IRS controversy, including the path ahead for immigration reform, and Tea Party star Michele Bachmann’s surprise announcement earlier this week that she would not be seeking re-election in 2014.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Issa Says Washington Directed IRS Targetting Out of Cincinnati

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The IRS agents in Cincinnati who were involved in the targeting of conservative groups were “being directly ordered from Washington,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said on Sunday, as he accused the White House of lying about the involvement of IRS headquarters officials in the scandal, calling White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar.”

“The administration is still — their paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind — he’s still making up things about what happens and calling this local rogue,” Issa said on CNN’s State of the Union. “The reason that Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth [Amendment when called to testify before Congress] is not because there’s a rogue in Cincinnati, it’s because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we’re getting to proving it."

“The administration is still trying to say there’s a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” he said.

Investigators from two House committees — Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means — are questioning IRS workers from the Cincinnati office, and Issa said these interviews provide evidence that the orders stemmed from Washington.

“My gut tells me that too many people knew that this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient benign neglect allowed it to go on through the election, allowed these groups, these conservative groups, these, if you will, not friends of the president to be disenfranchised through an election,” he said. “Now, I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it. But certainly, people knew it was happening.”

Congress is scheduled to hold a series of hearings this week on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. On Monday, J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, and IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel are expected to testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee on the progress the IRS is making in addressing the controversial practices that came to light last month. Representatives of conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS are scheduled to appear Tuesday before the House Ways and Means committee.

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee, which Issa chairs, has a hearing scheduled for questioning about excessive spending at IRS conferences. The hearing comes nearly a week after the release of a video showing IRS officials line dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” at a 2010 agency conference in California.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McConnell Campaign Ad Uses IRS Scandal Against Obama

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is jumping on the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service in a new campaign advertisement, using vintage video footage of Richard Nixon to amplify his criticism of President Obama and his administration.

No opponent has yet emerged to challenge McConnell in Kentucky, so he is biding his time by sharply condemning the Obama administration in the wake of the IRS acknowledging that conservative groups had been unfairly targeted.

It is the clearest sign yet the IRS controversy is likely to play a central role in the midterm elections next year.

The new online ad for McConnell, obtained by ABC News, seeks to draw comparisons between Nixon and Obama. It shows a famous clip from an interview with David Frost, where Nixon declares: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

It is the first political ad of the year to show IRS officials on the hot seat at recent Congressional hearings. One employee is shown taking the Fifth Amendment and declining to testify, while two others repeatedly say they were unaware of the targeting underway by the IRS.

The web video also stitches together speeches that McConnell has been delivering for more than a year. It raises questions about government intimidation and the IRS treatment of Tea Party groups and others applying for tax-exempt status.

“I think that the leader of the free world and his advisers have better things to do than to dig through other people’s tax returns,” McConnell says.

While McConnell is one of the top targets of the 2014 election cycle, Democrats have struggled to field a challenger, and talk of a Republican primary race has not materialized, in part because McConnell is building a presidential-size campaign in hopes of being re-elected to a sixth term in the Senate.

The president moved quickly to respond to the IRS scandal after it became public, but the White House has struggled to explain a consistent sequence of events about which administration officials were aware of the investigation inside the IRS.

Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for McConnell, said the IRS controversy speaks to anxieties and concerns voters have about the government.

“He’s going to keep pushing on it,” Benton said in an interview. “There are a great majority of Americans that would agree, regardless of political party, that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Americans of good conscience across the ideological spectrum are going to band together and say this is enough.”

The online ad called “Demand Answers” was produced by Lucas Baiano, a videographer who is known for making iconic video images for Republican candidates. It is the third ad he has made for McConnell.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Dan Pfeiffer: IRS Behavior ‘Inexcusable’ Whether or Not Illegal

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week, White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the legality surrounding the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue service is “irrelevant,” but called the behavior “inexcusable.”

“I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again,” Pfeiffer said.

Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer if he really thought the law is “irrelevant.”

