Claims of political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service are flooding into the House Ways and Means Committee, bolstered by evidence that includes secretly recorded conversations with IRS officials.
Ways and Means has created a website inviting Americans who believe they were targeted to share their stories, and among the information being forwarded to committee investigators are surreptitious recordings of interviews with the IRS. The recordings and other evidence are coming from conservatives who believe they were subjected to tax audits because of their political activism, or from members of conservative groups who believe their organizations' requests for tax-exempt status was subjected to extra scrutiny.
Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, a member of Ways and Means, confirmed to The Washington Examiner on Thursday that the evidence being sent to the committee includes secret recordings with IRS officials. This information comports with legal sources who have clients who believe they were targeted by the IRS because they are politically active conservatives who opposed President Obama's re-election.
A Treasury Department inspector general report has found, and the IRS has acknowledged, that conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status were wrongly, and possibly illegally, singled out for extra scrutiny. But Tiberi said Ways and Means is receiving complaints through its website, and members are hearing stories from their constituents, of IRS audits of business and personal taxes that those affected believe occurred because they were politically active conservatives in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
"It's just the beginning," Tiberi said in an interview. "We have investigators that are going to be in charge of this; figuring out what's real and what's not real."
Tiberi added that Ways and Means investigators have to figure out which of the reports might be purely coincidental or impossible to prove and which are real.
Legal sources say that that there are instances of individuals who secretly recorded their conversations with the IRS as a precaution, but were afraid to go public with the recordings for fear of retribution. This changed after the IRS acknowledged the unlawful targeting and both Congress and Obama reacted with outrage and vows to clean up any wrong doing at the nation's tax administration agency.
Tiberi said the stories he's heard directly from constituents and friends back in Ohio range from a businesswoman who believes that the 15 businesses she owns were audited for the first time ever after she pushed a nonpartisan organization to which she belonged to endorse Republican John Kasich in the 2010 governor's race, to a talk show host who believes his taxes were subject to an aggressive audit because he criticized Obama's health care reforms on his show.
In fact, Tiberi said in a recent speech he delivered to the Ripon Society that this talk show host claims to have secretly recorded a conversation with an IRS agent involved in auditing him. Tiberi said Thursday that he is following up with the host's congressman as he pursues this.
Judging by the volume of complaints coming into Ways and Means as described by Tiberi, it appears that the investigation into the IRS by the committee alone could take several months. Ways and Means spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart said the committee is encouraging Americans who believe they were unfairly targeted to speak out and help Congress determine what happened and who was affected.
"It is critical that we hear from all affected parties," she said. "This website is an important tool so the committee can gather all the facts and work to restore the trust and faith that Americans should have in their government."