IRS head met with top White House official one day before revising targeting criteria

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and two other IRS officials met with a top official at the White House one day before the agency issued new guidelines on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Shulman — joined by his chief of staff and political aide Jonathan Davis and IRS spokesman Frank Keith —  met with then-Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House complex on April 24, 2012.

Only Zients and the three men from the IRS attended the meeting, according to White House visitor logs. Their meeting ran for just under eight and a half hours, the logs reveal.

The very next day, April 25, the IRS’s chief counsel’s office — led by William Wilkins, who met with Obama at the White House that same week — sent Washington-based IRS officials “additional comments on the draft guidance” for approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications, according to a report on the IRS scandal compiled by Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.

Zients became the acting director of OMB in January 2012 after Jack Lew — now Treasury Secretary — was promoted to Obama’s chief of staff.

After a Senate vote confirming his successor — Sylvia Mathews Burwell — Zients left his post at OMB on April 24, 2013 with no public fanfare and no official White House statement on his departure, leading Washington insiders to speculate that he “disappeared.”

Two weeks later, news of the IRS’s targeting of conservatives broke when Lerner — then-head of the IRS department that oversees tax-exempt organizations — apologized for the abuses.

“That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said then. “The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

Under congressional scrutiny, Lerner has since invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

OMB did not immediately return a request for comment for this story. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Patrick Howley