Thursday, June 27, 2013

Love never dies






Also appearing before the Oversight Committee were IRS Deputy Commissioner Beth Tucker, Office of Entrepreneurial Development with the US Small Business Administration's Michael Chodos, VBA's Brad Flohr and the General Services Administration's William A. Sisk. 

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais Ms. Tucker, at the beginning of the hearing this morning, Gregory Roseman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incrimination and did not testify.  As the Deputy Commissioner of the IRS, is it your expectation that an IRS employee will appear before the Committee to testify about official action taken within the scopes of his duties at the IRS?

Beth Tucker: Sir, we expect all IRS employees to cooperate with members of Congress.

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais:  But he didn't.

Beth Tucker:  He did not.

US House Rep Scott Desjarlais:  Ms. Lerner didn't.

Beth Tucker:  Each of these individuals -- as Mr. [US House Rep Elijah] Cummings said -- invoked their Constitutional rights.

 Lerner took the Fifth before the House Oversight Committee on May 22nd.  That hearing was covered in that day's "Iraq snapshot," Ava's"Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)," Wally's "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)," Kat's "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing" and the discussion Dona moderated at Third "Report on Congress."   It was also spoofed in Cedric's "Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!"  Issa has announced that they will be voting on Lerner's Fifth Amendment this Friday.  When you plead the Fifth, you plead the Fifth.

Your answer is that you are not going to speak to avoid self-incrimination.  What Lerner did was deliver a lengthy statement maintaining her innocence and then invoke the Fifth.  On its most basic and pure level, that's not the Fifth Amendment.  The Committee is scheduled to vote Friday to determine what happens there.  In the meantime, they have a second IRS official who is refusing to testify about their job duties and how they carried out their job.

We're going to do one more excerpt from the hearing, I think an overall impression was created in the hearing and I think most people missed it.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: Ms. Tucker, you've been at the IRS 29 years?   

Beth Tucker:  Yes, sir. 

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  And you're Deputy Commissioner, is that correct?  

Beth Tucker:  Deputy Commissioner.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  How many Deputy Commissioners are there? 

Beth Tucker:  Two.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Is there anyone between the Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner?

Beth Tucker: No.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: So you're right near the top?

Beth Tucker: Yes, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  One month ago, Inspector General Russell George gave the Committee information that he informed the IRS on May 30, 2012 that targeting of  conservative political groups was taking place.  In fact, if we can put that up on the screen, this is from the TIGTA timeline he gave this Committee.  And he says in that meeting, these terms were used: "tea party," "patriots," "9-12,"  And he says that there were three people in that Committee -- in that meeting.  Mr. [Doug] Shulman who's no longer with the IRS, Steve Miller who has been fired and you.  Now Mr. Shulman testified a month ago in this Committee that that was the first time he knew targeting was taking place.  Was that the first time you knew about the targeting at the IRS?

Beth Tucker:  That was the first time I was aware of the situation, yes.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: Now Mr. Miller has also, uh, -- We've also been informed through the Committee talking with Nan Marks, an employee of the IRS, that there was an internal investigation launched by Mr. Miller in March of 2012.  Did you know about that internal investigation?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: And the results of that were Mr. Miller knew about what was going on May 3, 2012.  Did you know the results on May 3rd?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: So the earliest you knew about it was the same time Mr. Shulman testified and what you're testifying to today was May 30th of last year?

Beth Tucker:  Yes, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: And you're familiar with the fact that Mr. Schulman testified in front of the [House] Ways and Means Committee in March of last year where he said this.  First, Mr. [US House Rep Charles] Boustany asked him, "Can you give us assurances that the IRS is not targeting political groups?"  Mr. Shulman said, "Yes, I can give you assurances, we pride ourselves on being a non-political, non-partisan organization."  So just two months prior to learning that targeting was going on, he gave assurances.  Now there's usually, when you give assurances, some basis for assurances.  Were you part of the basis for assurances that Mr. Shulman gave the Ways and Means Committee in March of 2012?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: You did not have any conversations with Mr. Shulman before he went and testified before the Ways and Means Committee?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  In the meeting that took place on May 30th, the meeting that's highlighted there on the TIGTA timeline, when you learned that the targeting was taking place, what was the reaction in that meeting?  Was it, "Oh, sh-sugar, we got to do something here."?  Was it, "We got to correct the record"?  What was the reaction when the three top people at the IRS learned that this was going on?

Beth Tucker:  So, if I might, uh, TIGTA, the Treasury Inspector General comes in once a month to meet with --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Cut to the chase, what was the reaction?  You find out that there's targeting of political groups, six months before an election, what was the reaction of the top three people at the IRS?

 Beth Tucker: TIGTA reported the information that they were looking into the audit and then at that point and time IRS waits for TIGTA to complete their investigation.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: That's not what they told you.  They told you "tea party," "patriot" "9-12" were identifying terms used to put groups on a list who were never given the tax-exempt status they sought and, in some cases, they'd been trying to get it for three years.  You learned that May 30, 2012.  And your reaction was, 'Oh, okay, we'll just let it keep going on and see what TIGTA comes up with'?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  I mean, earlier in your testimony to the Chairman, you said, 'You know it would be helpful if this Committee would share information with us at the IRS about the issue that's in front of the Committee today."  Well it would have been helpful if, once you got that information, you'd have shared it with this Committee. We would have liked to have -- In fact, we're the Committee that asked for the audit in the first place.  We would have liked to have known, six months before an election, May 30th of last year, that targeting was going on.  Did you instruct Russell George to share this information with the House Ways and Means Committee and with the House Oversight Committee?

