Did IRS chief really visit White House 157 times?
May 31st, 2013
12:30 PM ET
7 years 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. GOP Hate America

    meanwhile conservatives still dont have an answer on how work together and help to fix americas problems

    May 31, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Ryan

    What people are saying that if Bush did it then its fine with Obama doing it

    May 31, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. Getoverit

    "More than 50 of Douglas Shulman’s scheduled visits are described as “health care meetings” or “health care reform meetings,”
    Ok.... so.... 157 IS more than 50, so I guess this is another "Nothing to see here, move along".

    May 31, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    @Pam from Iowa. I couldn't have said it better myself. This kind of "Reporting" has gotten down right stupid...
    I'll co-sign that Babyboomer.
    Very well said Pam from Iowa.
    Journalism at its' very best...not.

    May 31, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Joep

    I zee natink, I nooo natink! ..president Sholtz

    May 31, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  6. rs1201

    Whether you're a republican or a democrat, if you really believe that obama and his administration had NOTHING to do with the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, the seizing of phone records of AP reporters, and the Benghazi coverup...then I have a very nice bridge to sell you...it's in Brooklyn!

    May 31, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. DocHollywood

    To the GOP: Trying to make "scandals" out of Benghazi, the IRS probes, the AP news subpoenas is not the way to becoming a relevant party once again. Sure, you'll rile up your base, get it howling once again. But your base is not near enough to make you a competing national party by a long shot. Here's a tip. Try working with the president in creating jobs, improving health care, getting truly substainable energy sources. Work to replace aging infrastructure, education, deal with immigration and hunger in America. Lead by caring, setting examples. Or stay in the dark ages by trying to tie x amount of visits by the IRS director to the White House to some non-existant scandal.

    May 31, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  8. James R Hoffa

    It is only going to take one visit to establish the connection between O'bomber and this IRS scandle, and then they are going to Lynch him.

    May 31, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. wade

    WHO cares what they were called on the books? Is anyone really that stupi*? Obama was involved it is crystal clear even to a blind man.

    May 31, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  10. Gary

    "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."

    He tried more, but every time he got there, no one was home. Hey Mark, did you try looking in Texas?

    May 31, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Tom

    And if the records showed Shulman visited the White House twice in three years, Republicans would be pounding their fists on the table claiming it was proof Obama was out of touch and should have been more involved with what was happening at the IRS. This is witch hunt politics pure and simple. Seriously, Shulman visited the White House 157 times to allegedly plot the destruction of the Republican party and the best they could come up with was to jerk around a handful of wacko Tea Party groups over tax exempt status? If Obama really wanted to use the IRS as a political weapon, I think he could have done a lot better than that. For starters, he could have left Mitt Romney's tax returns for the past decade on a park bench frequented by liberal journalists two weeks before the election. This is just more phony outrage over a phony scandal.

    May 31, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    My bud Rudy NYC wrote:
    Journalists across the board are a little peeved with the White House because of the AP phone stuff and the naming of journalist as a co-conspirator. So, don't expect too much for a while to come.

    What bothers me is this. If a government employee gives classified intel to a foreign national, both the employee and the foreigner would be guilty of espionage, or whatever. But. But, if the a government employee gives the same classified intel to a journalist, then that's not a crime. It's called a journalist doing his or her job
    It bothers me also Rudy.
    The First Ammendment does NOT give these so-called journalists and their media owners the right to put our national security at risk, nor display state and defense secrets on their front pages or lead-off stories.
    It is just like Snifit's been saying and we've all been suspecting: more viewership, more hits, more advertisment MORE MONEY for these media moguls. To hell with our country.

    May 31, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. shaundadon

    Under the Bush Admin public records of who visted the WH was never public information.

    May 31, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Logic N LA

    To fooislibs- read the article- in "early days of the healthcare debate" Then look at who administers the fines for the ACA- the IRS. No- they did not talk about targeting conservative groups. Further- the "targeting" took place after the Supreme Court ruling on United which allowed for secretive donations which lead to thousands of applications for 501.4 status.
    What I find most interesting is and was the need for conservatives to hide how much is given in their names and how many organization that were political tried for tax exempt status. Where's the outrage of that?

    May 31, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. Jen

    What I find interesting is that, while he may have had a valid reason for visiting the WH or other executive offices to dicuss Obamacare, he goes out of his way to make it appear to the congressional committe that he wasnt sure why he went to the WH. You would think that he would just say.."A majority of the visits I made to the WH and other executive offices was to discuss the implementation of the the Affordable Care Act." Instead he sarcastically says I was there for the easter egg hunt. Really? This makes me think he is hiding something. All politicians please remember the truth shall set you free (unless you are totally guilty).

