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By Brahma Chellaney
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Danny Werfel
Republicans investigating the IRS targeting scandal said Wednesday that the agency continued to conduct secret surveillance on tea party groups even after approving them for tax-exempt status.
House Republicans on Tuesday accused the Internal Revenue Service and President Obama's hand-picked new leader of the agency of trying to "delay, frustrate, impede and obstruct" their investigation into abuses of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, and pointedly warned that it could be breaking the law.
IRS employees have told congressional investigators that they were ordered by the agency's Washington office to give extra scrutiny to tea party groups' applications for tax-exempt status, according to excerpts from interviews with the employees that were released by House committee chairmen Wednesday.
The Internal Revenue Service spends millions of dollars a year for 200 employees who actually work full-time on labor-union business even as it furloughs employees and cuts taxpayer advice services under the budget sequester, Congress' chief waste watcher said in a new letter to the tax agency.
In another damaging revelation, the new head of the Internal Revenue Service said Monday that an internal probe had uncovered more instances of agents using "inappropriate" political lists to single out tax-exempt applications for extra scrutiny, and he acknowledged that the practice went on far longer than previously reported.
The new acting IRS commissioner pledged Thursday to work to safeguard citizens' private information and tax dollars and ensure that the agency acts impartially as it looks to move forward after a bruising few weeks.
Already reeling after admitting it unfairly targeted conservatives, the IRS suffered a new setback Tuesday when its internal auditor released a report showing the agency spent $4.1 million on a lavish conference in California in 2010, including two free drinks for every attendee, and upgrades to suites for more than 100 employees.
The new Internal Revenue Service chief said Monday that his agency broke trust with the American people, and he vowed a speedy investigation to expose who approved the program that led to conservative groups being subjected to unwarranted questions while finding out if any other offices have engaged in similar political targeting.
The woman at the center of the IRS scandal was put on paid administrative leave Thursday, marking the second agency official to be removed over the inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups.
A day after she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, Lois Lerner has been replaced as director the Internal Revenue Service division that oversaw agents who targeted tea party groups.
President Obama's budget will call for more than $25 billion in specific spending cuts, the White House budget office said Tuesday, a day ahead of the blueprint's release.
The White House budget office Thursday told agencies to try to use as much flexibility as they can to blunt the effects of the budget sequesters that took effect last month.
The White House budget office has told federal agencies to slow down new hiring, curtail travel and conferences, and to stop doling out bonuses unless absolutely required to by law, according to a new memo released late Wednesday.
With the automatic cuts looming March 1, the Obama administration is offering more specifics on what lower spending would mean, pointing to everything from fewer agents on the U.S.-Mexico border to cutting funding for special education in school districts around the country.
The White House on Sunday stepped up pressure on Republicans to adopt a short-term budget patch that would cancel the $85 billion in spending "sequesters" due on March 1, saying that government spending is still needed to prop up a stubbornly sluggish economy.
Werfel said, “The IRS has a strong, effective system in place for administering the Premium Tax Credit.
When questioned at a June congressional hearing, Danny Werfel, the acting IRS chief, said the conference was held near the end of the fiscal year when there was leftover money.