Outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller (left) and former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman arrive May 21 at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
WASHINGTON — Former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas Shulman said he was “dismayed and saddened” by revelations that his agency targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny, and said he had been unaware of it.
In testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, Shulman said he didn’t know about the targeting, even after other IRS officials had ordered that it stop. He said the actions of the tax-exempt office gave “the appearance that the agency was not acting as it should be — that is, as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan agency.”
In opening statements, senators of both parties promised to ask tough questions of the IRS.
“Who in Cincinnati perpetuated this behavior? One person, two people, the whole office?” asked Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate panel.
“Were top IRS officials willfully blind to what was going on, or were they simply holding out until after the election?” asked Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah., the committee’s top Republican.
Last week, at a hearing of the House Ways & Means Committee, former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller apologized for the agency’s treatment of conservative groups, denied he lied to Congress about it and insisted that politics did not motivate the agency’s decision to give Tea Party groups extra scrutiny.
Miller said the agency was trying to sort through a rush of new applications for tax-exempt status — despite statistics showing that surge didn’t come until later — and chose to screen the applications for politically loaded terms to make the job easier.
President Obama has named a trusted White House budget official, Daniel Werfel, to serve as his new acting IRS commissioner. Werfel will begin his job Wednesday and has been charged with completing a top-to-bottom review of the IRS within 30 days.