Cummings Issues Statement on Latest Inspector General Report on IRS Review of Applicants for Tax Exempt Status

Oct 5, 2017
Press Release

Cummings Issues Statement on Latest

Inspector General Report on

IRS Review of Applicants for Tax Exempt Status


Washington, DC (Oct. 5, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a new report issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration concluding that progressive groups were singled out for additional scrutiny when applying for tax exempt status:


“Republicans claimed from the beginning that the Obama White House directed the IRS to target conservative groups for political reasons, but there was never any evidence to support their claims.  After Republicans spent years investigating this issue and squandering millions of taxpayer dollars, today’s report confirms what we knew years ago—that progressive groups were also selected for heightened scrutiny and that the tax exempt status of some progressive groups was severely delayed as a result.”


  • This Republican campaign began when Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa appeared on national television on May 14, 2013—before the Committee conducted even a single interview—and asserted:   “This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.”


  • On the same day, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said:  “I’ve never seen anything quite like this, except in the past during the Nixon years.”


  • Two days later, Republican Senator Marco Rubio stated:  “The president doesn’t have clean hands in this because as I said yesterday on the floor of the Senate, this organization of his, this administration has created a culture of intimidation.  It’s his campaign, it’s this White House, it’s basically an attempt to muscle anyone who is their political opponent and to use whatever power they have at their disposal to intimidate people who they don’t agree with.”


  • This effort continued on June 3, 2013, when House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers stated:  “Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country—an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago.”


  • On the same day, Republican Senator Ted Cruz appeared on national television and stated:  “We have seen in recent weeks that the IRS has not honored its trust with the American people, that the Obama Administration has demonstrated a willingness to use the machinery of government to target their political enemies.  And that’s wrong.  It was wrong when Richard Nixon did it, and it’s wrong when Barack Obama did it.  And it is a manifestation of too much power in the federal government.  When the federal government has that much power in our individual lives, it’s an invitation to being abused.  And I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax.”


  • This campaign also involved media personalities and former officials.  For example, on June 4, 2013, conservative commentator Lou Dobbs made this statement:  “They targeted—but that has too benign a ring to it, for me.  “Selective targeting.”  This was a political arm—the Internal Revenue Service became a political arm of the Obama administration.  And it’s that straightforward.  And it looks to be from top to bottom, and from agency to White House.”


  • On June 16, 2013, former Vice President Dick Cheney joined this effort, appearing on national television and concluding:  “It clearly was used for political purposes, to go after a particular category of organizations. … I cannot conceive of a situation in which it didn’t come from higher up.”


  • On June 18, 2013, Cummings released publicly the full transcript of the Committee’s interview with an IRS Screening Group Manager in Cincinnati who provided a detailed, first-hand account of how conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were first identified by the IRS.  A self-identified “conservative Republican” and 21-year veteran of the IRS, the Manager denied that he or anyone on his team was directed by the White House to take these actions or that they were politically motivated.  Instead, he explained that the first case at issue in this investigation was initially flagged by one of his own screeners in 2010.  He explained that he initiated the first effort to gather similar cases in order to ensure their consistent treatment, and that he took this action on his own, without any direction from his superiors.  He also confirmed that one of his screeners developed terms subsequently identified by the Inspector General as “inappropriate,” such as “Patriot” and “9/12 project,” but that he did not become aware that his screener was using these terms until more than a year later.


  • Despite this evidence, the next day, several Republicans spoke at a rally of Tea Party protesters and repeated their unsubstantiated accusations.  For example, Republican Senator Rand Paul stated:  “I’m like most Americans, horrified that my government has gotten out of control and is persecuting people for their religious and their political beliefs and it needs to end now.”[1] 


  • Similarly, Republican Senator Ted Cruz stated:  “President Obama needs to tell the truth.  When Richard Nixon tried to use the IRS to target his political enemies, it was wrong, and when the Obama administration does it, it’s still wrong.”[2]


  • Republicans also began making these unsubstantiated accusations in political campaign advertisements.  For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a video paid for by McConnell Senate Committee ‘14 that received “Three Pinocchios” from the Washington Post Fact Checker.  Along with graphics of an “IRS Enemies List” and video footage of former President Richard Nixon, Senator McConnell stated in the video:  “Again and again, this Administration and its allies have used the resources of the government itself to intimidate or silence those who question or oppose it.  I don’t know about you, but I think that the leader of the free world and his advisers have better things to do than dig through other peoples’ tax returns. … What they are trying to do is intimidate donors to outside groups that are critical of the Administration.  They’ve got the IRS, the SEC, and other agencies going after contributors.”


Cummings issued a comprehensive report back in 2014 debunking these allegations and releasing key portions of all 39 transcribed interviews conducted by Committee staff from the IRS and Treasury Department.



[1] Tea Party Rally Draws Thousands to Capitol Grounds, ABC 7 News (June 19, 2013) (online at

[2] Tea Party Sees “Barack O’Nixon” Behind IRS Targeting, MSNBC’s Politics Nation Blog (June 19, 2013) (online at

115th Congress