By Bernie Becker - 02/07/14 03:11 PM EST
Two top House Democrats asked the IRS on Friday to detail how much they’re spending to help Congress investigate the agency’s treatment of Tea Party groups.
“We are concerned, however, that Congressional Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and continuously using the IRS ‘investigations’ for political purposes for the November election,” wrote Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Levin, the ranking member at House Ways and Means.
“This is occurring during a time when there is a need for adequate resources to better serve taxpayers during the filing season,” they added.
Koskinen has stressed repeatedly that the battle over the IRS budget will be one of the central issues of his term as commissioner. The IRS is scheduled to receive roughly $11.3 billion this fiscal year, well below what President Obama requested and under what Koskinen says the agency needs to transition into the 21st century.
Cummings and Levin noted that Koskinen had earlier estimated that some 150 IRS employees had worked more than 70,000 hours to produce some 500,000 pages worth of documents.
In all, more than a dozen hearings on the IRS targeting have taken place, and congressional investigators have interviewed roughly five dozen current or former agency staffers.
“A conservative accounting suggests the total of taxpayer dollars spent by the IRS to accommodate the investigation would be well into the millions of dollars,” Cummings and Levin wrote.
Republicans have intensified their efforts on the IRS in recent weeks, with 11 top GOP lawmakers urging Koskinen to withdraw new proposed rules overseeing tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups – or risk being seen as a political tool of the White House.
But Democrats have started pushing back themselves, with Reps. Matt Cartwright (Pa.) and Gerry Connolly (Va.) filing an official complaint against Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration that outlined the targeting.