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

    Since the Tax Baggers infested the GOP, we haven't heard from an intelligent Republican, either in politics, or on internet blogs.

    The GOP has been taken over by angry folks who never attended college.

    In middle eastern nations, these are the types of people that the leaders get all frothed up about and incite to riot.

    For example, in this story about the IRS doing it's job to enforce Tax Fraud laws, some of these dolts seem to think that President Bush's hand picked civil servants are now colluding with Democrats.

    Got news for y'all GOP – Repuiblicans don't offer to help President Obama. Take a look around. Not ONE Republican law in the past 5 years. Get the picture?

    May 31, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. Badboy

    The liar in chief is at it again!

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

    Establishment Republicans are not exactly fond of the Tea Party Rosslaw!

    May 31, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Liberals comparing Obama to Bush.

    I agree they're both in the same category.

    May 31, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. Harlon Katz

    It is amazing that the IRS did not go after the huge influx of 501(c)(5) type organizations – oh wait, that is because those are union affiliated "social issues" groups, so they get a pass.

    May 31, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. jboh

    Remember when 31 TEA/GOP senators, including McCain, cosigned a letter demanding an investigation into leaks because TEA/GOP claimed Obama leaked to make him look tough on terrorism? Everything done to investigate the leaks is LEGAL under the TEA/GOP Patriot Act. TEA groups should be investigated. The real scandal is the IRS not investigating Crossroads GPS for violating its tax exempt status as a "social welfare agency" by running blatantly partisan ads, and not revoking the "first amendment" talibangelical ministers tax exempt status for campaigning from the pulpit. These chronic malcontents need to go before they drive USA to third world status. Time to flush the TEA pot.

    May 31, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Ohreally

    So far, public interest in a trio of controversies connected to the Obama administration has been limited. Roughly a quarter (26%) of Americans say they are very closely following reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups. About the same number (25%) are tracking the Benghazi investigation very closely, and even fewer (16%) are very closely following news about the Justice Department subpoenaing phone records of AP journalists.

    The new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted May 16-19 among 1,002 adults, finds that 37% of Republicans are paying very close attention to the IRS story, compared with 21% of Democrats and 25% of independents. And the Benghazi investigation continues to draw much greater interest from Republicans (34% very closely) than Democrats (18%).

    May 31, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. Boytjie

    I wonder what the Bush WH visitor logs would have revealed.... but we never got to see them. And they woundn't tell us who Cheney met with regarding energy.

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

    I'm a Democrat, and vote Democrat because I believe in stuff like funding scientific research, education, and helping the poor. I have a blog and I was going to write an article months ago about how Bob Woodward complained about how the White House threatened him (a reporter) and how Obama doesn't give a lot of press conferences and about how he snubbed the press when he golfed with Tiger Woods.

    I didn't write it, and gave the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, but the sentiment I got was that Team Obama doesn't like the press. It was amazing watching Obama and others bring up Fox News in a negative context during press conferences! Yeah, Fox News is slanted against Obama, but this is just the two party system we Americans are happy with. Irregardless of who is in the White House, we need an opposing press to call out the other side from time to time. For some reason, Team Obama is personally slighted by conservative news outlets, and just from what I saw on television, Obama and others seemed to be drifting into this obsession with Fox News.

    I take everything Fox News says with a grain of salt, why can't Obama shrug them off? Every president has issues with the press, especially two termers. By publicly attacking Fox News, and with the targeting of Tea Party groups, it is just a B12 Vitamin shot in the arm for conservative causes.

    This IRS stuff is very damming. Even without knowing the specifics, the IRS violated a lot of cherished American rights. I don't like watching the drips of information coming out of the White House, Obama said he didn't know of the conclusions in the IG report, not that he didn't know about the IRS targeting earlier. Personally, I think Obama needs to think about the prospects for Democrats in 2014 and beyond, and that means having Eric Holder resign. Time to put the good of the country, and the party, ahead of personal friendship. Holder has distorted the truth before, going back to the Clinton administration. Some battles Obama doesn't need to fight, plenty of Attorney Generals have had to resign.

    Holder didn't know about Fast and Furious, didn't know about IRS, didn't know about AP/James Rosen . . . not really sure about how many times the Justice Department took the unprecedented step of going after journalists. He's either a good liar, or totally unconnected with the day to day running of the Justice Department.

    I really hope Obama wasn't involved with the IRS stuff, but POTUS was on Letterman and Dave joked about the IRS going after conservatives and my impression at the time was that Obama wasn't laughing and was nodding his head as if to acknowledge that stuff like that happens. Geez. It is a chilling thought that if Obama knew about this for years, and did nothing, then it is something that a lot of people would call for an impeachment.

    No matter what the body count, the democratic party will bounce back . . . if Holder resigns and we get a special prosecutor, the bounce back will happen sooner.

    May 31, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)


    "If you're goign to veto it Obama just because republicans passed it (as usual) then so be it. It's on YOU."

    Ignoring the arguments Obama has made regarding what needs to be done to make the legislation workable, specifically what protections are missing to prevent students from getting soaked by these loans later in life, does not make those arguments go away. That you choose to distract instead of rebutting with a cogent argument of your own suggests you recognize that you don't have one.
    Talk about distractions while Obama even brings this non issue up ONLY because HE needs to BLAME repubicans for passing a bill he never read but says he'll veto (Typical democrat) Distractions from the Trifecta Obama has broght on to himself will continue until the truth comes out. I'm sure you'll love the results.

