The Washington Times - July 12, 2013, 09:42AM

The top Democrat on a House investigative panel wants an inspector general who raised questions about the IRS’ reported targeting of conservative groups to testify about new emails suggesting progressive groups were singled out, too, and that inappropriate criteria was driven by confusion, not politics.

J. Russell George, the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, issued an audit in May that said revenue agency employees created burdens for tea party and other right-leaning groups seeking tax-exempt status.

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Rep. Darrell Issa, the House’s top Republican investigator, immediately called a hearing to throw light on the IRS’ activities and suggest the White House was involved.

“Since that hearing, the Committee has obtained new documents that raise serious questions about the Inspector General’s report, his testimony before Congress, and his subsequent assertions in letters to Members of Congress,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House’s oversight committee, in a letter to Mr. Issa.

Mr. Cummings said Mr. George should come back and testify at an IRS-related hearing scheduled for Thursday.

The Maryland Democrat also pointed to emails suggesting agency officials were simply unsure how to process an influx of tea party applications.

Rep. Sander Levin, Michigan Democrat, said the recent emails show the audit report was “fundamentally flawed.”

He cited a 2010 PowerPoint presentation for IRS screeners that used “images of a donkey and an elephant, to look for the term ‘progressive’ alongside ‘tea party’ in reviewing tax-exemption applications.”

Revelations the agency’s used inappropriate criteria to vet applications for tax exemption caused a political firestorm earlier this year.

The scandal erupted in early May, when an IRS official apologized for the activity during a staged question-and-answer session with the American Bar Association.

That official, Lois Lerner, has been placed on leave from the agency. The IRS’ acting commissioner was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal and has been replaced.

The IRS’ acting commissioner, Steven Miller, was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal and has been replaced by Daniel Werfel.

“No one is excusing the Internal Revenue Service’s gross mismanagement of the tax-exemption application process,” said Mr. Levin, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Indeed, as soon as this mismanagement surfaced, I urged that Mr. Miller and Ms. Lerner be relieved of their duties. In order to fix the problems with the tax-exemption application process, it is critical that members of both parties acknowledge that there was no political motivation and that applications across the political spectrum were screened using key words,” he said.