The White House and Treasury Department took part in how to handle public relations over the IRS scandal of targeting conservative groups, The Hill
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Childress spoke with Treasury officials twice on the matter.
But, he stressed, talks involving the White House did not include the IRS revealing the targeting publicly at an American Bar Association conference on May 10.
"It’s a nice hypothetical, but that didn’t happen," Carney said.
The tax-collecting agency has admitted that it planted a question in the audience to allow Lois Lerner, head of the tax-exempt division, a chance to publicly disclose the acts.
Agents in the Cincinnati IRS office targeted groups with "tea party," "patriot" and other conservative-sounding key words for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Members of both parties and President Barack Obama have condemned the actions, and acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was forced to resign.
"This was just part of trying to find out when and under what circumstances this information would be released, made public and what those findings would be," Carney said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he was unaware of the planted question before it happened and would have advised against it.
But one Treasury official told The Hill that others in the department did know about the planted question beforehand and had concerns. The official said Treasury let the IRS have the option of how it wanted to disclose the news ahead of an inspector general's report that was critical of the agency's actions.
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