Washington—Today, in response to U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George, appointed by President George W. Bush, disputed Republican claims of “corruption at the IRS” and that our tax system is “rotten at the core.” While deploring one recent IRS failure, Rep. Doggett challenged Republican exploitation of the incident as another unjustified overreach to promote more tax-subsidized secret money in campaigns, to alter tax laws by shifting more burden to working families, and to impede implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He also called upon the Treasury Department to respond promptly to a petition filed with it by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
To see Rep. Doggett’s questioning of J. Russell George, please click here.
Full transcript below:
REP. DOGGETT: Thank you Mr. Chairman. What happened here is outrageous and inexcusable and unless those of us who strongly disagree with the Tea Party on many issues defend it from any impairment and allow it to be as wrong as it wants to be, we impair our democracy.
Mr. George, many charges have been made here this morning. You as Inspector General under Title 5 section 2 have a statutory responsibility as Inspector General to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the programs and operations of the IRS, do you not?
Inspector General J. Russell George: That is correct, sir.
REP. DOGGETT: And as best I can determine, sir, you have fulfilled that responsibility faithfully and forthrightly. Let me ask you if using the extensive audit and investigation powers you have as Inspector General you have found any evidence of corruption at the IRS.
IG George: No, not at this time, sir.
REP. DOGGETT: And let me ask you sir, with your extensive powers, if you have found that our tax system is rotten at the core?
IG George: No, definitely not rotten at the core, sir.
REP. DOGGETT: And let me ask you sir, if you have, using your statutory powers and fulfilling your responsibility, determined that the IRS picks who wins and who loses in America.
IG George: I don’t believe that is the case.
REP. DOGGETT: No sir. You have not. And the statements that were made and the very inflammatory charges at the beginning of this hearing—it is obvious have no basis in fact, at least any fact that has yet been demonstrated this morning. It is important that in addressing and fully correcting one wrong, we not commit and be involved in other wrongs, such as encouraging the proliferation of secret corporate money, not just the proliferation and pollution of our democracy by that money, but that it be tax-subsidized secret corporate money. That we not permit those who have a fundamental disagreement with the progressive tax system using this incident as a basis for shifting even more of the burden of financing our defense and our central government services onto working people. That we not permit those who have an agenda that is now been voted 37 times to try to undermine the full and effective implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act so that the health care crisis is ended for families across this country. That’s what’s at stake here, that’s what’s been discussed here.
It is not based on any fact associated with this investigation to this date, as indicated by the Republican-appointed Inspector General whose job it was to determine whether any of these charges had merit.
Let me move to an area where I disagree with some of my Democratic colleagues and their comments this morning. I don’t believe there’s any lack of clarity in the statute here. The statute that is in effect, has been in effect for decades and it requires that before there is tax-exempt status, as Mr. Lawrence O’Donnell, as the Crew Group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has pointed out in a petition, you are to be denied this status if you are not exclusively engaged in social welfare according to the statute, is that not correct? The statute is explicit. It uses the word “exclusively.” The regulation the IRS adopted 30 or 40 years ago uses different language.
IG George: Mr. Doggett, I have to demure the Secretary; that’s a tax policy question and I’m not in a position-
REP. DOGGETT: I’m not asking you for tax policy, I’m just asking for a clear reading of the statute. And a clear reading of the statute that has been in place for decades and is in place today says that there should be a denial of tax-exempt status to any group that is not exclusively engaged in social welfare operations and it was only after a regulation adopted long ago, long before any of you were at the IRS, that changed exclusively to primarily, that there was any discretion for this section to be involved in this operation.
IG George: Mr. Doggett, I do know that we have indicated that some clarification from those in the policy area of the Department of the Treasury might be needed in this area to help clarify again.
REP. DOGGETT: Well, in April, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a petition with the Treasury Department and the IRS to address that. If the statute, the clear wording of the statute had been followed, we would not be having to deal today with selective enforcement, we wouldn’t have any problems with enforcement in this area at all. And I hope that that petition is honored and responded to promptly, as I believe you have fulfilled your responsibilities, Mr. George, as Inspector General. Thank you for your testimony and, Mr. Miller, thank you for yours and for stepping aside.