House and Senate committee hearings on IRS screening
of Tea Party tax-exempt applications set for May 21 & 22
Clear your calendars tax wonks and scandal mongers. Two more Congressional hearings are scheduled this week to make political points look into how the Internal Revenue Service dealt with Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.
Representatives got the first formal whack at the IRS on Friday, May 17, when the full House Ways and Means panel grilled outgoing (aka fired) Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. The tax-writing panelists also had a few questions for J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
At issue is whether the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups when reviewing their requests for a controversial tax status. At the time in question, groups that had already been designated by the IRS as 501(c)(4) organizations, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, were under fire outside of the agency for what some saw as violations of the tax rule that they don't participate in political activities.
Tomorrow, the questions about the IRS process of granting this tax-exempt status will be asked by Senators.
Senate Finance questions: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has called a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance for 10 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday, May 21, to, per the hearing's official title, review criteria used by the IRS to identify 501(c)(4) applications for greater scrutiny.
Miller and George will reprise their earlier House appearances.
Douglas Shulman, who was IRS Commissioner while the over-zealous inquiry was underway, also will testify.
If you can't make the session being held in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building, it will be broadcast on C-SPAN and streamed at the Finance Committee's website.
Back to the House: IRS witnesses then will bounce back to the House side of Capitol Hill.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), will hear from four witnesses beginning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, May 22.
The hardest working man in the IRS investigation, TIGTA's George, will make his third official appearance before Congressional questioners on Wednesday.
Shulman also will testify again, making his first appearance on this issue on the House side.
New witnesses include Neal S. Wolin, Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Treasury, and Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS.
Focus on first apologist: The questioning of Lerner (pictured at right) will be of particular interest. She brought the IRS tax-exempt review process to the wider public view on May 10 when, while speaking at an American Bar Association event, she apologized for the agency's actions.
While the questionable review process already was under TIGTA scrutiny and known to some in the IRS -- just who in the agency and when they knew are key questions, as is interest in the timing of White House knowledge of the situation -- Lerner's remarks basically kicked off the so-called IRS scandal.
Lerner's comments about the Tea Party targeting also raised more eyebrows when it was revealed that the IRS executive had planted the question.
Many members of Congress, including the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, have called on Lerner to resign. You can bet that during Wednesday's hearing Lerner will be asked, among other things, why she's still on the job.
If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, the Oversight Committee's hearing will be held in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building. If you can't make it, the hearing will be broadcast on C-SPAN and streamed live at the committee's website.
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