Today the House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on the IRS scandal which broke just a week ago. Two people testified before the committee: Steven Miller, the out-going IRS commissioner, and J . Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General. Here are some of the highlights from today's testimony.
- In his opening statement, Steven Miller apologized on behalf on the IRS. He went on to say that these were simply “foolish mistakes” that “were made by people trying to be more efficient.” He said he does not believe that political partisanship motivated the practice of targeting conservative groups.
- I don't understand how his first statement can be accurate when Miller went on to admit that progressive groups were not targeted for additional scrutiny, while conservative groups were being targeted for potential political activities.
- When asked what could help prevent future abuse by the IRS, Steven Miller had the gall to say “a bigger budget.”
- Miller admitted that this information was staged to be released during last Friday's conference where Lois Lerner initially apologized for the targeting of conservative groups, but also blamed it on “low-level” employees in Cincinnati.
- Miller repeatedly denied having shared information with the Treasury Department (the administration) about the targeting of conservative groups.
- Miller defended former IRS commissioner Doug Shulman's testimony to Congress last March stating that he was “incorrect,” but wouldn't go as far as to say that it was “untruthful.”
- Miller admitted that the IRS “provided horrible customer service” to these conservative groups. Gee, ya think?
Who is ultimately responsible for targeting these conservative organization? We still do not know or have any names. As Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted earlier today, “Biggest takeaway from #IRSHearing: 'I'll have to get back with you' apparently an acceptable response to #IRS. Remember that on April 15th.” He's absolutely right. This investigation is far from over.
The fact remains that the commissioner has known about this for at least a year and failed to disclose it or share with Congress. According to a report from Lisa Myers this morning on MSNBC, “The commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this.” Myers goes on to project, “Imagine if we -- if you can -- what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different." In other words, the IRS knew and it decided not to tell … at least until now. Who made the decision not to disclose it before the election and why? Well until we have an answer to that question, all we can do is assume: Was it for political purposes to make sure that Barack Obama's re-election wasn't hampered by a scandal?
On top of all of this, we learned late yesterday that the very woman who was in charge of tax-exempt organizations at the time of this targeting – Sarah Hall Ingram – is now in charge of the IRS' Affordable Care Act office. In other words, the woman in charge of the office engaged in this conservative targeting is now overseeing the implementation of ObamaCare within the IRS! You can't make this stuff up. It's truly unbelievable, yet from everything we heard today in the hearing, the IRS actions were “inappropriate” but not “illegal.” Good grief.