Levin Opening Statement at Hearing on IRS Singling Out Conservative Groups

May 17, 2013

This Committee – on a bipartisan basis – takes seriously its oversight role and we are fully committed to ensuring an IRS that serves the American people fairly and efficiently.

What is now completely clear is that the management and oversight of the agency’s handling of tax exemption applications have completely failed the American people.

As we now know from the Inspector General’s audit, the agency used totally inappropriate criteria in its review of tax exemption applications, singling out organizations for review based on their name or political views rather than their actual activities.  These criteria changed four times over two years with little management review or oversight.

Applications sat for years. Work stopped for 13 months while one department waited to hear back from another.  Questions were asked that were not necessary.  Again, no oversight, no accountability. 

All of us are angry at this on behalf of the nation.  And, we are determined to get answers to our questions about how this happened to ensure it does not happen again.

Finally, throughout this time, the IRS leadership has demonstrated a total disregard for the oversight role of Congress and this Committee.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman testified in front of us in March 2012 and said that “no targeting” was going on.  Two months later he was briefed on the IG’s investigation and was fully informed that indeed singling out by name had occurred on his watch.  He had an obligation to return to this Committee and set the record straight. So did Mr. Miller. Neither fulfilled their obligations.

A little more than a week ago, Lois Lerner was in front of our Oversight Subcommittee. She serves as the Director of the Exempt Organization division and she has been directly involved in this matter.   Yet she failed to disclose what she knew to this committee, choosing instead to do so at an ABA conference two days later.  This is wholly unacceptable, and one of the reasons we believe Ms. Lerner should be relieved of her duties.

Chairman Camp and I put together this hearing on a bipartisan basis to get the facts. Mr. Camp has said that, “Listening to the nightly news, this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups – and political intimidation – in this Administration.  It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.” I totally, totally disagree. If this hearing becomes essentially a bootstrap to continue the campaign of 2012 and to prepare for 2014 we will be making a very, very serious mistake and indeed not meeting our obligation of trust to the American people. You are here today Mr. Miller, you are here today Inspector General, to talk about what happened, how it happened, where it happened and who knew what when. If instead this hearing essentially becomes an effort score political points it will be a disregard of the duties of this committee. We must seek the truth, not political gain. We look forward to full and forthcoming answers to our questions today.

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