Did IRS chief really visit White House 157 times?
May 31st, 2013
12:30 PM ET
1 year ago

Did IRS chief really visit White House 157 times?

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET on Friday 5/31

(CNN) – In the early days of President Barack Obama's sweeping new health care law, Douglas Shulman, then the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, was cleared to visit the White House 157 times over three years, official visitor logs show.

More than 50 of Douglas Shulman's scheduled visits are described as "health care meetings" or "health care reform meetings," according to the visitor logs. Arrival times are only listed for 11 of his visits, and it's not unusual for a person to appear on the visitor logs - which are derived from Secret Service clearance lists - without actually having visited the White House. The majority of the visits were set to be held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses office suites for administration aides.

The IRS, which has come under fire for its admitted targeting of conservative groups applying to become tax exempt, is responsible for enforcing many of the new rules associated with Obamacare, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

Official White House visitor logs show Shulman's scheduled White House visits came between October 2009 and December 2012. Shulman was appointed by President Bush in 2008 and left the post in November 2012. On Fox News Thursday, Shulman's predecessor Mark Everson stated he'd only visited the White House once during his tenure as IRS commissioner, though visitor logs for the Bush administration aren't available publically online.

According to an inspector general report from earlier this May, March 2010 was the month IRS agents began filtering applications for tax-exempt status using the words "tea party" and "patriot." The agency experienced a flood of new applications after the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that opened the door to increased corporate and private political spending.

Of Shulman's meetings recorded in the visitor logs, 40 listed his "visitee" as Nancy Ann DeParle, who acted as the director of the White House Office of Health Reform until 2011, when she moved into the role of deputy chief of staff for policy. Fifty-four visit records list Sarah Fenn as Shulman's "visitee." Fenn is listed as a staff assistant in 2010 White House salary records. In 2011 she's described as "assistant counsel of ethics."

Five visits listed Obama as the "visitee."

The president's health care law created a massive new workload for the IRS, which is charged with issuing and enforcing rules related to Obamacare. The agency's tasks include collecting information for employers and insurers; figuring out who qualified for subsidies or Medicaid, determining who must pay a penalty for not obtaining insurance, and penalizing employers that don't provide affordable coverage to their employees.

"Tax provisions included in the Affordable Care Act represent the largest set of tax law changes the IRS has had to implement in more than 20 years," the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration noted in a recent report.

The ACA has some 500 provisions, and more than 40 amend or add provisions to the tax code, according to the report.

In congressional testimony earlier this month, Shulman was quizzed on his visits to the White House. He attributed one visit to taking his children to the annual Easter egg roll hosted by the president and first lady, but said at no point did he talk to anyone at the White House about the agency's tax exempt rules. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney backed up that claim last week, saying "An IRS commissioner appropriately has - or his designees have - meetings on matters of policy all the time, but not discussions about enforcement or applications for tax exempt status."

Speaking in separate testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Shulman said that he was aware of some aspects of his agency's targeting of conservative groups in the spring of 2012, and took what he called the correct action of ensuring the situation would be independently reviewed.

But he denied full awareness of what was happening at the time, saying subordinates failed to inform him of the details.

Top White House officials say they knew nothing of the targeting when it occurred. General Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler learned of the pending inspector general's report on April 24, 2013, according to Carney. She later informed other top Obama aides, including chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Carney insisted no one - including Ruemmler and McDonough - told Obama anything about the inspector general's pending report before media reports about it began appearing on May 10.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.


Filed under: IRS • White House
soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    -Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Why do democrats love to use derogatory remarks?
    ****************
    You are actually asking that question, in light of your own derogatory nick? Step back, take a good look at your own remarks and ask yourself if you have been willing to ask a question without slipping in some kind of nasty comment?
    Are you actually capable of it?

    May 31, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. NameTodd A

    Seriously America aren't you getting tired of all the ridiculous lies as if we're to dumb to know what is obvious, all the free passes the media has given this jerk, all the blaming everyone else. So tired of this guys mouth, divided everyone on everything, and had to cheat,lie and smear and be santa clause to his group to get elected, the guy is hilariously embarrassing, so not capable of being commander and chief

    May 31, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. lottie

    who cares how many times. Maybe the congress should follow his lead and show up once in a while themselves. Get a life

    May 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. 1108

    jboh.....You need to do a little research before you post. There's a lot more than just the GOP not happy with the DOJ and the IRS.

