Baucus, Hatch seek wide range of records from IRS on targeting

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Finance Committee pressed the IRS on Monday for more information about the extra scrutiny the agency gave to conservative groups.

A day ahead of the panel’s first hearing on the matter, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), in a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, asked the agency more than three dozen questions, often looking for more than three years' worth of detail from the IRS.

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Baucus and Hatch are seeking, among other things, all the extra questions that the agency asked groups seeking tax-exempt status from February 2010 until now, any keywords and phrases used by the agency that sparked additional scrutiny for applicants, and any and all employees who were either part of or knew about the targeting outlined in the inspector general’s report.

The two senators are also seeking a wide range of documentation on the issue, ranging from emails and phone logs to calendars and datebooks. They are also asking for information on any conversations between IRS and White House employees on extra attention given to groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Miller is scheduled to testify before the Finance Committee on Tuesday along with Doug Shulman, a former IRS commissioner; and Russell George, the Treasury inspector general who outlined the scrutiny the agency gave to groups seeking tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. The hearing will be Shulman’s first public testimony on the matter.

Miller, who President Obama forced out last week, gave often-combative testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

The level of detail sought by the powerful senators illustrates that top lawmakers remain keenly interested in the attention the IRS gave to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, and suggests that congressional probes on the matter could go on for some time.

Hatch has said that top IRS officials purposefully misled him by not disclosing the targeting that conservative groups received, even after top agency brass knew about it.

“Targeting applicants for tax-exempt status using political labels threatens to undermine the public’s trust in the IRS,” Baucus and Hatch wrote. “Lack of candor in advising the Senate of this practice is equally troubling.”

New information about the IRS's targeting continues to dribble out, with reports that the White House counsel’s office knew some of the details about the inspector general’s report in April.

In all, the two leading tax writers give the IRS less than two weeks to get back to them on their 41 separate questions.

The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on the issue Wednesday.

This post was updated at 1:41 p.m.