    May 31, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |

    @ Pam
    So...do you care how many times Hunt Oil went to the White House or the "invade Iraq" and "secret" meetings occurred OR are you saying that what Bush' admin did was actually OK...I'm confused by your statement. either both White House are wrong or both are right???

    May 31, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    Lets see: why don't the conservatives demand the minutes of those meetings be released, since they are convinced that these 157 meetings were all strategy sessions designed to destroy them? Its the sloppiest kind of thinking when you reach a conslusion and work your way backwards to a question, but, what do you expect from the party that sees the world through an ideological prism? It makes reaching conclusions very easy, but finding the evidence and a thesis to fit their conclusion is a b**ch. However, that will not stop them from ignoring their jobs and responsibility to the nation, which becomes secondary to keeping the no-information voters ( FOX News) happy and whipped up into a frenzy.

    May 31, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. GaryB

    While I believe that profiling is wrong, people do have to understand that when it comes to enforcement, the IRS strategy has always been to go after the low hanging fruit. In their communications with supporters, many conservative, tea party-related 501c4 organizations stated that the removal of Obama, the reversal of Health Care reform, etc was one of their main priorities. On the surface, it would seem to indicate that these groups were primarily political in nature, and therefore unqualified for tax exempt status. So faced with a deluge of 501c4 applications, who is the IRS naturally going to go after? They're going to go after the types of groups that have already publicly stated that their business is politics (which would disqualify them from 501c4 status) regardless of what those groups privately put on their application forms. Since many of these groups tend to use the words "Patriot", "Tea Party", etc in their name, you can understand why the IRS would figure they'd be easy targets. I've actually known some people who work for the IRS, and if anything, I'd say that at least those folks working in management tend to be somewhat conservative in nature. But at the end of the day, their main job is to make certain that they don't miss a single available tax dollar, and they will use whatever shortcuts make it possible to accomplish their job.

    May 31, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  19. David

    Republicans are so desperate. The problem is, when you scream and holler about everything, you lose credibility. This all goes back to their desire to impeach Clinton. He fooled around with an intern. Nobody died. Did they try to impeach Bush for starting a war that has killed thousands? No. Like I said, Republicans have no credibility.

    As far as this: Obama had nothing more to do with this IRS scandal than did Rand Paul or Lindsey Graham. You know it. I know it.

    May 31, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. MNClownfactory

    The IRS was not instructed by the white house to target a specific group, BTW other groups with the name "Tea" and "Patriot" that are left leaning were also targeted. This is a big giant Cry Wolf by the Faux Noise crowd. It is sad that the IRS used such methods but lets face it an overwhelmingly LARGE group of organizations applying for NON TAXABLE status were GOP supporting groups after Citizens United passed. This is not an accident the GOP nut jobs like Dick Cheney, Koch brothers and many others pushed for this so THEY wouldnt have to pay taxes while supporting their own extremist right wing (Fascist) agenda. I want everyone to pay their taxes period including churches for that matter. I am against the ruling on Citizens Unitied, I don't believe for one second even half of these 501 c (4) organizations are doing ANY real social work for citizens. They are partisan hacks and have thier rich Clear Channel buddies making hay out of NOTHING. I say drop the whole subject and stop wasting tax payer money on yet another investigation that will come up empty AGAIN. Stop fighting ACA, you right wing nuts are bankrupting our government with your Tea Party hacks. Vote them all out America they are dividing this country and trying to bankrupt the government so businesses can do what ever they want.

    May 31, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. Bob Ramos

    I know he has children but that does not mean he is currently married. What if he visited 157 times? 200 times? 300 times? Maybe he has a sweetie there. If so, is that any of our business?

    May 31, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. gt

    1) so the IRS targets the administrations political enemies and that's ok with you people? They also tap phone lines of journalists and you're ok with that? I guess that's ok with you since they're not targeting you. And Obama had no idea any of this was going on? If that's so he's either clueless or incompetent.
    2) why do people on this site do nothing but defend Obama? I really don't get it. Doesn't matter what he does you don't care. I don't understand why. I do know that kind of thinking is a danger to our democracy.

    May 31, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Steves

    So, how many times did the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service visit other presidents? I'm no fan of this administration, but could this just be part of normal business?

    May 31, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. reader10

    He is above the law.Go ahead lie.
    You lied you go to jail.

    May 31, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. Unaffiliated

    "meanwhile conservatives still dont have an answer on how work together and help to fix americas problems"

    And that is the problem with both parties. Democrats blame Republicans, Republicans blame Democrats, and neither one is willing to give anything to find a middle ground. And of course, neither side is EVER wrong. Just like our good buddy quoted above. It's only the CONSERVATIVES that don't have an answer. Apparently the liberals get a pass on needing one?

    May 31, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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