On Monday, acting IRS commissioner Dan Werfel and Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said though there was not any evidence from the initial audit that IRS agents were ordered to target Tea Party and conservative organizations, they would continue to go where the facts take them to determine if an Obama administration official formally ordered the targeting.
Werfel and George were testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government as the embattled agency Werfel now leads is under fire for targeting conservative and Tea Party groups, as well as wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous “team-building” videos and retreats.
In response to questions from Republicans like Reps. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Werfel vowed he would find out who ordered agents in Cincinnati to target conservatives and Tea Partiers.
Rogers, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he could not understand how two low-level employees could take out such actions on their own, saying that theory “does not hold water.” Crenshaw also said that in an “arrogant and absolute abuse of power,” the IRS singled out groups and individuals for extra scrutiny and agents “harassed” and “bullied” conservatives–and that it was time for the IRS to come clean. He also said it was unfathomable that IRS agents were targeting conservatives without being ordered to do so.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jose Serrano (D-NY) asked George if he had specific evidence that indicated administration officials ordered the targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups. George emphasized that there was not evidence of that in this specific audit, but said he would continue to “review this matter” and go “where the facts take us.”
George said employees in Cincinnati refused to say who specifically ordered them to target conservatives in George’s initial audit; Werfel vowed to get to the bottom of who issued the order to those agents.
Over the weekend, it was revealed that an IRS employee in the Cincinnati office told Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that orders to target conservatives came from officials in Washington, D.C.
Rogers, again, said it does not “seem reasonable” that the targeting occurred randomly. “We will not rest until someone gets us those answers,” he said.
Acknowledging that the IRS’s failures “undermined” the public’s trust, Werfel said people in the agency need to be held accountable and problems that led to the targeting needed to be fixed.
He also said he would work on the backlog of political cases because it was unacceptable that some groups have been waiting more than 500 days for their determination letters. The IRS is facing a lawsuit from Tea Party groups who sued the agency over the unfair targeting.
Obama named Werfel, a former White House budget official, to replace ousted acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller on May 16.