The IRS and the White House: Oh-So-Intimate? Not Exactly

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July 7, 2013; Forbes


In an attempt to show that the administration and the IRS were conspiring to target conservative social welfare groups, some enterprising reporters took the time to look at the logs for White House clearance for meetings to check for anything unusual. David Ungar of Forbes writes that the conservative Daily Caller published at the end of May that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times during his tenure, “more visits to the White House than ‘even the most trusted members of the president’s cabinet.’” The article in the Daily Caller even featured a credible looking chart. This prompted Bill O’Reilly to follow up with a demand that Mr. Shulman “explain under oath what [he was] doing at the White House on 157 separate occasions.”

Ungar, citing an article by Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic, suggests that it would be silly for an honest reporter to infer much from this. O’Reilly’s call for an accounting is unnecessary because

“[T]he public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that…Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama’s director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That’s 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.”

The IRS, of course, will have a major role in enforcing the mandate and penalty provisions of Obamacare, so someone from leadership at the IRS would have to be involved.

Ungar goes on to say that just because Shulman was cleared for those meetings does not mean he actually attended them; Franke-Ruta’s analysis of the sign-in/sign-out records “suggests that Mr. Shulman signed in for just 11 events during the years 2009 through 2012 and signed out of 6 events during that same time frame.”

Shulman, of course, was asked about his frequent visits by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). Although he denied talking to anyone about the IRS’s tax exemption rules, he did attribute one of those visits to the White House’s annual Easter egg roll.—Ruth McCambridge