Congressman charges treasury secretary with stonewalling him on IRS questions
A Republican congressman is charging Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew with stonewalling him on questions pertaining to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups.
On June 7, New Jersey Republican Rep. Scott Garrett sent a letter to Lew inquiring when he first became aware of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, even if only in rumors, and if he was at any of the numerous meetings former IRS chief Douglas Shulman had at the White House when Lew served as chief of staff for President Obama in 2012.
“First, during an appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, you testified that you first became aware of the ‘fact of an investigation’ regarding the targeting of specific groups on March 15, 2013,” the letter reads. “Does this date coincide with the first time that you became aware of the IRS’ targeting of tax-exempt groups — including rumors of targeting — independent of your knowledge of the inspector general’s investigation?”
“Second, it has been reported that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House on numerous occasions between October 2009 and December 2012,” the letter continued. “ln your role as White House Chief of Staff, did you attend any meetings with then-Commissioner Shulman and was anything discussed relating to the IRS’ targeting of Conservative-leaning organizations and their tax-exempt applications? Specifically, as Chief of Staff, were you involved or did you have any knowledge of rumors of conservative groups that were being targeted, media reports highlighting inspector general investigations related to targeting, or any IRS personnel involved in potentially inappropriate targeting of conservative groups?”
The Treasury Department finally responded to Garrett’s questions in a letter dated July 12, but the response didn’t directly answer either of Garrett’s questions.
“With respect to the specific questions you raise, Secretary Lew addressed these issues in his testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on May 21, 2013, and the House Financial Services Committee on May 22, 2013,” the letter, authored by Treasury Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alastair Fitzpayne, reads. “Secretary Lew testified that he first became aware that there was an audit underway on March 15, 2013 when he had a meeting with [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration], J. Russell George.”
In an email to The Daily Caller, a treasury spokeswoman said the department is “working directly with the Congressman,” but pointed to several places where she said his questions were answered, including a May 22 exchange between Lew and North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry during a House Financial Services hearing, which seemed to answer at least part of Garrett’s first question.
MCHENRY: No, no, I’m asking a separate question than what you’re answering, and I’ve heard the answers you’ve given prior to that.
So I don’t want to talk over you, but I do want to restate the question. At the time you were chief of staff, did you read or hear of the allegation that the IRS was targeting conservative groups?
LEW: I do not recall paying attention to this issue when I was…
MCHENRY: No, no, I understand. Paying attention is one thing …
LEW: I do not recall any articles that I read on the subject. I have no recollection.
Garrett’s press secretary Maggie Seidel said she doesn’t think the response answers her boss’s queries.
“Our questions … still remain unanswered, even with his admission that he didn’t recall reading any articles on the subject,” she said in an email to TheDC. Seidel then reiterated what questions she believes Lew has yet to answer:
“Specifically, in your roles as Secretary of Treasury and White House Chief of Staff: When was the first time that you became aware of the IRS’ targeting of tax-exempt groups—including rumors of targeting—independent of your knowledge of the IG’s investigation? Did you attend any meetings with then-Commissioner Shulman and was anything discussed relating to the IRS’ targeting of conservative-leaning organizations and their tax-exempt applications? Specifically, were you involved or did you have any knowledge of rumors of conservative groups that were being targeted, media reports highlighting IG investigations related to targeting, or any IRS personnel involved in potentially inappropriate targeting of conservative groups?”
According to a timeline from Garrett’s office, in early July, before the office finally received a letter of reply from the Treasury Department, Garrett requested a phone call with Lew. On July 19, Garrett’s office says it emailed Lew’s executive assistant Shirley Gathers to again request a phone call. After some back and forth, Garrett’s office says they were told in a call from Fitzpayne that Secretary Lew had already said all he intends to on the matters in question.
“The American people have a right to understand the full depth of the IRS scandal,” Garrett told TheDC in a statement. “Given that he served as Chief of Staff to the President while some of this targeting took place, my letter asks Secretary Lew a handful of very straightforward questions that merit answers. It is unfortunate that Secretary Lew has been so unwilling to be cooperative.”