May 21, 2013
Former IRS chief ' Doug Shulman dismayed' at targeting
Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told a Senate panel he was “dismayed” and “saddened” after reading an inspector general report last week that concluded agency employees wrongly targeted conservative groups seeking a tax exemption.
“The actions outlined in that report have justifiably led to questions about the fairness of the approach taken here,” Shulman told the Senate Finance Committee this morning.
In his first public comments since the IRS scandal broke, Shulman, who stepped down at the end of his term in November, described an agency with a broad mandate that includes overseeing nonprofit groups, tackling offshore tax evasion and implementing a complicated tax code.
“The IRS is a major operation,” he said.
Lawmakers on the panel weren’t very sympathetic.
“The IRS abandoned good judgment and lost the public’s trust,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Baucus took the unusual step of swearing in the witnesses at the outset of Tuesday’s hearing.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the panel’s top Republican, said the targeting program “undermines Americans’ trust that their government will enforce the law without regard for political beliefs or party affiliation.
Shulman has come under fire for telling a House committee in March 2012 that the IRS was “absolutely” not targeting conservative groups. He was briefed on the program in May but never disclosed it to Congress before stepping down in November at the end of a six-year term.
Tuesday’s congressional hearing is the second on the IRS scandal that first came to light on May 10. Shulman was joined by IRS Inspector General J. Russell George and the outgoing acting commissioner at the agency, Steven Miller.
Miller, who testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, also came under pressure during Tuesday’s hearing. GOP lawmakers are especially angry at him for failing to disclose the targeting program.
Miller was briefed on the controversial practice on May 3, 2012, but didn’t reveal it in at least two subsequent letters written to lawmakers seeking details about how the IRS was reviewing nonprofit groups.
“You just sat on that guilty knowledge,” Hatch told Miller. “That’s a lie by omission.”
As he did on Friday, Miller insisted he never lied to Congress and disputed charges that the IRS targeted groups for their political affiliations.
“We were not politically motivated in targeting conservative groups,” he said.
Baucus and Hatch have worked closely together to investigate the IRS targeting program. In a letter to Miller on Monday, they broadened their probe into the practice, asking the agency to explain how it reviewed applications for a wide range of tax exemptions — not just the requests for 501(c)(4) status at the center of the current scandal.
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