IRS Scandal: IRS Commissioner Defends 'Lie by Omission' to Congress
Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who led the agency when it targeted Tea Party and conservative groups, testified before the Senate Finance Committee today, under oath, about when he knew about the conduct of officials in the tax exempt organizations division. He was joined by his successor, Steven Miller, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russel George.
Senators pressed the IRS officials about his failure to respond to earlier concerns about targeting when they had been raised--long before the release of the Treasury Inpector General's report May 14.
Shulman tried to defend the IRS in his opening statement. "It does its job in an admirable way a great majority of the time," Shulman said.
Yet committee chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who has parted from his Democratic colleagues in taking an aggressive approach to the IRS scandal, led fellow committee members in questioning Shulman's past testimony--and asking why he had not come forward to correct it before.
"What I knew sometime in the spring of 2012 was that there was a list that was being used, knew that the words 'Tea Party' were being used," Shulman said, adding that he felt the proper approach was to ensure that there was an investigation.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was not satisfied.
"You didn't mention any of this in any of your letters...It's a lie by omission, and you kept it from people who have an obligation to oversee this matter," he said.
Shulman later faced similar questions form Sen. John Thune (R-SD) about why, if he testified in March 2012 and found out about the list of targeted organizations in May 2012, he did not inform Congress of the new information for a year. He stated again that it had been appropriate for the investigation to continue without further comment from him, and remained defiant that he had made the "right decision."
Under questioning from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Miller admitted that the idea of notifying the public through a planted question at an American Bar Association conference on May 10 had been his idea.
Hearings on the IRS scandal will continue Wednesday at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where Lois Lerner, the IRS official in the tax exempt organizations division who broke news of the scandal on May 10, will testify for the first time, along with Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neil Wolin.