“What I mean is, whether it’s legal or illegal is not important to the fact that the conduct doesn’t matter. The Department of Justice has said they’re looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again, regardless of how that turns out,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer also insisted President Obama didn't find out that the IRS was targeting tea party groups until last week, when the scandal went public.

“The deputy secretary of the Treasury was made aware just of the fact that the investigation was beginning last year but no-one in the White House was aware,” Pfeiffer said, stressing that Obama was not involved in the scandal.

“Don't take my word for it,” he said, “take the word of the independent Inspector General who said that he found no evidence that there was any influence from anyone outside of the IRS.”

Several Republicans are not convinced.

“The IG report was an audit, it was not an investigation,” noted Republican congressman Tom Price of Georgia, also appearing on This Week.

“This is just the beginning of this process and we need to get to the bottom of it, we need to find out who made those decisions, hold them to account and see how high up the chain it went,” Price said.

Senator Rob Portman is among the Republicans calling for a Special Counsel in the IRS scandal. The Ohio lawmaker wrote a letter to President Obama wanting to know what if any private pressure was exerted by the White House on the IRS regarding standard for approving and monitoring tax exempt organizations. Portman also appeared on This Week.

“It seems to me that there's a lot of issues here we need to get to the bottom of, we need to find out what really happened and make sure we can begin to regain some trust in our government, that's my concern,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republicans Informed of IRS Investigation Last Year

The Office of Congressman Darrell Issa(WASHINTON) -- Much has been made of the fact that senior Treasury Department officials were told about the investigation into the treatment of tea party groups in June 2012 — months before last year’s the Presidential election. Republicans who requested the investigation were also told about it at approximately the same time.

In a letter dated July 11, 2012, the man who conducted the investigation, IRS inspector general J. Russell George wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, telling him that he was investigating the issue and offering to keep him updated as the investigation progressed.

“The Oversight Committee knew about the audit because it requested it,” an Issa aide told ABC News. Issa released the letter, along with his own letter dated June 28, 2012 requesting the investigation, last week.

“We would be happy to provide a status update to the Subcommittee staff and provide a copy of our interim and final reports on the matter when they are issued,” George wrote in the letter to Issa. An identical letter was also sent the Rep. Jim Jordan, who, like Issa had raised the issue with the IRS.

The letter notes that it was Issa who had written him about “questionnaires that the IRS has issued which may exceed appropriate scrutiny and a potential lack of balance in the use of criteria for reviewing organizations that are applying for tax-exempt status.” George offers no confusions but says, “our Office of Audit recently began work on this issue.”

According the Issa aide, the committee received an email update from George in December saying, “We are leaving no stone unturned as part of our due diligence. As such, we won’t be able to provide a detailed, substantive briefing until late April/early May.”

On Friday, in his testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, George said he had notified top Treasury officials — including Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin — about his investigation in June 2012, part of a routine briefing on the issues he was looking into.

Republicans pounced on that revelation as evidence top Administration officials knew about the targeting of conservative groups well before the 2012 election. It is now clear that at least some key Republicans knew about the investigation as well.

While George informed Treasury officials about the fact he was conducting the investigation in 2012, the Treasury Department says he did not go into detail about his investigation or tell them about his conclusion that IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups. Similarly, the letter to Issa says the investigation had begun but does not say that it had uncovered any wrongdoing.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boehner Says Jail Time Possible in IRS Scandal

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner suggested on Wednesday that those who were responsible for the IRS targeting conservative groups should face jail time.

“Now my question isn’t about who is going to resign,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Wednesday. “My question is who’s going to jail over this scandal?”

Asked who he believes should go to jail, the speaker did not direct his demand to a specific individual but said that someone at the IRS “made a conscious decision to harass” conservatives while delaying their requests for tax-exempt status.

“There are laws in place to prevent this type of abuse,” he said. “We need to know who they are and whether they violated the law. There’s clearly someone who violated the law.”

The speaker went on to vent about controversies dealing with Benghazi and the Department of Justice as well.

Boehner seemed bewildered by the Department of Justice’s decision to secretly obtain phone records from the Associated Press, which he indicated violated the First Amendment protections for a free press.

