The controversy surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea-party groups will consume Capitol Hill for a second straight week. These are the key names to know to keep up with the fast-moving scandal, with hearings set Tuesday in the Senate and Wednesday in the House:
Lerner heads the exempt organizations division for the IRS. She’s the most embattled figure in the IRS scandal who is still clinging to a job.
Lerner is the one who first disclosed the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups on May 10 at what appeared, at first, to be an impromptu question-and-answer session at a conference. Nope: It turns out she had had the question planted. What has really galled Congress is that Lerner appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee just two days earlier and failed to mention anything, even though she had been questioned about the tax authorities’ handling of 501(c)(4) applications.
Her critics are on both sides of the aisle. “This is wholly unacceptable, and one of the reasons we believe Ms. Lerner should be relieved of her duties,” Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on Ways and Means, said on Friday.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to Lerner last week, “It appears that you provided false or misleading information on four separate occasions last year.” And Issa suggested she may have more to worry about than her job, noting that misleading Congress “is a serious matter, with potential criminal liability.” (On Monday, The Washington Post awarded Lerner a “bushel of Pinocchios” for her misstatements.)
Issa will helm the gavel as Lerner makes her post-scandal debut at his committee Wednesday.
Republicans have pledged to uncover who knew what and when in the IRS case—and Wolin, deputy secretary of Treasury, is one of the first bread crumbs they’ve found that leads beyond the quasi-independent IRS and deeper into the Obama administration. At Friday’s IRS hearing, the Treasury inspector general said that he had briefed Wolin in June 2012 about his then-ongoing audit. Republicans want to see if that information migrated higher up the food chain. (Democrats point out that Issa himself was also informed, in a July 2012 letter, that the inspector general had begun a probe into “a potential lack of balance” in reviewing tax-exempt applicants.)
The White House has said the information didn’t spread past Wolin. “The deputy secretary of the Treasury was made aware of just the fact that the investigation was beginning last year," senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on Sunday. "But no one in the White House was aware." Asked specifically if Wolin didn’t tell then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (his boss) and if, in turn, Geithner didn’t tell the White House, Pfeiffer replied, “That is correct.”
It’s a question Issa and Co. will ask again when Wolin appears before the oversight committee Wednesday.
The former IRS commissioner is pulling double duty: testifying both before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday and the House Oversight panel on Wednesday. Expect two thorough grillings.
His term ended late in 2012, but that left Shulman at the helm of the tax agency when it gave extra scrutiny to conservatives. Incredulous lawmakers plan to ask how Shulman could tell a House committee in May 2012 that, “There is absolutely no targeting” when he was specifically asked about reports of picking on tea-party groups. The inspector general’s report shows that there had been targeting for many months by then. Yet Shulman said, “What has been happening has been the normal back and forth that happens with the IRS.”
In an effort to ensure blame is bipartisan, Democrats will point out, again and again, that Shulman was an appointee of President George W. Bush, not Obama.
Sarah Hall Ingram
Sarah Hall Ingram isn’t scheduled to testify on the Hill this week. She wasn’t named in the inspector general’s report. But expect to hear her name plenty anyway.
Republicans have seized on the fact that Hall Ingram, who previously oversaw the tax-exempt division where all the tea-party targeting took place, is currently in charge of the IRS office overseeing the revving up of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a perfect bite-sized talking point for Republicans who want to wrap the IRS scandal up in their ongoing attempts to roll back “Obamacare.”
“Stunning, just stunning,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said, after her two roles were reported last week.
The IRS has said she wasn’t actually in charge of the exempt division during the time of the scandal—and that the man who was, Joseph Grant, announced last week he will retire in June. The White House is defending her—for now. “Before everyone in this town convicts this person in a court of public opinion with no evidence, let's actually get the facts and make decisions after that,” Pfeiffer said.
The outgoing acting IRS commissioner was fired last week—OK, requested to resign—but he’s still getting raked over the congressional coals. He was the key witness during Friday’s hearing and lawmakers were none too pleased with his general nonresponsiveness. “I did not mislead Congress, nor the American people,” he declared. Lawmakers get two more cracks at him in Senate Finance on Tuesday and House Oversight on Wednesday.
J. Russell George
George is the Treasury inspector general for tax administration whose report has set off the scandal. Like Miller, George is pulling off a trifecta: testifying at Ways and Means, Finance, and Oversight all in a week’s time. Most of what George knows, presumably, he included in his report. But he’ll still be there taking lawmakers’ questions when they tire of browbeating IRS officials.
She’s the White House’s top lawyer and she knew about the IRS scandal—as did the president’s chief of staff, among other aides—the week of April 22, 2013. But Obama himself was kept in the dark. He has said he didn’t know about the IG report until news broke publicly, weeks later. This part of the story is less about the targeting scandal itself and more about Obama’s leadership style. Why wouldn’t his own counsel notify him? The White House says the president must steer clear of meddling in independent investigations and spokesman Jay Carney said she “appropriately” didn’t tell Obama. But some see the details as evidence of an absentee executive.
Roady is the tax attorney who asked the question, on May 10, to Lois Lerner that exploded the targeting of tea-party groups into the public view. Roady is a bit player, but her name will likely come up as Republicans grill Lerner about her decision to plant a question and not to share with Congress first. In a statement provided to National Journal, Roady said Lerner called her the day before and asked her to pose the question. “We had no discussion thereafter on the topic of the question, nor had we spoken about any of this before I received her call,” Roady said. “She did not tell me, and I did not know, how she would answer the question.”
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the name of former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was misspelled.