News Column

Ousted IRS Head Denies Misleading Congress

May 17, 2013

The ousted head of the IRS went on the defense during a Congressional hearing investigating the agency's targeting of conservative groups, claiming he never lied under testimony and didn't have any names to offer lawmakers as they demanded answers about the growing scandal.

Steven Miller, just two days after offering his resignation as acting chief of the IRS, testified at a House Ways and Means hearing today that he simply answered the questions he was asked during past testimony on the practices of the agency, deflecting questions from Republicans about whether he did not divulge all that he knew.

"I did not mislead the committee," Miller said.

Miller's comments came after Michigan Republican Dave Camp suggested the actions of the IRS points to a systemic problem in President Obama's administration, saying the "roots of the tree have gone rotten."

"The power to tax is the power to destroy," Camp said. "Under this administration, the IRS has used its power to tax and destroyed the faith the American people have in getting a fair shake in Washington."

Lawmakers grilled Miller for more than 90 minutes this morning, during which he said the system that agency workers used to decide which organizations to scrutinize was not driven by "any political or partisan viewpoint" but rather was designed to deal with a flood of groups seeking tax-exempt status. The testimony was expected to continue following a short break.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, honed in on who directed employees to create what a "be on the lookout for" list, repeatedly asking Miller for the names of those involved. When Miller directed him toward a blistering Inspector General report released this week on the scandal, Brady said it did not name anyone specifically.

"I don't have names for you, Mr. Brady," Miller said. "I'm willing to find that out."

At one point under intense questioning from U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, a Washington Republican, Miller said he had asked a senior technical adviser who was responsible for targeting the groups but said he couldn't say what she told him.

"I don't remember," Miller said.

Lawmakers were quick to voice their displeasure.

"You're not instilling a lot of confidence in this panel or a lot of people across the county," Reichert said.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, said the scandal should not be a Democratic or Republican issue and involves the "credibility of the government as it relates to American citizens." He added that the focus should be finding who was responsible and "how quickly can we cut it out so tens of thousands of IRS employees have this stigma of corruption taken away from them."

He added: "It's not too late for the government to try to get its reputation cleaned up for America."


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Source: Copyright Boston Herald (MA) 2013

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