Both Democrats and Republicans showed frustration in their questioning during today's House Ways and Means Committee hearings. Acting commissioner Miller (who is still employed by the IRS)tapped danced around the scandal, while Inspector General Russell George furnished all he could about the report.
The first real surprise was when Russel George indicated there were similar investigations being made so there may be much more coming.
The most fun surprise was the revelation that last week's question to Lois Lerner which made the scandal public was staged.
Rep Nunes “Was her question to Ms. Lerner about targeting certain groups planned in advance?”As for the "real" investigation-- Miller kept claiming there was no Politics involved in the targeting of conservative groups:
Miller replied, “I believe we talked about that, yes.”
"I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people who were trying to be more efficient in their workload selection," Miller said, calling the practices described in the inspector general's report as "intolerable" and a "mistake," but "not an act of partisanship."Miller objected to the term "targeted", he said the phase targeting conservatives was pejorative--Congressmen of both parties objected. They asked how could there not be targeting when it was only conservative groups who were abused.
He apologized for what he later called "horrible customer service," but he also stubbornly rejected any accusation that it amounted to politicizing the work of the IRS.
Miller said former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman's testimony failing to disclose the activity when asked specific question by the same committee --was "incorrect," but not misleading. HUH?“When you talk about targeting, it’s a pejorative term,” Miller said. “There was a lot of discussion within the system about these” [new 501c4 organizations].
Miller also claimed -- over and over -- that he was being honest with Congress during a hearing last year--with those claims he was walking on a very fine line:
"You did not share the information you knew," Rep. Reichert charged.When he was asked if his answer was incomplete--Miller would only say his answers were "Truthful."
"I answered all questions truthfully," Miller replied.
This claim was met with deep skepticism Friday. Miller acknowledged he learned of the practice during a May 3, 2012, briefing. Yet when he was asked about it at a July 25 hearing that year, he said only that some applications fell into a particular category -- and that those organizations were grouped for "consistency" and "quality."
Miller claimed he did not know who was responsible for the targeting of conservative groups by IRS agents.
“Who is responsible for targeting the conservative organizations?” Rep Brady Asked pressing for names. “I don’t have names for you?, Mr. Brady,”Miller said.Sounds like he could take over Eric Holder's Job, as Holder also knows nothing.
”I don’t have that name, sir,” he told GOP congressman Dave Reichert in today’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the scandal, which came to light last Friday.Not remembering is just as believable as his claim that there was no political reason for the targeting.
Reichert persisted, “Did you ask anybody?”
“Yes,” Miller responded — he asked the senior technical adviser, Nancy Marks.
“And what did Nancy tell you, who’s responsible?” Reichert asked.
“That I don’t remember, to be honest with you,” Miller said.
Who knew when? George said he alerted Miller’s predecessor, Shulman, in May 2012. He alerted the Treasury counsel on June 4, 2012, and subsequently told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin. The IG told new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew after his appointment that he was working on investigating the claims.
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., was the star of the show as he described the ways its agents are capable of ruining lives.
"You can put anybody out of business that you want. ... When the IRS comes in there, you're not allowed to be shoddy," he said, suggesting the agency's leadership was being held to a different standard now that it is coming under scrutiny.When he finished, the committee room erupted in cheers and applause that lasted several seconds.
"This is absolutely an overreach, and this is an outrage for all Americans," he said.
It was pointed out that IG George's document was not an investigation it was an audit. Mr George was asked if he is conducting a full investigation. George answered that he couldn't answer that question--a clear indication that there is much more to come...so buy that BIG Bag of popcorn (but don't record it on your 1040 as a deduction).
Plenty of questions remain unanswered about why IRS agents in Cincinnati started using search terms like “tea party” and “patriots” to filter groups applying for tax-exempt status, under who's direction was it started, what the top IRS management did when they found out about it and why the Cincinnati office resumed similar searches months after officials in Washington told them not to. Some of those questions might come out next week when Rep. Issa's House Oversight panel takes its turn with a different set of witnesses.