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I-Team: IRS emails raise questions about timing of investigative report
Jason Law, Jason.Law@wcpo.com
7:20 PM, May 22, 2013
10:11 AM, May 23, 2013
Members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Wednesday implied the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which last week issued a scathing report on what happened inside the IRS Cincinnati office, may have dragged its feet releasing information.
The I-Team was supplied email exchanges from a Congressional staffer, and they illustrate the Committee's frustration with the IRS watchdog.
In an email exchange dated Sept. 24, 2012, a committee staffer wrote to an unidentified TIGTA employee, "You mentioned your report would be ready in September. Any update for us?"
The response from the Inspector General's office: "Field work for this audit is still ongoing."
The next exchange occurred nearly three months later.
Dec. 18: "Any update on this?" - Committee staffer
Dec. 20: "Sorry for the delayed response. I was studying for a final …We will be able to offer a substantive briefing, i.e., the facts, findings, recommendations, and outcomes by March." - TIGTA
Feb. 20, 2013: "Just wanted to check on the progress on this--are you at a point where you can schedule the briefing?" - Committee staffer
Feb. 22: "We are leaving no stone unturned … we won't be able to provide a detailed, substantive briefing until late April/early May." - TIGTA
To that, the committee staffer replied, "Frankly, it is disappointing and frustrating that it is taking this long."
The emails show the committee staff made efforts to meet with TIGTA officials again on Apr. 11 and May 8.
Then on May 10, after IRS division chief Lois Lerner publicly announced the Cincinnati IRS office had improperly targeted 501(c)(4) applications from tea party and conservative groups, came the final email exchange.
May 10: "The fact this information is now public and we have not been briefed despite my repeated requests over so many months is completely unacceptable." - Committee staffer
May 10: "The IRS issued a press statement without our knowledge, consent, or even advance notice." - TIGTA
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and man who headed the TIGTA report, J. Russell George, disagreed during Wednesday's hearing over whether Congress was intentionally kept in the dark.
"You have a responsibility to keep us continuously, and according to the statute, equally informed. In this case, it appears you most certainly did not. Would you agree with that?" Issa asked.
"Actually no," George said.
The I-Team's Jason Law spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday afternoon and asked if he thought presidential campaign politics in 2012 could be a reason the TIGTA report was not released earlier.
"Well, it certainly raises the suspicion, doesn't it - that this was going on leading up to an election? I don't think we know the answers to all the questions, but all the questions need to be asked and the people who can shed light on it need to be asked to reply," McConnell said.
McConnell said the congressional hearings into the growing IRS scandal are only the first chapter in this investigation. He said he didn't believe the Obama administration should be left alone to investigate itself.
McConnell also wants to see some Cincinnati IRS workers subpoenaed by investigators so they can testify about what they know.