Issa: 'My Gut Tells Me That Too Many People Knew That This (IRS) Wrongdoing Was Going On'

By Susan Jones | June 3, 2013 | 6:38am EDT

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. holds up a document as he speaks to IRS official Lois Lerner at a House hearing on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo)

( - Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will try again this week to find out "how big the problem is" at the Internal Revenue Service.

A report due out on Tuesday will says that the IRS spent about $50 million on at least 220 conferences for thousands of employees between 2010 and 2012. And on another front, Issa says interviews with IRS employees indicate that the order to give different treatment to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status came from Washington, D.c.

"My gut tells me that too many people knew that this wrongdoing was going on before the election," Issa told "State of the Union With Candy Crowley" on Sunday.

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"And at least by some sort of convenient benign neglect allowed it to go on through the election, allowed these groups, these conservative groups, these, if you will, not friends of the president, to be disenfranchised through an election.

"Now, I'm not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it. But certainly people knew it was happening that could have done something and would have done something, I'm sure, if these had been progressive groups or groups that supported the president. That's what I think we know."

The Republican-led investigation won't end until "we're sure this couldn't happen again."

Issa said his committee's investigation is about transparency, not trying to smear the Obama administration:

"We're really more interested in fixing the IRS," Issa told Crowley.

"Look, do I have a belief that this administration doesn't seem to be able to control the various branches of government and that that's been a consistent problem whether it's at the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), whether it's at Labor, whether it's at Justice? Yes. I've seen that in multiple investigations.

"We've never tried to tie things to the president, tie things to the cabinet officers. What we've tried to do is get the kinds of transparency we were promised, which we're not getting. And then try to get the reforms that we need."

Issa's committee on Thursday will hear testimony from the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration on wasteful spending at IRS conferences.

The $50 million spent on conferences between 2010 and 2012 includes $4 million spent for an August 2010 gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates as it is supposed to do.

Instead, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 a night. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about "leadership through art," the House oversight committee said.

"One just might call it leadership through entertainment," Issa told Crowley.

Issa's committee also is trying to find out who at the IRS ordered inappropriate scrutiny for conservative tea party groups that applied for tax-exempt status. The trail leads back to Washington, D.C., he said.

The oversight committee has released portions of transcribed interviews between committee investigators and Cincinnati IRS employees in which IRS employees reject the White House’s claim that the targeting of tea party groups was merely work of “rogue” agents.

“As late as last week, the administration was still trying to say the [IRS targeting scandal] was from a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is that they were directly being ordered from Washington,” Issa told CNN.

Issa said one of the IRS agents "was so uncomfortable" with what was going on that the agent "asked for and got a transfer because...they wanted out of it."

All of the transcripts will be made public, he said.

Issa also called White House spokesman Jay carney a "paid liar" for blaming the IRS problems on "rogue" agents in Cincinnati.

"The reason the Lois Lerner tried to take the fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati,"  Issa said. "It's because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting (close) to proving it. We have 18 more transcribed interviews to do," Issa said.

"The president's spokesperson is saying whatever is convenient at the time, and the story changes. What we have is people coming in to transcribed interviews. They're saying under penalty of crimes that certain things are true. We have subpoenaed documents that would support that, that they say, e-mails that went back and forth."

Issa says agents in the Cincinnati office who gave heightened scrutiny to conservative organization "should have become whistleblowers. They should have done something on behalf of the American people.

The point of the hearing is to change the "culture at the IRS," Issa said. "They have to have checks and balances, but they also have to have that individual responsibility.

"If there's a rogue agent or if somebody orders someone to do something and it's wrong, you can't say I knew it was inappropriate and then not have told somebody like the IG. If the IG had been told I'm being ordered to do this, this investigation might have ended very differently."

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