Deja vu: IRS boss of Tea Party probes targeted anti-Clinton group in 1990s

By |
Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Tea Party,IRS

Steven T. Miller, the acting IRS commissioner who managed the division that has admitted targeting anti-Obama Tea Party groups, was one of several agents who investigated anti-Clinton organizations including Judicial Watch during that Democrat's administration, according to court documents and interviews.

Miller, who headed the IRS Services and Enforcement Division from 2009 until the end of last year, is named in court documents as part of a trio of Internal Revenue Service officials who allegedly characterized the 1998-2001 investigation of Judicial Watch as politically motivated.

According to court papers, one agent in the case reportedly told the legal watchdog group, "What do you expect when you sue the president?" Miller reportedly added that the Judicial Watch audit, coming after the group sent the White House a lengthy Freedom of Information Act request, "had created at least the appearance of a problem."

At the time, several groups probing various Clinton administration scandals were being audited, leading to charges that the president was manipulating the IRS to target his enemies.

While written evidence was hard to come by at the time, the current Obama scandal is detailed in a forthcoming audit and a timeline provided by the House Ways and Means Committee, which has been probing the issue. A section of the committee timeline provided to Secrets mentions Miller:

"July 25, 2012. The Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee holds a hearing on charitable organizations. In response to questions regarding reported IRS harassment of conservative groups, then-IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steve Miller tells the Subcommittee, 'I am aware that some 200 501(c)(4) applications fell into this category [the determinations letter process]. We did group those organizations together to ensure consistency, to ensure quality.' Miller made no reference to the IRS's discriminatory practices."

According to the IRS website, Miller, a lawyer, joined the IRS in the office of chief counsel in 1987 and "has served most of his 25 years at the IRS, an agency in the Treasury Department, in its Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division." That division is the one involved in the current scandal.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said that the audit his group faced in the 1990s came from a complaint sent by a citizen and sent to the White House which forwarded it to the IRS. "This was all part of the pattern of the Clinton years," he said, adding that it cost his group "a lot of money" to fight the audit.

The group has also targeted the Obama White House, seeking information, for example, about the first family's taxpayer-funded vacations.

Fitton said his group has opened an investigation of the new IRS scandal. He added that he is unaware if Judicial Watch is being audited again.