- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2013

The ousted head of the IRS on Friday said he was sorry for his agency’s targeting conservative and tea party groups for special scrutiny, while a Republican leader said blame could reach as high as the White House.

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller told the House Ways and Means Committee that his agency failed the public trust when it singled out tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax exempt status from 2008 to 2012, but repeatedly denied agency officials misled Congress when lawmakers explicitly asked about the program.

“I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided,” said Mr. Miller before the panel, which was holding the first of several expected Capitol Hill hearings on the matter.

SEE ALSO: Rep. Dave Camp accuses White House of ‘cover-up’ in IRS scandal

“The affected organizations and the American public deserve better. Partisanship, or even the perception of partisanship, has no place at the IRS.”

He added that the IRS provided “horrible customer service.”

Mr. Miller denied that political motivation was behind his agency’s singling groups for special scrutiny that included the conservative buzzwords “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names. Rather, he portrayed a scenario of overworked IRS agents simply looking for shortcuts to tackle burgeoning caseloads of groups applying for tax-exempt status.

SEE ALSO: GOP eager to link IRS scandal to ‘Obamacare’ takedown efforts

“What happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection,” he said.

Mr. Miller said the problem was internal and that no outside entities — such as the Treasury Department or the White House — were involved. He said his agency is still reviewing the matter and said changes already have been made to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

But the panel’s chairman, Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, said the matter shows a “culture of cover-ups” and “political intimidation” within the Obama administration.

Mr. Camp suggested the White House hid the scandal until after the 2012 elections.

“These revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. It would be a mistake to treat this as just one scandal,” he said.

The chairman said the scandal shows the IRS has become too large and powerful and called for widespread reforms within he tax collecting agency.

“This systematic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation or two,” he said. “And as much as I expect more people need to go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem.”

President Obama on Wednesday forced Mr. Miller  to resign, and other top IRS official  is stepping down. Mr. Miller, a career civil servant, while not in charge of the agency at the time of the time of the misconduct, did hold a high-ranking position.

But lawmakers of both parties grilled Mr. Miller during the three-and-a-half hour hearing.

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