Did IRS chief really visit White House 157 times?
May 31st, 2013
12:30 PM ET
9 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. Rosslaw

    Shulman is of course a Republican appointed IRS commissioner by President Bush, which in turn confirms in right-wing world that Shulman was targeting republicans. Got it?

    May 31, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. Truth Hurts

    A broken government is a working government. They don't call them Progressmen.

    May 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. QS

    LMAO! When conservatives get "outraged" over something, that's usually my first clue that it's not a big deal!

    I honestly hope that the remaining groups still awaiting their tax-exempt status are denied since that would be about the only protection against "Citizens United" we seem to have.

    May 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Marie MD

    NO political group should receive tax exempt status! Does anyone really believe that the koch brothers/faux news "grassroots" tea trolls party sprung overnight from people who woke up one morning and decided to take back their government?
    If you belies that I have a bridge or two to sell you. I didn't think KKK like groups got special treatment,

    May 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC


    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.
    1) The Bush administration solution was to arrest the journalist and throw them behind bars.
    2) Why do people on this do nothing but marginalize Pres. Obama? You really don't get it do you. It doesn't matter what he does, you don't care, Pres. Obama is never right.

    Pres. Obama got one thing right, though. He saved the economy. The Republican solution was to do nothing. Mitt Romney said that the housing market should be allowed to "bottom out so that investors can come in, buy up the foreclosed homes, and lease them out."

    Despite rantings coming out of the hyper right wing, The Stimulus worked. You can see it in the monthly GDP numbers. There is a distinct upturn when the Stimulus kicked in. There is also a distinct flat line in GDP growth in 2010, when the Tea Party took over the House.

    May 31, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Greenspam

    Today Republicans wanted to see all the notes on what was discussed over these 157 meetings.

    May 31, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  7. ugh

    Himmler visited the Chancellory only 156 times in 1939.....

    May 31, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Of the 300 groups applying for tax exempt status, only 70 were tea party organizations. I just wonder why the remaing 230 aren't whining and complaining that they were targeted or accusing the Obama administration of government overreaching? The teapugs haven't produce one jobs build or any form of domestic bill since GWB left office. See, their only objective to to see to it that our black President and country fail. Simply appalling.

    May 31, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. Getoverit

    Shulman is of course a Republican
    If you do some research on his contribution history, you'll find he's more closely associated with the Democrats.

    May 31, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Himmler visited the Chancellory only 156 times in 1939....."

    Godwin's Law, winning arguments for sane people since 1945.

    May 31, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. booth

    i'm a democrate and have been all my life. Obama is not a real democrate, he is a socialist!! Wake up people!

    May 31, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. soabsurd

    nice job CNN way to provide more cover. Remember when the government actually feared journalists now the government is the journalists..

    May 31, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Not Impressed

    I think that the main take-away is that collecting tax money is a HUGE priority for President Obama. I don't recall the last time I heard a speech by him where he didn't demand an increase in taxes, an increase in spending, or both. The bottom line here is: President Obama is very interested in spending your money.

    May 31, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. partyoftheslow

    Wow. There's bending over backwards to defend Obama, but you guys will need a chiropractor after writing this one.

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

    You know Obama ordered it. The IRS does not do something like this without the president knowing. If you disagree it only goes to show you have never been in the military at a high level, or worked for the government.

    May 31, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Fair is Fair

    Marie MD

    NO political group should receive tax exempt status!
    Do you include OFA and moveon?

    May 31, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "The IRS does not do something like this without the president knowing."

    HAHAHAHAA...right. Do you know what the word "independent" means?

    May 31, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    So the IRS apologized, got rid of someone, and vowed to not let this happen again, and you guys are still trying to tell us nothing happened.
    I'll give you this, you are loyal.

    May 31, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  19. BO

    Who cares who appointed this crook? He's still a crook working for Obama?

    May 31, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. JSB

    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

    You mean like Moveon and Organizing for action? How about the ACLU?

    May 31, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "There's bending over backwards to defend Obama, but you guys will need a chiropractor after writing this one."

    Really? Taking the Teatroll claim that 157 trips to meetings at the WH "must automatically mean that he met with Obama and Obama ordered this targeting" and then doing the very first and simplest bit of research to see what this is all about by checking the WH visitor log files, which are on the internet by the way, is somehow even more than "bending over backwards"?

    Here's a freekin hint: Next time you guys want to latch onto some crazy conspiracy theory talking point about all this, check Google first to make sure the internet can't be used to prove you wrong in 3 minutes.

    May 31, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  22. The Real Tom Paine


    i'm a democrate and have been all my life. Obama is not a real democrate, he is a socialist!! Wake up people!
    If you were, you would know how to spell the word.

    May 31, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Secession Now

    In the trials of the adherents of the former regime after the revolution, the IRS will be declared a criminal organization and it's members given a due measure of revolutionary justice.

    May 31, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. UDidntBuildThat

    When a govt employee with access to classifed record divulges that info to anyone journalist or someone overseas, it is u the employee that broke the law not the one receiving the info. How can this govt call someone overseas a traitor when they are not fr this country? Low information voters like RudyNYC and DumbMama fail to realize is that it is the federal employee that is held accountable as is suppose to because they are the ones giving the information away. The employee knows they are breaking the law. Did any journalists went to jail when the Valerie Plane info was leaked to the press. No it was the person responsbile for the leak the govt went after. Yet RudyNYC and DumbMama had no problems with that until now and that the journalist now reports for FoxNews. Now its ok to go after the journalists right?
    This is tyranny. The fact that the DOJ, can just lable anyone a criminal co-consiprator without any evidence is flat out an abuse of power. What was the purpose of going after that reporters parents and family records as well. Same for the SS.IRS. This was not just targeting, this was flat out discrimination. The SS IRS has gotten out of hand and needs to be shut down. All of u blindly defending this Administration should stop think what if this were done to u?

    May 31, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. Al

    The IRS was looking for the correct process that the Administration wanted to use to discriminate against anyone that was associated with the Republicans and they also wanted to get a letter to protect them when and if it was exposed and came out into the open of the operation that was taking place.

    May 31, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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