Congress Probes Status of IRS Officials and Documents in Tea Party Scandal

The chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have written to the head of the Internal Revenue Service about the status of several of the officials who resigned or were placed on administrative leave in the wake of the Tea Party targeting scandal.

Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. sent a letter Wednesday to IRS principal deputy commissioner Daniel Werfel regarding the status of IRS employees who resigned or were placed on administrative leave following their involvement in the targeting of conservative organizations.

Among the officials they asked about was Lois Lerner, the former head of the Exempt Organizations unit, who first revealed that the IRS had been screening applications for tax-exempt status by using terms such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot” when searching through the names of applicants. She was placed on administrative leave. They also asked about Joseph Grant, the commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, who resigned, and Holly Paz, the director of rulings and agreements, who was recently replaced.

They asked Werfel questions such as, “Was Joseph Grant asked to resign, and, if so, who requested his resignation and on what grounds?” They asked similar questions about Lerner and Paz, as well as their current employment status and access to IRS systems and documents.

The chairmen also inquired into the IRS practice of awarding individuals connected with the targeting performance-based bonuses and Werfel’s stated intent to end the IRS’s bonus system. They asked about former IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller, who also resigned, and whether he had received a bonus, along with Grant, Lerner and Paz.

“Despite then-Acting Commissioner Steve Miller’s concession that the IRS delivered ‘horrible customer service,’ the IRS paid employees connected with the targeting performance-based bonuses,” Camp and Issa wrote. “Recent press reports have stated you are in negotiations to end the lavish bonus system, which has paid tens of millions in bonuses to employees overall.”

Camp and the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin, D-Mich., also sent a separate letter to Werfel on Wednesday asking about the lack of production of documents related to their May 14, 2013 request of all documents related to the targeting of organizations by the IRS.  On June 4, the IRS said it had collected over 65 million pages of documents related to Camp and Levin’s request, but to date, the IRS has only provided 13,000 pages, some of which are duplicates.

“We are concerned that, at this rate, the full production will take months,” Camp and Levin wrote in their letter.

“The IRS demands that hardworking Americans comply with its rules and regulations, but it appears that same agency cannot comply with a simple Congressional request," Camp later said in a statement from the Ways and Means press office. "The IRS has not even produced one percent of responsive documents—that is inexcusable. The IRS has pledged accountability and transparency, but the slow production and compliance in this investigation begins to look a lot like obstruction.”

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