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Today’s House IRS Hearing had almost no answers

May 22, 2013

1322756701Today the House Oversight Committee held a hearing for the IRS scandal. Testifying before the Committee were three individuals: Douglas Shulman, who was the Commissioner of the IRS during the scandal period; Neal Wolin, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

I watched four and a half hours of this hearing while live tweeting (about 125 tweets during that time-frame). In this hearing Mr. Wolin got the least amount of attention. He basically admitted he gets his info the same place as the President: from the press. In fact at one time he said the Department of Treasure has no involvement in IRS affairs because it would be seen as political influence from the administration if he did so. Most of those asking the questions basically ignored Wolin (which likely suited him fine).

Mr George got a lot more attention. Early on Mr. George annoyed me in the proceedings by saying the IRS had the rights to target Americans based upon politics, although he didn’t really state if that was good or bad. But to make it worse he thought all the IRS should be held accountable for was lack of training. He appeared to hold the opinion that mistakes made were all training related. There was an interesting section where Representative Meehan was getting quite mad that Mr. George was avoiding his questions. Rep. Meehan said to Mr. George: “no you can’t get back to me, he just whispered in your ear, what did he say!” This was just after Mr. George was speaking with his ‘counsel’. At one point during his testimony Mr. George did refuse to comment because “I don’t want to go to jail.” I expect to see this taken out of context many times going forth as it had to do with what info he can/can’t speak to and not what he was trying to hide.

Summarizing Mr. Shulman’s testimony can be done with a few words: incompetent, clueless, and liar. All three of these words were either used or alluded to throughout the hearing, and Mr. Shulman did nothing to change those characterizations. Early on Mr. Shulman refused to answer if it was OK for the IRS to lie to Congress. It all went down-hill from that point. An interesting point to note is that more than one Representative had to ask Mr. Shulman if he understood he was under oath. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Mr. Shulman apparently gets so many letters from Congress and meetings with the President that he can’t remember any of them. Finally the final kicker to show how worthless Mr. Shulman was/is as management: he would not accept responsibility for anything that happened under his time as management, but does acknowledge it happened. Hopefully this guy never gets a job on the taxpayer’s dime ever again in his lifetime!

Another thing worth mentioning in this proceeding was the behavior of some (not all) of the Democrat Representatives. Many of the Dem Reps kept hounding upon the fact that Citizens United is the root cause of this IRS scandal. I guess the theory goes like this: “it’s OK if the IRS broke the law and trampled on First Amendment rights of American citizens because it was caused by a Supreme Court decision I disagree with”. Representative Grisham was particularly bad on this Citizens United misdirect. She honestly didn’t seem to care if the IRS did anything illegal. In fact she was saying any of these organizations should be forced to reveal the donor list despite what the current law says.

I have many more notes. However I am so disgusted with the pure amount of “I know nothing” that came out of the hearing that I’ll end my post here. This hearing also confirmed what I’ve believed for quite some time: the IRS has too much power.

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