White House won’t confirm visit by IRS counsel at suspicious time

The Obama administration is refusing to say whether a top Internal Revenue Service official visited the White House just before he weighed in on the guidelines used to determine whether a group qualifies for tax-exempt status — raising questions about the role his office played in the agency’s targeting of conservatives.

The White House visitor logs shows that a “William Wilkins” visited the White House on April 23, 2012, but the administration has not said whether this is the same person that President Obama had nominated to become chief counsel for the IRS in 2009.

Mr. Wilkins is one of only two political appointees on the entire IRS staff.

The White House did not respond Wednesday to questions from The Washington Times about the “William Wilkins” visit.

The possibility of a 2012 White House visit has piqued some interest because — according to the May audit that uncovered the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups — Mr. Wilkins’ office “provided additional comments on the draft guidance developed for the Determinations Unit” on April 25, 2012, which would have been two days after the White House visit.

The IRS came under fire in May after the Treasury Department’s auditor released a report that found the IRS used inappropriate criteria when reviewing applications for tax-exempt status from tea party and conservative groups.

The wrongdoing was initially pinned on a few employees from the Cincinnati office of the IRS.

But Carter Hull, a former IRS employee, recently testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the Washington office of the IRS was also involved and that the issue reached the office of Mr. Wilkins.

Still, it is unclear how deeply Mr. Wilkins was involved in the scandal.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Republicans are trying to make something out of nothing, and that the president has made it clear that he will not tolerate the kind of inappropriate activity that has occurred at the IRS.

“I greatly appreciate that that is the line that is being pushed by Republicans, who want Washington to be focused on scandals instead of the economy,” Mr. Carney said, foreshadowing a line about “phony scandals” that Mr. Obama himself used later in the day in a speech in Illinois.

“What we said all along was based on the IG’s report, which said that the activity was in Cincinnati,” Mr. Carney said. “The IG report and every bit of evidence that has come out since then makes clear that no one at the White House was involved at all or even knew about what was happening. And that has not changed.”

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