Details of the inspector general’s audit, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, revealed that Lois G. Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS and made the disclosure Friday, knew about the targeting of tea party and other groups in June 2011. In March 2012, IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman told Congress that the agency was not targeting conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” groups.
On Saturday, IRS officials said they were in the process of independently confirming the timeline of the disclosures in the report by the IRS’s chief watchdog, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA), but they did not dispute the findings.
“IRS senior leadership was not aware of this level of specific details at the time of the March 2012 hearing,” according to a statement released by the IRS.
The White House said Saturday that it supports more formal investigations and disciplinary action, if necessary.
“The President believes that the American people expect and deserve to have the very best public servants with the highest levels of integrity working in government agencies on their behalf,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “Based on recent media reports, he is concerned that the conduct of a small number of Internal Revenue Service employees may have fallen short of that standard.”
Noting that the incident is still under review by the inspector general, Carney added, “If the Inspector General finds that there were any rules broken or that conduct of government officials did not meet the standards required of them, the President expects that swift and appropriate steps will be taken to address any misconduct.”
On Friday, IRS officials said that Lerner’s admission that tea party groups had been singled out occurred because she had been asked about it at a bar association conference. But it now appears that it may also have been an effort to position the agency ahead of the bad news it knew was coming in the report.
Tea party groups expressed outrage at the fresh revelation on Saturday.
“Yesterday we learned that the IRS lied to Congress and the American citizens when Douglas Shulman said there was ‘absolutely no targeting’ of tea party groups who applied for nonprofit status,” Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said Saturday. “Today we are learning that the IRS lied when they said that only ‘low-level employees’ were to blame for outrageous and egregious overreach and abuse of power.”