Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner appointed by President George W. Bush lied to Congress under oath when he told lawmakers last year that the agency did not give special attention to certain groups.
“I think Mr. Shulman did,” said Crowley in an interview with Fox News. “My understanding is that it was common knowledge if they were going after political groups back then.”
Crowley was referencing a 2012 House Ways and Means Committee hearing in which Shulman, in response to questions from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), held that the IRS was not targeting specific groups applying for tax-exempt status.
"There's absolutely no targeting,” said Shulman at the time.
The encounter raised suspicions for Boustany as well, who recounted the incident during the same interview with Crowley.
“He said, absolutely not. He categorically denied it,” recalled Boustany on Friday. “But he was aware of what was going on during this time frame because we know that [a] senior technical advisor had already been sent out to Cincinnati to investigate what was going on and to report back.”
Shulman completed his five-year term as IRS chief in November of last year. He was replaced by Steven Miller, whom President Obama asked to resign this week after the IRS scandal erupted.
Shulman is expected to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next week.
Republicans have focused some of their attacks on Sarah Hall Ingram, the director of the Affordable Care Act’s office within the IRS. Ingram previously served as the head of the office in charge of facilitating applications from tax-exempt groups at the IRS during the time that has recently come under question.
But Crowley said Ingram was not in the IRS office overseeing the tax-exempt status applications, but actually left six months before anyone at the agency found out that the decisions were being made to focus on conservative groups.
Boustany objected to Crowley’s contention, however, saying that Congress needs to get more information about what Ingram did and did not know at the time.
“I have real concerns and we have to pinpoint and get more information about what her role was in all of this, there's no question about it. Because this whole idea about the IRS getting expansive powers under Obama-care is deeply troubling in light of what we know now.”
Boustany said he also wants Congress to dig deeper into communication between the Treasury Department and the IRS commissioner from June, 2012, arguing that it could possibly link the White House to the agency’s actions, which appear at this time to be isolated within the IRS.
“We know communication was had with treasury and if so, and of course with the chief counsel, general counsel of Treasury,” said Boustany. “I have to wonder if it went higher than that. We don't know that yet. That's what we're looking for.”
Crowley said that more hearings should be held and that the Obama administration should help ensure that every document Congress has asked for is retrieved.
But he also maintained that the IRS inspector general, another Bush appointee, determined that the White House was not aware of the agency’s taboo approach to the tax-exempt status applications.
The IRS’s inspector general told lawmakers on Friday that the Treasury Department was told about its audit of allegations of unfairly targeting conservative groups as early as June 2012. The White House holds that it did not learn about the mismanagement practices within the IRS until the IG report was released last week.