WASHINGTON – Outgoing Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller said he was aware that IRS employees were using a list of terms that included the phrase “tea party” when he sent a letter to several senators last year denying that the IRS was in any way targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, Miller, appearing on the Hill for the second time in four days, said he was made aware of the list in May of 2012, but that he did not feel his response was a “lie by omission,” as Sen. Orrin Hatch termed it.
“I did not lie, sir … I answered the questions, I answered them truthfully,” Miller insisted, just as he did at a hearing Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Did I know about the list? Yes. Not before the first letter, actually, I wouldn’t have known that, the second letter we answered those questions,” he said.
Miller sent the letters to Finance Committee Ranking Sen. Orrin Hatch in April and September 2012.
“Frankly, this concept of political motivation, I did not agree with that in May, I do not agree with that now,” Miller said, saying that such an analysis was “borne out” by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report.
Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who was the commissioner during the time this behavior was taking place, said he was briefed on it in “May of 2012,” adding that he should have been made aware of it sooner: “When someone spotted it, they should have run it up the chain, and they didn’t.”
Shulman insisted that he did not take more obvious extensive action when he was made aware because until the TIGTA report was released, “I did not have the full set of facts.”
“What I knew sometime in spring of 2012 was that there was a list that was being used,” Shulman said. “I knew that the word ‘tea party’ was on the list. I didn’t know what other words were on the list. I didn’t know the scope and severity …didn’t know if groups that were pulled in were groups that would’ve been pulled in anyway.”
“I took what I thought at the time, and I think now, is the proper step … which is make sure that the matter is being looked at by the inspector general,” he said.