Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.) repeatedly dodged Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace’s questions about whether he could explain the IRS’ targeting of 100 percent of conservative-named groups last year compared to just 30 percent of liberal or progressive ones.
President Obama gave what Wallace called a “clean bill of health” to the agency when he was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday, saying there wasn’t even a “smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS. This week, former official Lois Lerner was held in contempt by the House Oversight committee for refusing to testify at two panel hearings, and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) was accused of prompting the IRS to investigate a conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status in 2012.
Then Sunday, Levin repeatedly ducked Wallace as he asked him to explain J. Russell George’s findings.
“How do you explain that disparity?” Wallace asked.
“First of all, the inspector general left out the information in this report that there were liberal groups,” Levin said. “You know, the document that we were given to look over, it said this on the top. The following document contains confidential tax reform information and is being provided to you for review. Any subsequent unauthorized disclosure of this content is prohibited by law and is punishable by fine or imprisonment, so what happens is the chairman gives us the material. We can look at it for one day. Take no notes, and then we go into executive session and we violate the confidentiality of the taxpayers.”
Wallace replied that was an interesting answer, but that it didn’t answer his question. Levin went off on another tangent that didn’t go to the heart of Wallace’s query but did mention the Koch brothers, the obsession of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).
“More tea party groups and conservative groups applied for 501 (c)(4) status than other groups,” he said. “In 2006, of the 501 (c)(4) organizations, only $1 million was spent on election campaign stuff. In 2012, $256 million and two of the organizations were Koch brother organizations and a third was Karl Rove.”
But Wallace again said that didn’t explain the huge disparity in targeting between liberal and conservative groups, asking him for a third time to explain that:
SANDER LEVIN: Look, this is what the Attorney General is looking into.
WALLACE: It’s been looking into it for a year, sir.
LEVIN: The president called for an examination by the Attorney General. They are looking into that. We should not disrupt that by essentially having a secret session.
WALLACE: Do you think the president disrupted it when he said there wasn’t a smidgeon of corruption? Do you think that was right for the president to say?
LEVIN: I’ll tell you what he was talking about. The first hearing that we had, the chairman of the committee said there was a culture of corruption and administration interference. There’s been zero evidence that the White House has anything to do with what happened.
WALLACE: The question has nothing to do with the White House. The question had to do with there is any corruption. He basically gave the IRS a clean bill of health when the investigation was still going on. But you bring up a good point.
LEVIN: That is what is — look.
WALLACE: That was the question asked by Bill O’Reilly at the Super Bowl. I watched the interview.
LEVIN: I know, and I heard it. The corruption charge related way back to the administration and whether they were involved in this. Republicans tried to tie the White House to this. There was zero evidence.