“Let me tell you, I am very interested and I’m hopeful that we’re going to get a clear explanation for why such unprecedented action was taken,” Boehner said. “It befuddles me that there could be some justification that would allow them to infringe on the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

While the White House has shown some emails from the Benghazi investigation to certain members of Congress, the speaker said the administration “could make this a lot easier for all Americans” by permanently turning over copies of the documents to Congress.

Boehner brushed aside questions about whether the three burgeoning scandals play into the GOP’s favor in the 2014 congressional midterm elections, insisting his focus is “on the priorities of the American people” while executing Congress’s duty to provide oversight over the executive branch.

“The American people deserve the truth and fairness from their government,” Boehner said. ”I don’t want to prolong this anymore than anyone else. What I want is the truth.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


IRS Has Long History of Political Dirty Tricks

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you think the IRS's targeting of Americans for their political views is something new, think again.

Historians, tax lawyers, civil libertarians and past victims of abuse say the practice goes back to the Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy and FDR adminstrations, all of which reportedly used the agency as a weapon against political enemies.

"We need to be careful, here," cautions David Schuyler, professor of American Studies at Franklin & Marshall and editor of the book Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon, written by his now-deceased fellow Franklin & Marshall professor, John Andrew.

"Nobody has shown that Obama had anything to do with this. We do not know if that's true or not. That's one of the mysteries that undoubtedly will come to light," he told ABC News.

The current controversy involves IRS employees targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for audits and scrutiny. The agency has maintained that low-level employees took it upon themselves to do this. An internal report by the agency's Inspector General cited "ineffective management" as the cause.

If, however, it were to be established that some link existed between the Obama administration and what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has referred to as the IRS's "thuggish abuse of power," it wouldn't be the worst -- only the most recent -- example of an administration using the tax service to engage in what Nixon's enemies branded "dirty tricks."

Andrew's book, says Schuyler, "documents that Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were complicit, to varying degrees, in using the IRS for political purposes. And it didn't end there. John had enough material to take it up through the 1970s and '80s. That's all in our college archives."

During the Clinton administration, Paula Jones, who had filed a sexual-harassment suit against President Clinton, alleged she was being audited by the IRS because of it.

Targets of the IRS during the Kennedy administration, according to Andrew and Schuyler, included such groups as the conservative John Birch Society. Former editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee in his 1976 book Conversations With Kennedy, wrote that Kennedy had shared with him confidential information from the tax returns of rich conservatives H.L. Hunt and J. Paul Getty.

The 1974 Senate Watergate Report confirmed that the Nixon administration and sought to use the IRS to make life miserable for a wide spectrum of political enemies, including Senators George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie.

Whistleblower John Dean produced memos confirming that the Nixon administration had even considered using the IRS to go after such small game as the producer of Millhouse: A White Comedy, a satiric film making fun of Nixon.

Travis Watkins, an attorney with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla., who specializes in tax resolution cases said: "In other words, fighting with the IRS." He represents individuals and businesses at odds with the IRS and subject to its audits and investigations.

Watkins tells ABC News it takes very little for a citizen to earn the Service's political enmity. He cites the case of two clients -- "African-American pastors targeted for being outspoken conservative folks." For reasons best known to them, the pastors sent to the IRS "informational DVDs" they had made that were critical of the administration and of the IRS. The DVDs, he says, were "essentially about black America, and how the IRS is part of an evil regime."

His clients, in return, received audits.

A lot of pain can be inflicted, he points out, under the guise of auditing. The IRS demands in-person meetings; it subjects the persons being audited to "a paperwork blizzard." Once an audit starts, he says, the IRS wants to look into "all kinds of things," not just income and deductions.

"Currently," Watkins says, referring to the most recent IRS scandal, "people are shocked and talking about their loss of confidence. But is has always been this way. The IRS has a storied history of being bulldogs.

"It has a history of blaming low-level employees for these intrusive behaviors. But with Nixon and FDR, it was clearly direction from the top: FDR used it to look into Huey Long; he used it to look back into the Hoover administration."

