WH to Rev. Franklin Graham: Obama will ‘Hold People Accountable’ for IRS Scandal
(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to concerns from the Rev. Franklin Graham regarding audits of two Graham-affiliated organizations, in light of revelations over the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting conservative groups and delaying their applications for tax-exemption status.
Franklin Graham is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, named for his legendary father, and the family’s international humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse. The IRS notified the two organizations in September it was conducting a review of their activities for the 2010 tax year.
Graham, in a letter to Obama on Tuesday asked, “Will you take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America’s history – repressive government rule?”
Carney responded to a question about the letter.
“Well, I can tell you that that the president will reassure Americans that he will insist that every step be taken to hold people accountable, for the failures that are documented in the inspector general’s report, A, and B, that action be taken so that the inappropriate conduct not occur again,” Carney said.
“The kind of criteria that were used never be used again because it’s entirely inappropriate," he said, "because it is so essential for the American people to believe that the IRS is enacting our tax laws in a way that is fair and impartial and neutral.”
The Rev. Billy Graham endorsed Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race.
The criteria used by the IRS Tax Exempt Organization office, based in Cincinnati, targeted organizations with words such as “tea party,” “patriot” and “9/12” in their name. IRS officials apologized Friday for the practice, but insisted it was not politically motivated.
On Tuesday, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said that starting in 2010 the IRS “allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for 18 months.” This resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications for tax-exempt status and unnecessary requests to be issued to the applying groups.
Obama and other Democrats have sought to distance themselves from the IRS scandal, calling it unacceptable. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are expected to hold hearings.
The IG report further said, “During interviews with Determinations Unit specialists and managers, we could not specifically determine who had been involved in creating the criteria. EO [Exempt Organization] function officials later clarified that the expanded criteria were a compilation of various Determinations Unit specialists’ responses on how they were identifying Tea Party cases.”
In the letter to Obama, Graham said, “While these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices. I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’”
The review involved an IRS agent visiting the two Graham agencies in October seeking in North Carolina to obtain information about the organization’s advocacy for a state constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only between one man and one woman.
Graham’s organizations maintained their federal tax exemption, but were not told until after the November election. Graham supplied a copy of the letter to Politico, which first reported it on Tuesday.