WASHINGTON Feb 7 Squabbling on Capitol Hill
over the U.S. Internal Revenue Service continued on Friday with
Democrats accusing Republicans of prolonging multiple
investigations into a nine-month-old controversy at the tax
agency for political gain.
"We are concerned ... that congressional Republicans are
wasting taxpayer dollars and continuously using the (IRS)
'investigations' for political purposes for the November
election," two U.S. House of Representatives Democrats said in a
letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
U.S. representatives Sander Levin and Elijah Cummings in the
letter asked Koskinen to estimate how much time and money the
IRS has spent responding to investigators. There are six ongoing
investigations of the IRS, Koskinen has said.
The inquiries have to do with a controversy that erupted in
mid-2013 about IRS scrutiny of applications for tax-exempt
status from conservative political groups tied to the Tea Party.
In a related development, House Democrats also raised
concerns about IRS Inspector General J. Russell George, who was
appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.
House Democrats have filed a complaint with a council of
federal government inspectors general against George, who heads
the office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax
Administration, an IRS watchdog.
A spokeswoman for TIGTA said in a statement: "Inspector
General George received a copy of the letter sent to the
Integrity committee and is in the process of reviewing its
For months, the IRS has been caught in partisan crossfire
over the agency's worst scandal in years. It burst into view in
May 2013 when a senior IRS executive issued a public apology for
what she called inappropriate scrutiny applied by IRS staff to
some organizations applying for tax-exempt status.
The apology triggered furious accusations by congressional
Republicans that the IRS was deliberately targeting
conservatives for unfair treatment. The Obama
administration has said there is no evidence of political
corruption at the agency.
At a House hearing earlier this week, Koskinen said the IRS
has 150 staffers working to respond to the investigations of the
IRS's missteps last year.
A May 2013 TIGTA report about the IRS's tax-exempt
application scrutiny prompted the agency official's apology.
Democrats alleged in their 22-page complaint that the May
2013 report was flawed, and asked for an investigation into
George's "independence, ethics, competence and quality control."
The Democrats' complaint was sent to a non-regulatory group
of other U.S. inspectors general who can make only
recommendations. George is a lifetime political appointment who
can only be removed by the president.
"The Inspector General's May 14 (2013) audit was
fundamentally flawed," said U.S. Representative Levin on Friday,
adding he supported the complaint filed against George.
"The Inspector General's testimony before Congress has been
misleading and his handling of the audit report caused concern
from the very beginning," said Levin, the top Democrat on the
House tax-writing committee that oversees the IRS.