Democrats: Inspector's Audit on IRS 'Fundamentally Flawed'

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 11:05 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Two Democratic lawmakers want an investigation into a federal auditor who accused the Internal Revenue Service of gross mismanagement and targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny, saying that the inspector general's audit was flawed.

Virginia Rep. Gerald Connolly and Pennsylvania Rep. Matthew Cartwright, filed a complaint late last week with the special watchdog council investigating the IRS to question Treasury Department inspector general J. Russell George's independence, The Washington Post reports.

They say that George, a member of the watchdog council, produced a "fundamentally flawed performance audit" that was "incomplete" and "outright misleading." Connolly and Cartwright, who are both key Democrats on House oversight committees, said George met with Republican members of the House oversight committee, without Democrats knowing.

George refused comment about the meetings, but stood behind his findings on the IRS. The inspector general's report, released last May, revealed the IRS used inappropriate criteria to review Tea Party organizations and other groups.

The filed complaint came after a letter from Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and Connolly to George suggested he narrowed the scope of the investigation after meeting with Republicans on the oversight committee, which is led by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Cummings serves as the ranking Democrat on the panel and Connolly is top Democrat on one of the subcommittees.

Connolly and Cummings voiced similar complaints last summer, as Democrats claimed George may be politically biased, having served earlier in his career for a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and President George H.W. Bush, before being appointed to his current role by President George W. Bush.

"This is a Republican-appointed inspector general. This is someone who has donated and worked for prominent Republicans. Are we as Democrats and the public to believe that he is objective and simply followed the truth where it leads?" Connolly asked last summer.

Critics also say the IRS investigation focused on a "lookout" list targeting groups with conservative names while ignoring older lists with terms associated with progressive themes.

George's audit targeted six federal probes and changes in the IRS' leadership, along with new guidelines about allowing tax exempt statuses for certain groups.

Connolly and Cartwright's complaint has been sent to three members of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, including Joseph Campbell, an official with the FBI’s criminal investigation division; Beth Colbert, deputy director of management for the White House Office of Management and Budget; and Phyllis K. Fong, the Department of Agriculture inspector general.

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