Responding to a report in The Washington Times on unauthorized snooping into federal tax records of political candidates and donors, the White House said Tuesday that President Obama has confidence in the man he’s chosen to clean up the Internal Revenue Service.
“The president has a lot of confidence in Danny Werfel,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney when questioned about The Times report at his daily press briefing. “He’s … made clear from the day he started his intention to examine the practices of the past and to make the necessary corrections where they’re needed.”
The president tapped Mr. Werfel, a former White House budget official, to lead the IRS this spring amid the agency’s admission that it had improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status.
The Times reported Tuesday that the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration has found at least four cases dating back to 2006 in which the tax records of political candidates and campaign donors had been improperly accessed by unnamed government officials. The inspector general, J. Russell George, also said he is investigating two suspected cases of political candidates being targeted for audits.
Four other accusations of improperly accessing tax records of candidates were not supported by the evidence, he said.
The IG’s letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, did not specify the dates of those unauthorized disclosures or identify the political parties of those involved.
In his press briefing, Mr. Carney tried to downplay The Times report and also misstated a portion of the news article, claiming the examples cited “happened prior to this administration.” The inspector general’s report does not specify the dates of the incidents, stating only that the review as a whole went back to 2006.
“Even the four that they cite, three of them were deemed inadvertent,” Mr. Carney said. “And I think a Senate Republican [Mr. Grassley] was saying it’s not indicative of anything broad. But any problem is a problem that obviously needs to be looked at. And that’s a general statement, not one with regards to this report.”
He added that Mr. Obama “is pleased with the performance we’ve seen so far since [Mr. Werfel] has taken over.”