    May 31, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. mixnmatch

    Anyone interested in commenting on the IRS controversy should at least take the time to read the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's report on the matter. (If you search for Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report, it should be early in the results.) If you read the report and you still believe that this was engineered by the White House, one of the following is true: you have difficulty with processing what you read, you have other wonderful characteristics, but logic is not one of them, you are clairvoyant, or you were the basis for Mel Gibson's character in the movie "Conspiracy Theory". I have a great deal of cynicism towards the government and the motives of some of our representatives, but with the current information available, it seems fairly clear that this was bureaucratic bumbling at its finest. Is it within realms of the imagination that a President would use the IRS for political purposes? Of course. There's strong evidence that has happened in the past. But if you read the report, it's even harder to imagine that it was the case in this instance.

    (For those who have not seen "Conspiracy Theory", Gibson's character is mentally unhinged and sees a conspiracy in everything. One of the theories turns out to be true. However, it's not because the character actually knows anything relevant. It's like a broken clock that's eventually right at some point during the day.)

    May 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. fishy obama

    hummmm ... sounds fishy .... something rotten in denmark ... where there is smoke there is fire ....

    May 31, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Democrats have no idea what "FAIR" is.

    May 31, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. NameTodd A

    Impeach the jerk, guy is annoying since his famous I didn't say the cops are stupid I said they acted stupidly, I mean really, this is the 44th.president of US. It's like the worlds gone kookoo and daffy duck is in charge, da doo da doo that's all folks, he's seriously a cartoon character

    May 31, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    If you don't have a problem with Bush and republicans squandering a $250 billion surplus, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with the dlapidated conditions and the neglect of our Veterans at Walter Reed, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with republicans slashing $75 million to take 120,000 homeless Veterans off the Streets, don't complain
    if you don't have a problem with teapugs slashing the GI bill to continue tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with teapugs cutting meals on wheels and dire domestic programs for our most vulnerable citizens, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with teapugs fillibustering the most jobs bills and legislations in U.S. history, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with teapugs deliberate roadblocks and efforts to hamper the recovery, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with teapublicans hoping for the unemployment rate to increase, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with the divisivenes by teapugs and their war on Women,Gays and Lesbians, Seniors, Muslims, Hispanics, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with teapugs divising our country and calling for secession and civil war, don't complain.

    May 31, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Michael Porter

    Yes he did visit the Whit House 157 time, you can spin it anyway you want

    May 31, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. Marcel Moreno

    What offends me the most about people (including the media) that somehow defend, justified or rationalize what the IRS did, is that they, like in this article, view this as the targeting of Republicans, and not as the targeting of Americans and their believes. This is an attack on Americans, and it should be repudiated as such.

    May 31, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. thinking outside the box

    Sniffit,

    "Give it up libbies; you're party is toast next November."

    Did President Romney tell you that?

    ________________________________________________

    LOL! I have to say that is your post of the day! It made sifting through everything worth while. Thanks! :-)

    May 31, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. Bud

    If anyone really thinks the President was involved in this, you just hate you fat wife and gay son. President's are only involved in the really important schemes.

    May 31, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Fred Phred

    Man berated for doing his job! Details at 11 !!

    So he goes to meetings and it's a problem. My guess is, if he skips the meetings he's a loafer? Is that it?

    May 31, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. glorydays

    It's time the President own the behavior of those who serve him.

    May 31, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Rationalintn

    I really don't get it. There is no requirement or law that says a group HAS to ask permission from the IRS to form a 501(c)4 in the first place. Why were these tea party groups asking big government for permission, when they didn't have to? Pure comedy, I guess. I had a lawyer start a 501(c)4 for me, never asked the IRS.

    May 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  17. The Reader

    Seems to me the Secret Service would have better things to do than clearance a bunch of people that didn't show up. It makes no sense that they were clearing people just for the heck of it.

