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

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The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday said the IRS scandal shows a “culture of cover-ups” and “political intimidation” within the Obama administration.

Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, while speaking at a hearing his panel held regarding the IRS’s improper targeting of tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, suggested the White House hid the scandal until after the 2012 elections.

“This appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” said Mr. Camp at the nearly four-hour hearing, the first of several that will take place on Capitol Hill on the matter.

Mr. Camp said the IRS scandal shows the tax-collecting agency has become too large and powerful and called for widespread reforms within he 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.”

Lawmakers from both parties — though especially Republicans — grilled Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, the hearing key witness, who apologized for his agency’s targeting conservative groups.

“The effected organizations and the public deserve better,” Mr. Miller said. “Partisanship or even the perception of partisanship has no place at the IRS.”

“We did horrible customer service.”

President Obama forced Mr. Miller to resign Wednesday. The acting commissioner took over as former Commissioner Douglas Shulman stepped down after the November elections.

At the time of the misconduct, Mr. Miller was not in charge of the agency, though he did hold a high-ranking position. His assignment as “acting commissioner” was scheduled to end in early June anyway.

Mr. Miller denied that political motivation was behind his agency’s singling out groups for special scrutiny that included the conservative buzzwords “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names. Rather, he said “mistakes were made” by employees trying to tackle burgeoning workloads while vetting groups applying for tax-exempt status.

“The agency is moving forward. It has learned its lesson,” he told the panel. He said changes have been made to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

J. Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, who oversaw a yearlong investigation of the IRS scandal, told the committee his probe found no examples of political intimidation in the IRS targets of conservative groups.

Mr. Miller complained his agency doesn’t have enough employees to handle a burgeoning influx of applications from organizations for tax exempt status. He said a staff of only 140 to 200 handle 70,000 applications for tax-exempt status.

“We try to move them along as fast as we can,” he said. “We do not have enough people right now.”

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