Oversight to IRS Acting Commish: Stop Obstructing Committee’s Investigation

July 30, 2013

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s top official at the Internal Revenue Service has fallen far short of the President’s promise that his Administration would work “hand in hand” with Congress as “it performs its oversight role.”

In a letter sent today House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, excoriate Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel for the “systematic manner in which the IRS has attempted to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the Committee’s investigation.”

“Despite your promise to cooperate fully with congressional investigations, the actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the Committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the Committee’s oversight efforts,” the chairmen write.

“Over two months since the Committee’s first request for documents, the IRS has produced only a small fraction of responsive documents.  Indeed, although the IRS initially identified over 64 million pages of documents as responsive to congressional oversight requests, the agency has produced to the Committee only a total of about 12,000 pages, or a mere 0.019 percent of what was initially identified as responsive documents,” Issa and Jordan continue.

The letter also notes that many documents that IRS has produced “contain excessive redactions that go well beyond those necessary to protect confidential taxpayer information.”

The IRS obstruction extends to interfering with individual IRS employees’ ability to provide information to the Committee.

“Of the 288,000 pages of documents that Ms. Thomas provided to the IRS for review, the IRS produced only about 2,600 pages to the Committee, or less than 1 percent of the total material that Ms. Thomas desired to provide…As of today, the IRS is still withholding over 280,000 pages of documents that Ms. Thomas desired to produce to the Committee.”

The IRS also refused to provide the Committee with a copy of its own internal review completed last month. “Your attempt to carefully orchestrate the public release of that information before providing it to the Committee echoes the attempt by Lois Lerner to preempt the public release of the TIGTA audit in May 2013,” the chairmen write.

The attempt to withhold information from the Committee included refusing to provide a hard copy during an in person encounter: “Committee staff came upon you and members of your staff carrying hard copies of the report in the Capitol complex, you and your staff again refused to provide the report to the Committee at that time.”

The letter also notes that IRS has recently asserted it with withholding documents based on “amorphous” reasons.

“The July 26, 2013, letter states that the IRS refined various searches, including a recent search for 2010 election information that identified approximately 660,000 potentially responsive documents, ‘by eliminating any documents that [IRS] reviewers had previously identified as . . . private in nature.’ (emphasis added).  Moreover, searches performed on Chief Counsel William Wilkins’ documents were also limited to exclude materials that had already ‘been marked as private.’”

The letter continues: “[T]here is no valid basis to deny the Committee access to ‘private’ documents—regardless of what such an amorphous term may mean in the eyes of an IRS reviewer.”

“Taxpayer dollars may not be used to pay the salaries of federal officials who deny or interfere with employees’ rights to furnish information to Congress,” the letter concludes. “ If the IRS continues to hinder the Committee’s investigation in any manner, the Committee will be forced to consider use of compulsory process.”

Click here for a copy of the letter.

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