Politics & Government

Senate panel continues probe of Lerner, IRS

Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2014
Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2014 AP

The Senate Finance Committee won’t release a final report on the Internal Revenue Service’s inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations this year and will do so only after the panel’s leadership switches party positions next year, its top Democrat and Republican said Friday.

In a joint statement, Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and the top Republican, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, said they won’t conclude their report until after hearing from a special investigator, and will release their report next year when Republicans head the panel.

They’re awaiting a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which is conducting its own probe into how the IRS lost emails belonging to Lois Lerner. She was the head of the Exempt Organizations division, and is the protagonist in the ongoing scandal, claiming her hard drive crashed and destroyed emails covering the period of scrutiny in question.

TIGTA itself is at the center of the controversy since it all began when Lerner, trying to get ahead of a forthcoming release of a May 14, 2013, report from TIGTA, answered a planted question at an industry conference and admitted to inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“Though we are in the final states of finishing our bipartisan report, TIGTA has yet to release its findings regarding the lost Lois Lerner e-mails at the IRS,” the pair said. “Given our commitment to ensuring a complete and thorough investigation into this issue, we will review TIGTA’s findings concerning the missing data before we release a report,

Importantly, the two also said in their statement that TIGTA “has been able to recover some forensic data which may include documents the IRS believed were missing. This data may include emails to and/or from Lois Lerner which could be material to the investigation.”

They added that TIGTA plans to assess whether this data can be converted into a readable format and then produce the materials for the multiple ongoing probes of the IRS.

Wyden and Hatch said that committee investigators have interviewed more than 30 current or past IRS and Treasury employees, and looked at more than 1 million pages of documents.

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