Transcript: Rep. Sander Levin’s opening remarks on the Ways & Means Committee’s hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status – May 17, 2013

Partial transcript of opening remarks by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) on the House Ways and Means Committee’s hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status on May 17, 2013:

…This committee on a bipartisan basis takes seriously its oversight role, and we are fully committed to ensuring an IRS that serves the American people fairly and efficiently.

What is now completely clear is that the management oversight of the agency handling tax exemption applications have completely failed the American people. I emphasize that.

As we know from the Inspector General’s audit, the agency used totally inappropriate criteria in its review of tax exemption applications – singling out organizations for review based on their name or political views, rather than their actual activities. These criteria changed four times over two years with little management review or oversight.

Applications sat for years. Work stopped for 13 months while one department waited to hear back from another. Questions were asked that were not necessary. Again, no oversight, no accountability.

All of us are angry at this on behalf of the nation and we are determined to get answers to our questions about how this happened to ensure that it does not happen again.

Finally, throughout this time, the IRS leadership has demonstrated a total disregard for the oversight role of the Congress and this committee.

Former IRS Commissioner [Douglas] Shulman testified in front of us in March 2012 and said that “no targeting” was going on. Two months later, he was briefed on the IG’s investigation and was fully informed that indeed singling out by name had occurred on his watch. He had an obligation to return to this committee and set the record straight. So did Mr. [Steven] Miller. Neither fulfilled their obligations.

A little more than a week ago, Lois Lerner was in front of our oversight subcommittee. She serves as the director of the exempt organization division and she has been directly involved in this matter. Yet she failed to disclose what she knew to this committee, choosing to do so at an APA conference two days later. This is wholly unacceptable, and one of the reasons that we believe and as I stated several days ago, Ms. Lerner should be relieved of her duties.

Chairman Camp and I put together this hearing on a bipartisan basis to get the facts. We must seek the truth, not political gain.

And I just want to add in that regard. Mr. Camp has said that listening to the nightly news “this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-up and political intimidation in this administration. It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.” I totally – totally – disagree.

If this hearing becomes essentially a bootstrap to continue the campaign of 2012 and to prepare for 2014, we will be making a very, very serious mistake and, indeed, not meeting our obligation of trust to the American people.

You’re here today, Mr. Miller – you’re here today, the Inspector General, to talk about what happened, how it happened, where it happened, who knew what when. And if instead this hearing essentially becomes an effort to score political points, it will be a disregard of the duty of this committee.

So I conclude with the sentence: We must seek the truth, not political gain.

We look forward to full and forthcoming answers to our questions today.


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