Publicly released records show that embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president’s Cabinet.
Shulman’s extensive access to the White House first came to light during his testimony last week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Shulman gave assorted answers when asked why he had visited the White House 118 times during the period that the IRS was targeting tea party and conservative nonprofits for extra scrutiny and delays on their tax-exempt applications.
By contrast, Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson only visited the White House once during four years of service in the George W. Bush administration and compared the IRS’s remoteness from the president to “Siberia.” But the scope of Shulman’s White House visits — which strongly suggests coordination by White House officials in the campaign against the president’s political opponents — is even more striking in comparison to the publicly recorded access of Cabinet members.
An analysis by The Daily Caller of the White House’s public “visitor access records” showed that every current and former member of President Obama’s Cabinet would have had to rack up at least 60 more public visits to the president’s home to catch up with “Douglas Shulman.”
The visitor logs do not give a complete picture of White House access. Some high-level officials get cleared for access and do not have to sign in during visits. A Washington Post database of visitor log records cautions, “The log may include some scheduled visits that did not take place and exclude visits by members of Congress, top officials and others who are not required to sign in at security gates.”
The White House press office declined to comment on which visits by high-ranking officials do and do not get recorded in the visitor log, but it is probable that the vast majority of visits by major Cabinet members do not end up in the public record. (RELATED: How much have scandals hurt Obama’s approval ratings?)
Nevertheless, many visits by current and former Cabinet members are in the logs, and the record depicts an IRS chief uniquely at home in the White House.
Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama’s friend and loyal lieutenant, logged 62 publicly known White House visits, not even half as many as Shulman’s 157.
Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, to whom Shulman reported, clocked in at just 48 publicly known visits.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earned a cool 43 public visits, and current Secretary of State John Kerry logged 49 known White House visits in the same timeframe, when he was still a U.S. senator.
Shulman has more recorded visits to the White House than HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (48), DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (34), Education Secretary Arne Duncan (31), former Energy Secretary Steven Chu (22) and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (17) combined.
The Daily Caller’s analysis includes current, former and presently-nominated members of Obama’s Cabinet.
After Shulman, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank (86), Asst. Attorney General Thomas Perez (83) and Penny Pritzker (76) — Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary — have the most publicly known White House visits.
The sheer volume of Shulman’s White House visits has left congressional investigators puzzled.
“What would be some of the reasons you might be at the White House?” Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly asked Shulman during a congressional hearing last week.
“Um, the Easter Egg Roll with my kids,” Shulman replied. “Questions about the administrability of tax policy they were thinking of; our budget; us helping the Department of Education streamline application processes for financial aid.”
Shulman said it “would not have been appropriate” to tell the White House about the IRS’s intimidation of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
That answer has done nothing to mollify the critics. (RELATED: Walter Williams: ‘Americans deserve the IRS’)
“Is it really believable that someone who had a Wall Street career before coming to Washington five years ago was so politically naïve that he didn’t see the potential for scandal in that information and give the White House a heads-up?” Commentary’s John Steele Gordon wondered Tuesday.
“Sooner or later this [question] will have to be answered,” tweeted Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, “What was the ex-IRS chief doing at the White House all those times?”
Shulman’s integrity has come under fire in recent weeks as he — in the face of congressional investigators — failed to recant his March 2012 testimony, during which he insisted that the IRS was not targeting conservative groups.
Public White House records are incomplete, with records only showing visits after September 15, 2009. The White House releases several months of records at a time. The last few months should be released later this year.
William Green contributed to this report.