Various laws prohibit the IRS and other government agencies from singling out a group for special scrutiny because of its politics, according to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. That would violate, for example, the Hatch Act, which prohibits civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity during the performance of their jobs and 18 USC Section 241, which makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree together to intimidate a person in the free exercise of any right secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Susan Collins: ‘Chilling’ that the IRS Singled Out Conservative Groups

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The backlash against the IRS continued this weekend after the tax agency acknowledged Friday that it had singled out groups with the words "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names for additional scrutiny of their tax-exempt status.

“The truth is that this was something that should have been revealed, should have been told, there were numerous congressional hearings, no one came forth,” said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile on ABC’s This Week Sunday.

“Clearly there was some incompetence at some level of bureaucrats looking into all these applications coming in a rush after Citizen United, to see whether or not they were legitimate organizations with the word Tea Party or Patriot in it,” she continued.

The IRS says it was a small group of employees who singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny of their tax-exempt status

While officials on both sides of the isle denounced the political targeting, many Republicans, including Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, aren’t so quick to accept that this was a small and limited mistake.

“I just don't buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees, after all groups with progressive in their names were not targeted similarly, there's evidence that higher level supervisors were aware of this,” Collins said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review and I think that it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out,” she said.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith recommended patience, as news of the scandal only broke a mere two days ago.

“We need to look in and see exactly what happened before we can leap to a conclusion and start accusing people of things,” the congressman from Washington state said.

“I think it is definitely worth looking into but right now the new information is far, far too preliminary to reach any conclusions,” Smith continued.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


No IRS Investigation into South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Renee Ittner-McManus Office of the Governor(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- ABC News has learned that the Internal Revenue Service never conducted an investigation into South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s involvement in a Sikh temple’s finances. Nanette Downing, Director of EO Examinations, stated in the letter, “…we did not conduct an examination for the above period (tax year ended 2009)."

Eric Hill, a program manager at the IRS, said in a separate letter to Haley’s chief of staff Tim Pearson that “we determined an examination was not warranted at that time.”

Earlier this week, Logan Smith wrote for a little-known website, The Palmetto Public Record, that Haley, a Republican, faced a federal investigation of her finances and those of the Sikh Religious Society, with which her family has been associated:

“There has been a great deal of chatter lately regarding a federal investigation of the Sikh worship center run by Gov. Nikki Haley’s father, Dr. Ajit Randhawa. Speculation on the probe’s target has run anywhere from delinquent taxes to money laundering and tax fraud, with varying accounts of the governor’s own involvement in the temple’s shady finances.”

In an exclusive interview in Columbia, S.C. Friday afternoon, Haley adamantly denied the allegations.

“I was never an accountant for the temple,” Haley said. "I have nothing to do with the temple. My dad and the Indian community started the temple, not him. There is no truth. I never did a deposit. I never wrote a check. I never touched the books. I never had anything to do with it."

“The IRS letter they got -- from what I understand is a standard, just checking the tax-exempt status,” said Haley. “There is nothing, nothing, you can call any federal department of justice, everybody said there is nothing there. There is nothing there. What is sad in our country, what’s really sad in politics, is that a blogger can throw something out with no proof, no truth, no accuracy, total lies and that the media picks it up. It’s a very, very sad thing. There’s multiple stories of that in the book. But there’s multiple stories that continue to happen. And I will tell you every time this happens, I will call them out on it. How sad is that? That someone can go and make up everything you just said and absolutely none of it, none of it be true. It’s a terrible thing.”

Asked again whether there was any truth to the allegations, Haley shot back, “No, none!  Absolute lies. I have never received any sort of letter, there is no investigation, there is nothing going on, it can all be verified by any agency you talk to. Absolutely not. What I can verify is these are the things I and Sarah Palin talked about -- it will never stop. It will never stop. Because the more I do, the more attacks there will be. I’m okay with that because all it does is keep me kicking. ”

Governor Haley is no stranger to controversy.  In her race for governor in 2009, she battled against two claims that she had been unfaithful to her husband. Those allegations were also never proven to be true.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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