    May 31, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Why do democrats love to use derogatory remarks?

    May 31, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. Monomachos

    The number of inaccurate comments in the responses is amazing. Apparently people get their news from MSNBC and then log on here to spout off. For example, Schulmann was a donor to Obama's campaign and not necessarily a Republican. The tax breaks under discussion have gone to numerous politically active left wing groups – it is not just the right wing groups asking for them but the fact is an inordinate number of the requests from the right were targeted for further scrutiny and delay in approval and then, somehow, their donors became targets of individual IRS scrutiny.
    Everyone should be hoping that the full truth comes out and reforms made to ensure that the politics of both sides becomes off-limits for the IRS.

    May 31, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Wake up People!

    Since the GOP is constantly harping about President Obama always campaigning, vacationing and jet setting, wouldn't it stand to reason that he might not have even been in Washington during those meetings. Or maybe President Obama hasn't taken more vacation time than his predecessors.

    You can only have it one way republikkkans. Either he is at the WH or he isn't.. You choose.

    May 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. DMR

    There appears to be something that is being forgotten by those claiming to be Tea Partiers, it is the job of the IRS to investigate applications for tax exempt status and to assure future compliance. None of the neo-con connected groups that applied for tax exempt status were rejected. The only group that was rejected was a progressive group. The Tea Party groups are protesting just a bit too much. What would the IRS find if they are audited? Could their activities be much more political than charitable and therefore violate the lows governing their tax exempt status? Why did many of these groups apply as 501 c 4 organizations? Could it be because they do not have to disclose their donors? I think so.

    I do not endorse how the IRS handled this. All applications for a 501 c "tax exempt" status should be equally and carefully reviewed and investigated. There was no hard to the Tea Party groups, outside their application approval was delayed a few months. That did not stop their functioning as an organization. There was no harm to these groups.

    May 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Walking the Line

    According to Dr. Kellog, what this country needs is a real good colon cleansing. Time to get those impacted politicians out of our system.

    May 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    If you're not going to hold Bush and republicans accountable for 9/11, don't complain.
    If you're not going to hold Bush and republicans accountable for their illegitimate invasion of Iraq, the deaths of our troops and the million plus Iraq civilians who have died as a result of his war, don't conplain.
    If you're not going to hold Bush and republicans accountable for an Afghan war that was abandoned and prolonged for the invasion of Iraq and the contunuous death that ensue, don't complain.
    If you're not going to hold Bush and republicans accountable for our broken image, don't complain
    If you're not goint to hold Bush and republicans accountable for $5.5 trillions wasted on two wars, don't complain.
    If you're not going to hold Bush and republicans accountable for the Great Recession, don't complain.
    If you didn't have a problem with Bush's illegitimate NSA Surveiiance program, don't complain.
    If you didn't have a problem with Bush White House Email scandal, don't complain
    If you didn't have a problem with the Libby case and Bush's clemency, don't complain.
    If you didn't have a problem with Bush administration dismissal of 8 US. Attorneys, don't complain.
    If you didn't have a problem with Bush and republicans cutting funds for 9/11 victims who contracted cancer while working at ground zero in NYC, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with the way Bush handled Katrina, don't complain.
    If you didn't have a problem with Bush's bailout of Wall Street on the backs of the middle class, don't complain
    If you don't have a problem with Bush's Housing crisis debacle, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with Bush's failed prescription drug program, don't complain.
    If you don't have a problem with Bush's 8 year tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, don't complain.

    May 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  17. Buddha

    THE IRS was doing it's job. Why do people think this is such a big deal. When republicans were in office they did the same. The IRS needs to target groups with politically biased names to insure they are not cheating.

    May 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. NameTodd A

    Biggest pathetic liar in history, double ended sword, catch 22, if you didn't know anything that means inmates running the asylum, step down your embarrassing, if you did know, impeach Nixon jr. This guy is a trip

    May 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. RightyTighty

    The relentless need for the left to defend Obama no matter what is getting thin, at some point it becomes ridiculous. The left has become the party of lemmings who praise their emperor's new clothes. Some of the MSM are starting to get it and I salute their patriotism.

    May 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  20. Hillcrester

    The IRS was doing the job Congress mandated: determining whether "political advocacy" applicants qualified for tax-exempt status. Obama never should have apologized. He is all too willing to accommodate GOP thuggery. Tell them to shove it. We want to see Presidential strength, not cowardice.

    May 31, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Did any journalists went to jail "

    3rd grade English fail. And you called other people "low information"?

    May 31, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. allens

    i hate to ask the obvious, but what is the normal amount of visits from the head of the irs? and could the number have anything to do with our budget/spending problems? cnn should report the news, not warped and one sided thoughts.

    May 31, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Larry L

    When the Affordable depends so heavily on the IRS for compliance why wouldn't the IRS Chief be present as details were hammered out? Republicans need to get to work on jobs, Medicare, Social Security and ending the War. They need to stop behaving like reporters for tabloids – creating scandels where none exist.

    May 31, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Elliott Carlin

    1 time is 1 time too many.

    O to be benevolent dicator for a day...do I abolish the IRS, or the FED? Decisions decisions....

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

    Republicans do not like it when they realize someone is playing as dirty as they do. They figure only they should be allowed to take the low road.

    May 31, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7