A new Democratic staff report released today by House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) shows months of interviews by Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) majority staff yielded absolutely no evidence of White House involvement or political targeting in the IRS’s enhanced screening of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Though Issa has refused to release the entire transcripts — as he pledged to do in June 2013 — the report contains the public portions of all 39 interviews interviewed by the Republican majority. The report notes that those interviewed include “employees from the Cincinnati and Washington D.C. offices at every level — from Screening Agents to the former IRS Commissioner to the Chief of Staff to the Treasury Secretary,” and “Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and individuals with no political affiliation.”
Each of the witnesses was asked whether they had any knowledge of White House involvement or political motivation. None reported any. This appears to contradict the allegation by Issa last May that this “was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.” That claim was repeated by a wide array of House and Senate Republicans.
A spokeswoman for the committee’s majority office was not immediately available to comment on the report.
Last year, the IRS acknowledged that it had improperly flagged groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny if they contained common Tea Party keywords in their applications. Rather than addressing the very real problem of political committees masquerading as 501(c)(4) groups to evade public disclosure laws, this approach instead delayed the process for several groups purely on the basis of their names. President Obama and members of both parties in Congress all agree that the IRS acted improperly in singling-out certain groups for more scrutiny than others.
As ThinkProgress exclusively reported last month, a series of 22 IRS “Be On the Look Out” keywords lists released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations were explicitly flagged for extra scrutiny for longer than Tea Party entities.