Earlier in the day, the IRS released a question-and-answer sheet that sought to minimize the actions of its employees as “shortcuts” in a centralized process of reviewing certain applications for tax-exempt status.
The organizations in question had been flagged, the agency said, because they had “tea party,” “patriot” or similar words that are associated with the conservative tea party movement. The IRS document said that about 300 cases were flagged for special attention, about 70 them containing the name “tea party.”
“IRS employees had seen cases of organizations with the name Tea Party in which political activity was an issue that needed to be reviewed for compliance with legal requirements,” the IRS document said.
Even before Obama fired the acting commissioner, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled that changes of personnel would not quell the storm of criticism. “My question isn’t about who is going to resign, my question is who is going to go to jail over this,” Boehner said.
The tax-exempt status sought by the tea party groups is granted to social welfare organizations. In recent years, similar organizations have cropped up, funded by groups on the left and right, and the organizations seem to have little to do with social welfare.
In his brief national address, Obama said that Lew was also ordered to determine how the targeting of tea party groups for selective treatment came about.
“We’re going to hold the responsible parties accountable,” Obama said, pledging to work with Congress and calling on lawmakers to put aside partisan differences in getting to the facts of the case.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder said his agency actually opened an investigation into the IRS targeting after news broke about it Friday.
Republicans want to question Miller, with hearings planned in the House of Representatives on Friday and in the Senate on Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if Miller will still testify.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he’d met with Miller on Tuesday and warned that he would face very tough questioning from both parties.
“A team of investigators from my staff and Sen. Hatch’s staff has begun compiling questions and is seeking additional documents from the IRS,” Baucus said. “There seem to be some inconsistencies in the timeline regarding who knew what when, and we will get to the bottom of it.”