WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department investigator whose probe of the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of tea party groups helped fuel a national uproar failed to tell Congress that his own investigators found no evidence that the targeting of conservatives was politically motivated, a top House Democrat said Friday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released documents that also seemed to indicate that progressive groups seeking tax-exempt status were to be handled the same way as conservative organizations. While it has been known that the term “progressive” appeared on a list that IRS screeners used, it has been unclear whether liberal organizations received the same close scrutiny as conservative groups.
The documents were attached to a letter that Cummings sent Friday to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That panel, on which Cummings is top Democrat, has been among three congressional committees that have been investigating the IRS’ handling of conservatives’ applications for the tax-exempt designation.
Cummings’ letter is the latest Democratic attempt to challenge the fairness and accuracy of Treasury’s probe of the IRS.
Several Republicans have said they believe the IRS’ tough handling of conservative groups was politically motivated and flowed from the White House or allies of President Barack Obama. There has been no evidence so far of any political motivation or of involvement by any top officials outside of the IRS.
Attached to Cummings’ letter were documents that included an email that a top investigator for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George sent on May 3, 2013, to other officials in George’s office. George conducted the IRS probe.
The email said that after a recent meeting with George, the inspector general’s investigators examined 5,500 emails from IRS screeners. Those emails showed that the workers set aside applications from tea party and other groups “because the IRS employees were not sure how to process them, not because they wanted to stall or hinder the application.
“There was no indication that pulling these selected applications was politically motivated,” the May email from the top investigator said.
Cummings’ letter asked Issa to have George testify at a hearing the Oversight committee has scheduled for Thursday on the IRS controversy. The new documents “raise serious questions about the inspector general’s report, his testimony before Congress” and other statements George has made, Cummings wrote.
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