    May 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain

    Yesterday I heard right-wing shock-jock Mark Levin rant on about Shulman's frequent White House visits as "proof" of President Obama's nefarious plot to target tea troll groups. Since I have a brain that works, I immediately figured out that the visits were because of the IRS' role in Obamacare – the very role the tea trolls have been complaining and spreading lies about!

    The idiocy and cognitive disconnect of the right-wing base never ceases to astound me!

    BTW, as I've posted in the past, while clumsy in execution, the intention of the IRS to check out all these tea trolls groups applying for 501(c)(4) status makes complete sense:

    "Tea" stands for "taxed enough already," and these folks have demonstrated again and again their unwillingness to pay for our nation's infrastructure and societal benefits they so blithely enjoy. They also have nothing but contempt for our government (ditto again on taking it for granted; I suggest they all move to Somalia to gain some perspective). So OF COURSE they are going to try to defraud the IRS and claim they are somehow "social welfare organizations" when what they do is mostly funnel money to political candidates who promote their agenda.

    I hope the IRS finishes the audits against the tea troll groups; I'm betting a very large percentage are in violation of the 501(c)(4) rules.

    May 31, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    1108 wrote:

    jboh.....You need to do a little research before you post. There's a lot more than just the GOP not happy with the DOJ and the IRS.
    -----------
    You're right. Besides the GOP, there's the right, the far right, the extreme right, and the hyper right.

    May 31, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. Anonymous Bob

    The fact that the IRS head went to the White House 157 proves nothing about what he might have told the Obama administration with regards to targeting, but it also doesn't disprove such information sharing, and Shulman certainly had the opportunity to pass info about targeting to a number of White House officials.

    After watching Shulman's testimony, I kinda got the feeling that he wasn't telling the truth and was trying to blow the whole thing off and was kinda "playing stupid". Shulman donated $500 to the DNC in the month before Bush was elected in 2004, but was put in charge of the IRS anyway.

    The IRS has a lot of power, and folks like me, who are democrats, don't like seeing the IRS target republicans as it means the system isn't fair. Anger over fairness in taxes was part of the cause of the revolutionary war, but it seems to be a pet issue for the Tea Party groups.

    Remember, that when the Tea Party first came into existence, some people figured it might become a third political party, maybe with a "T" after a politician's name instead of a D or R. So, I can both republicans and democrats turning a blind eye to harassment of the Tea Party years ago . . . but then the republicans had the Tea Partiers grafted on their coalition, so as the Tea Party when "mainstream" (as far as republicans are concerned), perhaps their targeting angers more Americans.

    Anyway, I'll be that 95% of democrats don't want Holder around before 2014. Personally, I'd hate to see democrats have to run with the whole Holder situation up in the air. In four months, after the public isn't "shocked" by the scandals, thought they will still be in the national interest, Holder will retire to spend time with family and avoid being a distraction.

    May 31, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    thinking outside the box
    Sniffit,

    "Give it up libbies; you're party is toast next November."

    Did President Romney tell you that?

    ****************
    I'm sure I'm not the only one – Democrat and Republican alike – who realizes that if Romney had been elected president (trying not to hurl as I type), we'd be at war with Syria/Hezbollah/Russia right now, with boots on the ground and Americans dying.

    And the Repubs would be using the expense to justify massive cuts to social programs (including Social Security, which is self-funded) and calling for tax cuts for the wealthy to boost the economy and "create jobs".

    Thank God enough Americans were smart enough to re-elect President Obama!

    May 31, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Dave

    Seems Obama and Holder suffer repeatedly from the Schultz syndrome...... I know NOTHING!!!!!

    May 31, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    @Fred Phred: "Man berated for doing his job! Details at 11 !! So he goes to meetings and it's a problem. My guess is, if he skips the meetings he's a loafer? Is that it?"

    Pretty much in tea troll land ...

    May 31, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  24. Fred Phred

    So this republican that was doing his job in the previous administration.. is now bad, because he is now meeting with Obama's staff.

    Do we have any reason to believe he wasn't meeting with Bush's staff at the same frequency?

    Well at least I know why I am able to be successful in this world. So many people who are confused by shiny objects and not keeping an eye on the big picture. Makes me thankful most people are brilliant.

    May 31, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  25. ugh

    I think this Administration has more tools than I have in my garage.....they just aren't functional however.

    May 31, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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