Republican lawmakers hear complaints about wider abuses from IRS

Several Republicans say their constituents have come to them with examples of Internal Revenue Service intimidation that goes beyond the agency's targeting of conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate say they’ve been told of other examples of bullying since the IRS apologized for targeting Tea Party groups.

“Oh, there's a slew of them,” said Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio), a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He said several lawmakers on the panel had been given tips about over-aggressive actions by the IRS.

Tiberi is one of several lawmakers who went public this week with allegations of wider abuses by the IRS. He and the other officials acknowledged the complaints from their constituents could be true or false, and said that they intended to look into the matters.

"I'm certainly going to spend a lot of time looking into it,” said Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE, who heard complaints from constituents who claimed they were audited by the IRS after making substantial donations to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.

The complaints come amid a wide-ranging scandal at the IRS, where a government watchdog report found some conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status were subjected to broader scrutiny because of their politics. IRS officials subjected groups with the words “Tea Party,” for example, to heavier scrutiny.

The acting commissioner of the agency was forced to resign over the matter, and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio) has suggested criminal charges could be filed in the matter. The Department of Justice is conducting an investigation.

So far, there is no evidence that the IRS went after individual taxpayers because of their political beliefs, but several lawmakers say they’ve heard complaints.

In an interview with The Hill, Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said his office had receiving an influx of stories about the IRS abusing its power. He said he'd just begun to review the claims.

“Well there are some really funny things that are going on,” Hatch said. “We're currently just looking at all of that. I mean look, let's face it, the agency is not exactly being run the way it should be run.”

Pressed for more details about the claims, lawmakers say they're in the early stages of actually investigating the stories. Hatch, who met with the new acting IRS commissioner this week, acknowledged his office gets a lot of complaints, some of which end up being good tips and some of which ending up being false.

“Yeah, we always get complaints,” Hatch said. “I mean some of which are good, some of which aren't.”

Republicans have urged constituents to come forward with examples of IRS abuse.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Cruz: Texas will be 'hotly contested' in 2020 MORE’s (R-Texas) office set up a web page encouraging constituents to come forward with examples of the IRS targeting Texans.

Drew Brandewie, press secretary for Cornyn, says the response has been “alarming.”

“In the short time since it was launched, we’ve received nearly 60 stories of the IRS targeting Texans for their political beliefs, and it is not limited to just tea party members,” Brandewie said in an email to The Hill.

“Texans who have donated to conservative causes as far back as 2008 have told us they believe they’ve been targeted, citing excessive paperwork, lengthy interviews, intimidating communications from agents, and even audits of their small businesses. These include Texans who donated to Sarah Palin in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, and to groups like Freedomworks and the Heritage Foundation.”

In an interview, Cornyn said some of the claims might not end up being true, but that they need to be investigated given the IRS’s acknowledged actions.

“Well, you never know,” Cornyn said. “Nobody likes the IRS and we all sort of gripe about them but I think now there's some legitimacy to some of the griping and it goes over and above the usual irritation.”

While both parties have criticized the IRS’s actions, it has mostly been Republicans reporting possible wider abuses.

Asked whether her office had received a wave of allegations of greater IRS abuse, Hannah Kim, communications director for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said: “Not that I know of,” in an email to The Hill.