It seems the enquiry into whether the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for tax-exempt status just ahead of the 2010 and 2012 elections has hit another roadblock.
In 2010, a top White House economic adviser said that Koch Industries, the company run by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, had paid no corporate income taxes, immediately providing pressure groups with an argument that IRS's improper behavior included disclosing private taxpayer information to the White House. Thus, an investigation was initiated, The Washington Times reported.
Last year, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated that IRS would find it logistically incapable to search through 90,000 email accounts in a bid to shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information had secretly been shared between the tax agency and President Obama's top aides.
But despite Koskinen's statements, the White House told Congress last week that IRS will eventually do the job once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal, refusing to dig into their own computers and stating that there was no need for the president to get involved.
"It is my understanding that in May 2014, Commissioner Koskinen responded to this request by indicating that the IRS would be able to address new topics such as these following its completion of document productions already in progress," White House's chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, wrote in a Feb. 17 letter to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan.
"To the extent that the committee continues to have an oversight interest in this matter, I encourage you to continue working with the IRS to address those questions," he said, completely ignoring the fact that Koskinen made it clear that he didn't think such a search was feasible from his end.
Any official requests for private taxpayer information made by the White House are supposed to be personally signed by the president, and Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation is then supposed to be notified of the request. The JCT issues an annual report on all requests for IRS information, and those reports don't show any such requests from the president during Obama's time in office.
Mark W. Everson, who was commissioner of the IRS under President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2007, said both sides try to observe a strict division. "I can't remember this ever having come up - at least it ever having been brought to my attention," he said. "In my experience the White House and the service were scrupulous about making sure appropriate independence was maintained between the two."
The White House's refusal comes even though it performed a similar kind of email search in the past after the IRS lost thousands of emails of former division chief Lois Lerner, a key figure in the tea party targeting.
Both the House and the Senate are currently investigating IRS and White House communications as well.
Meanwhile, the IRS didn't respond to a message seeking comment on whether it had rethought its stance in light of the White House's promise, and the White House didn't respond to a message asking why its chief counsel had misrepresented the IRS's position as stated in Mr. Koskinen's letter.
Earlier this month, access to more than 500 IRS government documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was denied by the Obama administration after a request by The Hill, Breitbart reported.