WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior Treasury officials were made aware last June that investigators were looking into complaints from tea party groups that they were being harassed by the Internal Revenue Service.
At a congressional hearing today, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration disclosed that Obama administration officials knew there was a probe during the heat of the presidential campaign. But J. Russell George told the panel that the discussions were "not to inform them of the results of the audit," just that it was going on.
At that same hearing, the ousted head of the IRS apologized for the extra scrutiny given to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. But Steven Miller told the House Ways and Means Committee today that singling out tea party and other groups "was a mistake and not an act of partisanship." He describes it as a misguided effort to handle a flood of applications.
But Republicans on the panel made it clear they want IRS officials to pay a bigger price. Even though Miller and another top IRS official are stepping down, Republican committee chairman Dave Camp of Michigan said that wouldn't be enough. He said it's not a "personnel problem" -- but instead a problem of "the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers."
The Treasury IG said he is still investigating whether outside political pressure played a role.