Congressional Investigation into IRS Leads to White House

Investigation into the targeting of conservative tax-exempt organizations by the IRS has led to the doorstep of the White House and President Obama.

Visitor logs to the White House show that William Wilkins met with President Obama on April 23, 2012.  William Wilkins was the name of the leader of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.  President Obama appointed Wilkins to this position.

Previous testimony to Congress on the additional scrutiny of conservative organizations identified involvement of the Office of Chief Counsel.  Testimony showed that agents in the Cincinnati office of the IRS were told to send tax-exempt applications from conservative organizations to the Office of Chief Counsel for further review.

The testimony included that from retired IRS agent Carter Hull, who reported to Wilkins.  Hull indicated that Wilkins was one of those who gave him direction on how to select conservative organizations for what he deemed “unusual” additional questions and reviews of their tax-exempt applications.

White House visitor logs also show that Douglas Shulman met with President Obama numerous times around this period, including a meeting one day after Wilkins on April 24, 2012.  Shulman was the IRS Commissioner at the time.

While it is possible the William Wilkins noted in the White House visitor log is not the same William Wilkins appointed by President Obama, the timing of the meeting is suspicious.  On April 25, 2012, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel provided feedback on the criteria used to select tax-exempt applicants for further review, two days after Wilkins met with President Obama and one day after Shulman met with President Obama.

It is unusual that a person in Wilkins’ position would have a meeting with the President.  Typically, any direction to the IRS from the President would go to the IRS Commissioner, not the leader of the Office of Chief Counsel.  And the President had a meeting with IRS Commissioner Shulman one day after the meeting with Wilkins.  However, Wilkins was the only IRS leader at the time appointed by President Obama.

Although the additional scrutiny of conservative organizations had been happening for at least one year by the time Wilkins met with President Obama in April 2012, the additional feedback from Wilkins appears to have reinforced if not strengthened the selection criteria used to select conservative organizations.

A report by the Inspector General originally identified the targeting of conservative organizations by the IRS.  The report noted that the IRS focused on certain key words such as Tea Party.

Although the initial response to the report from IRS leadership pointed to rogue agents in the IRS’ Cincinnati field office, testimony on the matter pointed right back at IRS leadership in Washington, D.C., as having ordered the targeting of conservative organizations.  The additional layers of questions and reviews of applications for tax-exempt status from various conservative organizations led to delays of months if not years in the processing of those applications.  The alleged goal of those delays appears to have been to prevent those organizations from supporting opponents of President Obama and other Democrats in the November 2012 elections.

To date a spokesperson for the White House has indicated that they were not involved in the decision by the IRS to target conservative organizations for further review.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.