Beth Tucker: Sir, my --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  No, that's a question.  Did you tell Mr. George,  'You know this is pretty important information.  We just learned today,' according to your testimony 'this is going on.'  Did you tell Mr. George, 'You know, you might want to share that with the Oversight Committee, specifically since Mr. Issa's the one who requested the audit?" 

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  That was not my responsibility.  I have responsibility at IRS --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Let me ask you this --

Beth Tucker:  -- for our operations.

US House Rep Jim Jordan: But the point is, you were in the meeting.  The other two guys are gone.  Mr. Shulman's gone, Mr. Miller's been fired.  You're the highest ranking official at IRS in that meeting.  You knew about it a year ago.  Didn't you think it was incumbent upon you to set the record straight?  Your boss, Mr. Shulman, had just testified two months earlier and told Congress nothing was going on and he finds out two months later it is going on.  You're the highest ranking official still at the IRS.  You didn't think it was incumbent to come tell Congress what was -- what was taking place?

Beth Tucker: The TG organization does not report to me.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Why didn't you correct the record?  Why didn't you just -- Why didn't you just come to Mr. Issa and say, 'You know what? What Mr. Shulman ' -- Did you tell Mr. Shulman he should correct the record?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  I did not.

US House Jim Jordan: Well let me ask you this.  Have you been disciplined by Mr. [Danny] Werfel for not correcting the record?

Beth Tucker:  No, sir.  It's not in my purview.  

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Well you're Deputy Commissioner.  You're in the meeting.  You learned about it that day.  Right?

Beth Tucker:  Mr. George told us in his routine monthly meeting that they were doing an investigation of TEGE.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  We understand that.  All I'm asking is there's got to be some reason you didn't feel any obligation, any reason that you should come forward and set the record straight?  The Inspector General told the IRS what was going on.  You didn't feel  like you should tell us or you didn't feel that it was incumbent upon you to tell the Committee?

Beth Tucker:  Sir, at the Internal Revenue Service, we have two Deputy Commissioners that have very clearly delineated responsibilities.

Darrell Issa: The gentleman's time has expired.  The gentle lady may finish.

Beth Tucker: At the Internal Revenue Service, we have two Deputy Commissioners with very clearly delineated responsibilities. I do not have responsibility for the service and enforcement program as --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Well, Ms. Tucker, Ms. Tucker, why were you in the meeting?  If it has nothing to do with you, why did -- why did Mr. Russell George think it was important to tell us that you were in the meeting?

Beth Tucker: Mr. George and his deputies come into Internal Revenue Service every month and brief on all of their investigations --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Mr. Chairman, if I could --

Beth Tucker:  Some of which are service enforcement.

A discussion then ensues about giving Jordan thirty more seconds.  He's granted it.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  So what you're saying is Mr. Miller -- that was his area of jurisdiction. 

Beth Tucker:  That is correct.

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Did you tell Mr. Miller he should come forward and tell Congress what was going on?

Beth Tucker: No, sir.  At this meeting --

US House Rep Jim Jordan:  Was that discussed?

Beth Tucker:  If I could please.  The meeting. TIGDA comes in once a month to the Internal Revenue Service to brief the Commissioner and the two Deputies about their audits, their open audits.  On any given meeting that they come into, they could be talking -- I mean there are lots of oversight investigations that happen at Internal Revenue Service.  Those meetings are typically TIGDA coming in and saying, "We've opened an investigation on X program.  We've opened an investigation on another program."  If it is an investigation that is under my jurisdiction -- like procurement, like the IRS budget, like our real estate portfolio, then I am the responsible party. What I am trying to convey to you is that I do not have oversight responsibility for the TEGE programs.

Unless and until someone proves otherwise, I'm going to assume Beth Tucker is telling the truth.  IF you disagree, that's fine.  But that's not even the issue right now, her being truthful at this point and time.

Tucker is obligated -- as is anyone employed by the federal government -- to report certain things.  What she was told in the meeting with George is something she had an ethical responsibility to report.  Shulman and Miller are responsible for what they did.  Tucker is responsible for what she did and for what she didn't do.

Why did no one inform? Why did no one sound off?

More to the point, why did no one blow a whistle?

I'd argue that the problems at the IRS -- which are very serious -- and the VA (ditto) go to the climate that's been created where whistle-blowers are punished and, as with Ed Snowden, hunted.  Good government can't exist without oversight.  It requires the supervision of the American people.  If everything is hush-hush and classified, don't pretend an 'informed voter' exists.  We need sunlight but the current administration has demonized those who have stepped forward.

Last month's attack on the AP was about an old story that involved a leak by someone in the administration.  It had nothing to do with a crime.  But didn't the White House and those under it respond as if it was the biggest crime in the world?

You may not like Ed Snowden, you may not like what he did.  But when he blew this whistle on Barack's spying on the American people, he informed the American people.

I don't know that the IRS scandals would exist right now if the White House hadn't -- in violation of every core belief of democracy -- signaled that this was a period of secrecy despite all the lip service to openess.  A culture of secrecy does not encourage democracy or fairness.  That's why the US was founded on the belief that an informed citizenry was among the most important elements to the country.

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