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IRS scandal spotlighted in DC this week

Pressure on the IRS is mounting.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., argues that Washington played a role in the IRS scandal. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., argues that Washington played a role in the IRS scandal.

Pressure on the IRS is mounting.

Congress on Monday is slated to hold its fourth hearing on the tax collection agency’s targeting of conservative groups prior to the 2012 election.

On the hot seat in front of a House Appropriations subcommittee for the first time will be the IRS’s new acting commissioner Daniel Werfel. Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George—who wrote the damaging report saying Tea Party groups were being given extra scrutiny—will also testify.

Werfel, who was tapped by President Obama to repair the IRS’s image,  is likely to discuss what the agency is doing differently in light of the targeting. He was previously the controller of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The hearing comes as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is arguing that the Obama administration was involved in the IRS scandal. Over the weekend, the Republican lawmaker from California released partial transcripts of interviews with IRS employees from Cincinnati, insisting they proved a link.

In one part of the interview, the IRS employee—when asked if a supervisor gave any indication why a search for conservative groups was needed—said “He told me that Washington D.C. wanted some cases.” In another part, the unidentified employee says he/she was “taking all my direction” from the EO Technical,” which is the IRS Exempt Organization office in D.C.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who sits on the panel, released a statement ripping Issa’s claims Monday.

“So far, no witnesses who have appeared before the Committee have identified any IRS official is Washington DC who directed employees in Cincinnati to use ‘Tea Party’ or similar terms to screen applicants for extra scrutiny,” Cummings said. “Chairman Issa’s reckless statements today are inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting his investigation.”

President Obama has said he was unaware of the IRS’s practice and has promised to hold other IRS officials accountable. The revelations of the targeting last month led to the resignation of IRS commissioner Steven Miller and Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency's tax exempt and government entities division.

And the hearings are far from over.

The House Ways and Means committee is scheduled to hold their own hearing on the targeting Tuesday. Those hearings will feature members from conservative groups who received extra scrutiny. Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold another hearing with George.

A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will be released Tuesday showing the agency spent nearly $50 million on more than 200 employee conferences from 2010 to 2012. That includes shelling out $4 million for a conference for 2,600 mangers in Anaheim, Calif. three years ago—where employees stayed in suites that currently cost between $1,500 and $3,500 a night. The agency also spent $50,000 to produce two videos shown at one of the events, including one where employees learned the “Cupid shuffle” dance.