WASHINGTON—A key House committee subpoenaed documents from the Obama administration Friday after the GOP chairman accused the Internal Revenue Service of obstructing its investigation into the tax agency's targeting of conservative groups.
"The IRS has engaged in a systematic effort to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the committee's investigation," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
"That is not true," the IRS's acting chief, Danny Werfel, told Issa at a hearing on Friday of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I remain committed to working with the Congress and the ongoing investigations, and to restoring public trust in our nation's tax system."
Werfel said by the end of the day Friday, the IRS will have given more than 16,000 pages of documents to Issa's committee and more than 70,000 pages to Congress as a whole. Werfel said some documents are blacked out to protect confidential taxpayer information.
Unlike the congressional tax-writing committees, Issa's panel cannot legally receive documents with taxpayer information. Werfel said the IRS is handing over all requested documents to those House and Senate tax panels, although those committees have also complained that the IRS is producing documents too slowly.
Among other documents, Issa's panel has subpoenaed "all communications sent or received" by Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS' exempt organizations' division, and by Holly Paz, IRS director of rulings and agreements.
Also on Friday, the top two lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, released an interim report on that panel's investigation of the IRS controversy. The report reaches no conclusions, but the two senators said in a joint statement, "The IRS needs to be more cooperative in providing us with the documents needed to fully carry out this investigation."
The three committees have been investigating IRS handling of tax-exempt applications since May. That's when the Treasury's inspector general released an audit finding that IRS employees in the agency's Cincinnati office developed and implemented "inappropriate criteria"—using terms like "tea party," "patriot," and "9/12"—as triggers that sent those applications into a lengthy, burdensome review process.
Since then, new information has shown that progressive groups were also put on an IRS watch list, although Republicans say they were not subjected to the same protracted and intrusive scrutiny as tea party groups.