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. Legal Permit to Carry

    There goes plausible deniability...

    May 31, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. Robert

    As long as the sheep keep pointing fingers at each other ... but Bush did this ... no but the Dems did that ... putting party above country is what is gonna destroy the U.S. –Repub, Democrat, Bush, Obama ,,, doesn't matter, the 2 party system is bankrupt and if people don't wake up soon, well ... man what incredible ignorance ...

    May 31, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC


    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!
    What the hyper right fails to understand is that even if the Obama administration did all of the things that you want to accuse them of doing, they didn't break any laws. In fact, the AP stuff would have been illegal had the GOP not filibustered the Media Shield Law that the administration tried to pass.

    If you don't like what the administration did, then you can thank George W. Bush whose administration made it legal.

    May 31, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "There's no getting around what happened with this IRS scandal. It happened and there quite possibly will be more to be told."

    "IT" happened. What is "IT"? Hmmmm? This article isn't explaining anything away other than another attempt by the GOP/Teatrolls to pile on and manufacture an "IT" out of nothing. Yes, improper criteria were used, but does that mean it all leads back to Obama's desk? No, it doesn't, and these flailing attempts to generate conspiracy theories and the appearance that it does are pathetic and, ultimately, damaging to the processes we should be concerned about: finding out what ACTUALLY happened...what "IT" REALLY is...and then addressing it in a responsible manner. Fabricating tinfoil hatted conspiracy theories and making wild assumptions for which there is no evidence...or, like here, for which there is ample evidence contrary to the assumption...is NOT addressing these issues in a responsible manner. It's playing games and seeking political advantage for 2014 and 2016 and manufacture the campaign narratives for every GOPer/Teatroll in the country.

    May 31, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. J

    He had clearance to visit 157 times, but there are arrival records for only 11 visits. In other words, he did NOT visit the White House anywhere close to 157 times.

    May 31, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. rs

    Why, no, he didn't. The sign-in sheets at the White House lists 11 actual entries. More GOP lies- as usual.

    May 31, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Walter

    Love reading that liberal spin in these comments. Give it up libbies; you're party is toast next November.

    May 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. rs

    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.
    Please cite the statutes of the broken laws.
    The IRS is supposed to invesitgate 501 (c) 4 applicans. You think maybe groups called "Taxed Enough Already" might warrant a closer look? I do.

    Meanwhile check out the laws regarding divulging secret information, and the USA PATRIOT Act (created by Republican John Ashcroft when Attorney General for Bush). I think you'll find no laws broken there either.

    Lastly- There is no Benghazi cover-up. Just the usual GOP denial of reality-AND more leaking of sensitive data on their part to make-up a story.

    May 31, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. cw

    rs1201, if you can offer proof that Obama has something to do with the targeting of conservative groups, please provide it...

    May 31, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. rs

    Let me guess and out of those 157 visits, the subject of targeting the conservative groups never came up once..... not once!

    If you believe that you are drinking too much of the party kool-aid. Don't blame the news people. Use common sense.
    Perhaps only IF 157 meetings acually happened. They did not. Just more conspiracy theory from the crazy Right.

    May 31, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Jules

    Pushover – where in this article state that Shulman was overseeing not for profit applications? Nowhere. He was the head of the IRA at the time and the Affordable Care Act will add additional work load to the IRS. My guess he was there to talk about exactly what he said he went there to talk about.

    May 31, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. Cam

    The IRS will be the "enforcer" of Obamacare.....No thanks.

    May 31, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Complete ignorance

    Conspiracy nuts please take your medication. Please exit stage left. The American public has moved on. They weren't "targeted" and I wish the media would stop using that term. Yes, they were inappropriately categorized for further scrutiny due to their potential political activities which is against the rules of being eligible for a 501(c). The names of these organizations are highly suspect for being politically affiliated to anyone with at least one eye. Back to the conspiracy drawing board...

