Did the Former IRS Chief Lie About Tea Party Targeting?

Douglas Shulman

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman has some explaining to do, though whether Tea Party and conservative groups targeted by the agency during his tenure will get any answers remains to be seen.

In a March 2012 appearance before the appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee, Shulman was asked about the allegations by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA).

“We’ve seen some recent press allegations that the IRS is targeting certain Tea Party groups across the country — requesting owners’ documents requests, delaying approval for tax-exempt status and that kind of thing,” noted Boustany. “Can you elaborate on what’s going on with that? Can you give us assurances that the IRS is not targeting particular groups based on political leanings?”

Shulman didn’t beat around the bush in his response. He explicitly denied that the IRS was targeting specific groups.

“[L]et me start by saying, yes, I can give you assurances,” Shulman said in response. “As you know, we pride ourselves on being a non-political, non-partisan organization. I am the only — me and our chief counsel — are the only presidential appointees, and I have a five-year term that runs through presidential elections, just so we will have none of that kind of political intervention in things that we do.”

Shulman essentially blamed the organizations. He claimed that those complaining about targeting by the IRS were were in the “application process” and had come to the agency “voluntarily.”

“[S]o what’s been happening has been the normal back-and-forth that happens with the IRS. None of the alleged taxpayers and obviously I can’t talk about individual taxpayers and I’m not involved in these — are in an examination process,” Shulman added. “They’re in an application process which they moved into voluntarily. There is absolutely no targeting.”

So why is this important? Because Shulman will appear on Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on this very matter, and it looks like he’ll face tough questioning from Republicans and Democrats alike:

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner appointed by President George W. Bush lied to Congress under oath when he told lawmakers last year that the agency did not give special attention to certain groups.

Following the House’s opening investigative hearing into the IRS’s revelation that it gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Crowley was asked if he believed Douglas Shulman lied to Congress.

“I think Mr. Shulman did,” said Crowley in an interview with Fox News. “My understanding is that it was common knowledge if they were going after political groups back then.”
The encounter raised suspicions for Boustany as well, who recounted the incident during the same  interview with Crowley.

“He said, absolutely not. He categorically denied it,” recalled Boustany on Friday. “But he was aware of what was going on during this time frame because we know that [a] senior technical advisor had already been sent out to Cincinnati to investigate what was going on and to report back.”

It’s unclear what this means for Shulman. The House could pursue perjury charges, which would give both parties positive headlines, but that may not stick. Based on what we know, some senior IRS officials were made aware of the targeting in June 2011; however, Shulman didn’t know about it until May 2012, according to the Inspector General’s report, weeks after he testified at the House Ways and Means Committee.

Either way, Wednesday’s hearing — which will also feature Lois Lerner, the IRS official who received $42,531 in bonuses during the time these groups were being targeted and took part in a staged apology — should be very, very entertaining.

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