Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 21, 2013
Testifying before a Congressional committee for the first time since the scandal broke, former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman said that he was “saddened and dismayed” to read the Inspector General’s report on the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups and “regrets that it happened under his watch.”
“The actions outlined in the report have justifiably led to questions about the fairness of the approach taken here,” Shulman told lawmakers during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the scandal Tuesday morning.
He added that he was informed that certain agents at the IRS were using terms like “tea party” and “patriot” to isolate groups for additional scrutiny in the spring of 2012, but that he was unaware of the severity of the targeting until the report was released publicly last week.
“I didn’t have a full set of facts,” he repeatedly told the committee, before adding that he thought he was taking the proper steps by allowing the IG’s office to look into the situation.
Shulman’s lack of knowledge about the IRS scandal was blatantly displayed during a tête-à-tête with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) early in the hearing.
“If you could just very quickly, in a nutshell, bottom-line: How did this happen?” Baucus asked Shulman.
“Mr. Chairman,” Shulman says, “I can’t say that I know that answer.”
“But you were commissioner,” Baucus responded.
“I’m six months out of office,” Shulman replied. “When I left the IG was looking into this to gather all of the facts. I’ve now had the benefit of reading the report, and that’s the full accounting of facts that I have at this point, and so I don’t think I can answer that question.”
The former IRS commissioner also stated that it’s unfortunate that a few people have tarnished the reputation of the agency, and that it was always a priority of his to make sure the agency was run in a nonpartisan fashion.
“Given the challenges the agency faces, it does its job in an admirable way the great majority of the time,” Shulman said at the hearing. “Men and women of the IRS are hard-working, honest public servants. While the Inspector General’s report did not indicate that there was any political motivation involved, the actions outlined in the report have justifiably led to questions about the fairness of the approach taken here. The effect has been bad for the agency and bad for the American taxpayer.”
Shulman, who was appointed by President Bush, served as chairman of the IRS from 2008 to 2012.
Joining him as witnesses during the Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday were outgoing IRS Director Steven Miller and Inspector General J. Russell George. Both Miller and George, who was the Inspector General responsible for oversight of the IRS in the Department of the Treasury and whose office compiled the report, had also testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the scandal Friday.