Deirdre Shesgreen reports:
Outgoing IRS Commissioner Steve Miller defended himself and the federal tax agency under intense grilling from House lawmakers Friday, saying the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups was not politically motivated but rather “foolish mistakes” made by “people trying to be efficient.”
Miller told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he did not mislead Congress, even though he and other top IRS officials failed to tell lawmakers that IRS workers in Cincinnati had flagged tax-exempt applications from tea party and similar organizations for special scrutiny.
“I did not mislead Congress, nor the American people,” said Miller, who resigned under pressure from the White House earlier this week. “I answered the questions as they were asked.”
The line of questioning in the cavernous House hearing room quickly divided along partisan lines. Republicans tried to wrap the White House up in the scandal and suggested it was the “tip of the iceberg,” while Democrats tried to insulate the president and cast it as a limited incident caused by a handful of rogue IRS workers.
Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the IRS targeting appeared to be part of a “culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” with the truth “hidden . . . just long enough to make it through an election.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Sander Levin, of Mich., said the IRS had “completely failed” the public, but warned against turning the scandal into a political football. “If this hearing becomes essentially a bootstrap to continue the campaign of 2012 and to prepare for 2014, we will be making a very, very serious mistake.” he said.
During the highly charged session, which lasted nearly four hours, no new evidence emerged showing that top IRS officials were involved with developing or implementing the inappropriate criteria used to single out groups with “tea party,” ‘’patriot,” or “9/12” in their names.
J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which probed the IRS’ actions, said that policy was developed by a team of IRS specialists in the IRS’ Cincinnati office, which reviews applications for tax-exempt status from groups around the country. (more…)