WASHINGTON — Democrats are questioning the fairness of the Treasury Inspector General’s report on the Internal Revenue Service’s use of inappropriate criteria to investigate people and organizations, alleging that it may have over-emphasized the degree to which conservative groups were targeted while ignoring similar efforts aimed at Democratic groups.
According to reports earlier this week, IRS officials also flagged groups with the terms “progressive” or “occupy,” and other terms commonly used by liberal groups, for further scrutiny.
“His report was flawed, and we need to question him,” Rep. Sandy Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said at a Thursday morning press conference ahead of a hearing with new IRS Chief Danny Werfel on the status of the investigation into the IRS’s practices.
Levin said he and the other Democrats on the committee had signed a letter to Committee Chair Dave Camp asking for him to call Inspector General Russell George back to testify before the committee.
“When the inspector general gave his report, he did not spell out who the others were. When he appeared before the hearing, he did not discuss this. And when he was asked specifically by Mr. [Darrell] Issa, ‘were there progressives or liberals in this group,’ I think the inspector general was not forthright,” Levin said.
“If we want to be able to trust that the inspector general did his job fully, completely, and dispassionately, the inspector general has some questions to answer,” said Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra.
Rep. Joe Crowley, vice chair of the Democratic caucus, said that the report had given Republicans cause to politicize the issue.
“He has an obligation to go back to this congress and to tell us why that was omitted, it was not emphasized in his report. It gave an opportunity for our Republican colleagues instead of trying to find the truth, to cast aspersions against the president and the White House,” Crowley said.
“Here, clearly, once again, they’ve showed the American people that they’re willing to overstep their boundaries and once again show the political zealots that they are, it’s not about finding out the truth, ti’s about casting aspersions and finding blame,” he added.
In a letter to Ways and Means Democrats dated Wednesday, George said that the inappropriate criteria was not applied to liberal groups in the same way it was to conservative groups.
“While we have multiple sources of information corroborating the use of Tea Party and other related criteria we described in our report, including employee interviews, e-mails and other documents, we found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,” George wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.
In the letter, George said that he had not limited his investigation to the treatment of tea party groups.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, whose committee has also been involved in the investigation, blasted Democrats in a statement Thursday morning, for trying to “derail the investigation.”
“Our Democratic colleagues should stop trying to derail the investigation by defending IRS officials with distorted claims equating the systematic scrutiny of Tea Party groups with the more routine screening progressive groups received,” he said. “As TIGTA notes, Tea Party groups and progressive groups were treated very differently by the IRS. Ranking Member Cummings and Ranking Member Levin need to join us in this investigation and not look for every excuse to just say the case is solved and Congress should move on.”