A top Democrat in the House Committee on Oversight is requesting that J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, be recalled to testify before Congress for failing to disclose key information about his work. Of particular concern: George failed to mention that confusion, rather than political motivation, was the reason the IRS gave special scrutiny to the applications of tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status.
George's work was the center of attention for weeks when his audit was released in May. That audit found that IRS employees in Cincinnati improperly targeted conservative groups for additional review. The so-called IRS scandal has sparked several ongoing hearings on Capitol Hill. Lois Lerner, the official in charge of the IRS division in question, has been placed on administrative leave.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight, sent a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Friday, asking that George be brought back for another hearing. The July 12 letter stated that George didn’t tell the committee he had met with his top investigator, whom he'd charged with reviewing more than 5,000 emails from IRS employees. That investigator found no political motivation behind the IRS employees’ special scrutiny of tea party organizations. Moreover, references to the work done by that investigator and his team were removed from an early-draft IG report, the letter stated.
Cummings said George had stated to the committee that his report was the result of an “audit” instead of an “investigation.” However, a deputy inspector general informed the committee that George personally met with him and assigned him the task, the result of which was that “the emails indicated the organizations needed to be pulled because the IRS employees were not sure how to process them, not because they wanted to stall or hinder the application. There was no indication that pulling these selected applications was politically motivated. The email traffic indicated there were unclear processing directions and the group wanted to make sure they had guidance on processing the applications, so they pulled them. This is a very important nuance.”
George also allegedly failed to mention, or was unaware, that IRS employees were also instructed to review tax-exempt applications for “progressive” groups. Similarly, warnings were issued for groups associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. But George did not reveal that either, according to the letter.
“Given the new documents obtained by the Committee -- and the serious questions they raise about the Inspector General’s report, his testimony before Congress, and his subsequent assertions in letters to members of Congress -- I believe it is necessary to call him back before the Committee to explain why he failed to disclose this critical information,” Cummings wrote. “Without this explanation, the entire premise of next Thursday’s hearing will be called into question.”