Congressional Democrats Fault IRS Fumbling In ‘Tea Party’ Probe

(Reuters) -

Congressional Democrats are frustrated with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s handling of a year-old, Republican-led investigation of the tax agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party-aligned political groups, said a senior Democrat and aides on Thursday.

The head of the IRS is set to testify on Friday and Monday on the affair before two Republican-controlled panels.

Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett said there was no level of responsiveness, in a probe with clear political overtones, that would satisfy Republicans.

At the same time, Democrats said, the IRS made errors that helped perpetuate the damaging inquiry, which leapt back into the headlines last week after the IRS said it had lost emails written by former agency official Lois Lerner.

“I don’t approve of either Lois Lerner or the way IRS has handled this,” Doggett told Reuters in an emailed response to questions, adding, “No response will satisfy Republicans so obsessed with finding a conspiracy that they are probably already trying to connect Lois Lerner with Benghazi.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is slated to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday.

The panels’ chairs, Republicans Dave Camp and Darrell Issa, have competed for control of the probe, aides said, with both pressing the IRS for information in search of an elusive prize — a link to the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday questioned the IRS’s credibility. “Who could possibly believe that they’ve lost two critical years’ worth of emails for the central figure in this investigation?” he asked.

A House Democratic staffer familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be named, said IRS handling of it has been “forehead-slapping … unforced error after unforced error.”

The IRS declined to comment.