New information shows that top Internal Revenue Service officials had much earlier knowledge of audits that targeted conservative groups, raising questions about whether they gave Congress accurate answers when pressed by GOP lawmakers last year.
A timeline released late Monday by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, revealed that then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was briefed about the practice by the agency’s watchdog in May 2012.
Shulman testified before Congress just two months earlier that the IRS wasn’t singling out conservative groups. The IRS said earlier on Monday that Shulman’s successor, Steve Miller, was also informed about the practice in May 2012.
He was the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the time. Lawmakers wrote letters to Shulman in June and August 2012 seeking more information about how the agency was reviewing 501(c)(4) groups. Miller responded with a letter in September 2012 that didn’t mention anything about the program that has caused a political firestorm since it came to light on Friday.
With Shulman out of office, attention is increasingly focusing on Miller. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called for him to step down on Monday.
“It is almost inconceivable to imagine that top officials at the IRS knew conservative groups were being targeted but chose to willfully mislead the committee’s investigation into this practice,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said Monday.
“This revelation goes against the very principles of free speech and liberty upon which this country was founded, and the blatant disregard for which the agency has treated Congress and the American taxpayer raises serious concerns about leadership at the IRS.”
Miller is scheduled to testify before Camp’s panel on Friday.
An IRS spokesperson declined to comment Monday night. Meanwhile, the agency’s initial defense that only low-level employees in Cincinnati were involved with the probing of conservative groups is also beginning to crumple.