There is serious waste and abuse at the Internal Revenue Service, Rep. Charles Boustany tells Newsmax TV. "We're going to root it out, and we're going to put a stop to it."
Boustany, R-La., is chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, which has jurisdiction over the IRS and is investigating the reports of how the agency treated the conservative groups.
The Treasury Department's inspector general also released a new report that shows the IRS spent $50 million on 220 conferences in three years. One conference alone, in which IRS officials enjoyed luxury hotel rooms, cost taxpayers $4 million.
Boustany said he asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew earlier this year whether further waste could be eliminated from the department and the IRS in particular, since it was asking for $1 billion more in resources.
"Of course, he said no," Boustany said. "This is also in the same timeframe when we found this production studio that's costing the taxpayer $4 million a year. We found a 'Star Trek' video, the 'Gilligan's Island' video, and now this dance video."
Turning to the investigation of the targeting of conservative groups, Boustany tells Newsmax that employees in the Cincinnati office, where the abuses were reported to have centered, have been interviewed and documents are being reviewed.
"We know there are deep, deep problems at the IRS with serious abuse," he said, with "mismanagement across the board, and egregious intimidation tactics that were used with a number of these groups as well as private, personal donor tax information that's been released in violation of federal law."
Despite initial claims by the IRS that the targeting was performed by low-level staffers in Cincinnati, Boustany said he believes people in Washington were aware, including former Commissioner Douglas Shulman and former Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.
"Now, we were still trying to connect all those dots in making the leak into the White House or over at the Treasury," Boustany said. "We have to do this very thorough investigation and we are committed to doing it."
Rather than abolishing the IRS, Boustany suggests rewriting the tax code. "We need to simplify this tax code, make it fair for the taxpayer, make it easy to comply," he said. "And we also need to make sure that the code is written in a way so that you cannot get these complex fraudulent schemes that occur within the tax code, making it difficult for the IRS to administer."
Boustany called "troublesome" the actions by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she solicited support for a pro-Obamacare group. Sebelius has called the actions legal, even though her agency regulates the organizations she solicited.
"This strikes me as a clear overreach in abuse on the part of the secretary to target organizations, entities that she potentially is regulating to get money," he said. "It really comes close to something that looks like, potentially, extortion."
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