House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa on Wednesday displayed a string of emails showing his failed efforts to get an update from the Treasury Department inspector general’s office about its investigation into the IRS practice of targeting conservative groups who sought tax-exempt status.
Emails seeking the information date back to September 2012, six weeks before the November election.
At that point, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration had promised an update.
Based on other evidence provided to the committee, the inspector general was aware of the IRS practice of targeting conservative groups with names that included “Tea Party” and “Patriot” and “9/12.”
Inspector General J. Russell George told Issa’s panel he withheld the information because he feared lawmakers would leak it to the public.
“When information is conveyed to the Hill, it is not aways retained by the Hill,” George testified Wednesday.
The stalling tactics were displayed in writing during the hearing Wednesday.
“Field work on this audit is still ongoing,” was the Sept. 24 response from the inspector general, when oversight committee staff requested a briefing.
The correspondence continued for months. In December, Oversight aides sent another request for information.
“Any update on this?” an Issa staffer asked on Dec. 18.
Two days later, an IG employee apologized for the delay, explaining “I was studying for and then taking a final.”
The IG employee wrote that an exhaustive audit was underway, including a review of more than 600 cases.
“We will be able to offer a substantive briefing, i.e. the facts, findings and recommendations and outcomes, by March,” the employee said in an email to Issa’s panel.
Oversight committee staff again asked for a briefing on Feb. 20 and got this response to no avail
“We are leaving no stone unturned as part of our due diligence," the IG responded. "As such, we won’t be able to provide a detailed, substantive briefing until late April/early May.”
The findings of the audit were eventually revealed by the IRS in a staged question at a tax forum, but Issa believes the IG was legally obligated to tell Congress much sooner and said so in a letter to George sent in August 2012.
At that time, Issa told George that the Inspector General Act requires that he report “particularly flagrant problems” to Congress within seven days.