    May 31, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    Gerneal William T Sherman described journalists as spies, since they"....hang around camp, talk to the shirkers and malingerers, and publish camp rumors as facts." He was convinced if he killed them all, there would be news from Hell before breakfast. Journalists who publish information that is dangerous to national security without considering the consequences are grossly irresponsible, and to hide behind the Bill of Rights does not excuse the damage they cause. In a time of bitter partisanship, the Fourth Estate needs to ask how much they should be shaping events, instead of reporting on them. Murdoch and NewsCorp are part of that ammoral mindset, but are by no means the only offenders.

    May 31, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Pete in Guilford

    "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."

    The system WAS working. The Inspector General had already been investigating this for almost a year—and Darryl Issa knew about the investigation last summer. All of a sudden, THIS YEAR, the GOP/TP/Issa make a big deal about it to make political hay. Nothing to see here except the IRS doing its job—and right wing obstruction.

    May 31, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Bribarian

    Obama was in on it all along I guess

    May 31, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  17. UDidntBuildThat

    You people do realize it was the IRS head that stated he went to the WH 157 times and he never denied that fact to be false?
    Everything that happened under Bush was his fault. Even when it was not him. When FEMA fell down it's job. Bush got the Blame. When any agency in his admin did something wrong, it was Bush's fault. The media and the Democrats (yes that is redundant), saw to it that everything was his fault.
    Along came Obama and now his admin is not responsible for anything. And the sheeps/low information voters who cannot think for themselves just sit there waiting for their marching orders fr the press on when to be outraged. This is tyranny pure and simple!

    May 31, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  18. AZ Girl

    Ok, it was NOT "targeting" it was searching/data mining using key "filter" words. It happens everyday in business by 1,000 of people as a TOOL to do their JOB more efficiently and effectively. It was their JOB to screen the applications. 10 to 1 they had "filter" words for liberal groups too. But you won't hear Issa mention that I bet.

    I dare anyone to use Google without search words. Just try the "I feel lucky" button, see the results...

    May 31, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Walter

    The IRS targeted organizations and individuals for political reasons, and shared information with third parties. These are proven facts that the IRS has also admitted to. It doesn’t matter if the actors responsible are low level bureaucrats or not, we need to find those responsible for this betrayal of the public’s trust. Even if you don’t mind that the IRS targeted groups whose ideology you don’t agree with, I’m sure you would mind if they came after you for your political beliefs. We elect our government and we cannot tolerate unequal treatment.

    May 31, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. rufus

    Where there is smoke, there's fire. And, Obama is still smoking.

    May 31, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "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."

    Democrats have made plenty of proposals. Republicans have made NONE. They have spent all of their time on passing symbolic legislation to restrict abortion and contraception access and voting to repeal the ACA THIRTY SEVEN TIMES, even tho they know it's beating a dead horse. Obama and Dems have consistently made concessions to the GOP in hopes of getting compromise, but the GOP flinches away at the last second when they realize they've been trapped into agreeing. Obama constantly takes heat from the liberal base for doing thigns like including chained CPI adjustments to SS payments in his budget or failing to push hard enough for single-payer health care.

    You want to know what's the most dangerous thing to this country's politics and governance? The outrageous laziness exhibited by those whose knee-jerk response to every issue is "both sides are the same and are doing the same thing" and the MSM who promotes that perception because it helps bolster their controversy narratives. Nobody who has educated themselves on what Obama and each party in Congress has actually been doing could make your claims with a straight face. Nobody.

    May 31, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Sniffit

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

    Did President Romney tell you that?

    May 31, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Seth A Drekin

    I take it someone has never heard of Occam's razor?

    May 31, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    That's the tally I read. From more than one source, I might add.

    You have to ask........what all that was really about?

    May 31, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. lindylou123

    The real scandal is that these political groups get any kind of tax break! The law reads 'exclusively' for social issues work – somehow the word got changed to 'primarily' social issues work in the late 50's so the IRS has been breaking the law by giving tax exempt status to any organization, especially these right wing PACs who do not divulge their donors and who are certainly not doing anything for social causes. Get over it, right wing- its your lies again

    May 31, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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