House Republican investigators Wednesday accused the woman in charge of the IRS’ Obamacare compliance office of having leaked private taxpayer information to the White House, saying that calls into question the agency’s trustworthiness in administering the new health care reform law.
But Democrats mocked that conclusion, comparing the GOP’s efforts to the Salem witch trials and saying Sarah Hall Ingram, director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act Office, is a highly honored employee who has served presidents of both parties.
The Republicans released emails between Ms. Ingram and the White House from 2012 that, when they were given to Congress under a document request, were redacted because they contained protected taxpayer information, known as “6103” information.
GOP lawmakers charged that the emails show Ms. Ingram was sharing protected information with the White House, which would be a violation of federal law.
“Why are political appointees in the office of the president receiving 6103 information?” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa of California asked Ms. Ingram.
She replied that she was “not conscious of ever sharing 6103 information at the White House” and said the decisions about redactions were made by someone else at the IRS so she couldn’t say why those parts had been blacked out when they were given to Congress.
Ms. Ingram also told the committee she couldn’t recall what was written beneath the redactions, which only piqued the GOP’s curiosity.
Republicans said the email exchange with the White House involved the administration’s plans to impose the contraceptive mandate under the health care law.
Committee Republicans said the emails showed Ms. Ingram gave the White House advice about a politically sensitive topic, which the GOP said was a violation of the IRS’ neutrality.
Ms. Ingram was previously the boss of Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the tea party targeting scandal, and now as head of the health care office her testimony was much in demand by Republicans.
“Finally she’s here. We’ve been trying for five months to get Ms. Ingram in front of this committee. I was beginning to think there was no such person as Sarah Hall Ingram,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.
Democrats, though, said the GOP was making wild accusations.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, led Ms. Ingram on a facetious line of inquiry to show what he thought of the Republicans’ questions.
“You’re here under oath. Have you been consorting with the devil?” he demanded of Ms. Ingram.
“Not to my knowledge, sir,” she replied.
“Are reports that you can fly accurate?” he asked?
“Greatly exaggerated, sir.”
Ms. Ingram said the IRS’ systems to handle the health care law are up and running, and that the agency is keeping applicants’ data private. Some critics had warned the massive health law would be a hacker’s dream.
“We have handled all requests received to date via the HHS data services hub, and turnaround times are meeting our goals,” Ms. Ingram said.
Asked about whether she knew about the IRS targeting of conservative groups during her time as Ms. Lerner’s boss, she said she had “no recollection” of hearing about the incidents.
She said she did hear reports in 2012 of problems, but saw her own boss and the inspector general already looking into the matter, so she kept her focus on the health care law.