Republicans Informed of IRS Investigation Last Year

ABC News

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Much has been made of the fact that senior Treasury Department officials were told about the investigation into the treatment of tea party groups in June 2012 - months before last year's the Presidential election. Republicans who requested the investigation were also told about it at approximately the same time.

In a letter dated July 11, 2012, the man who conducted the investigation - IRS inspector general J. Russell George - wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, telling him that he was investigating the issue and offering to keep him updated as the investigation progressed.

"The Oversight Committee knew about the audit because it requested it," an Issa aide told ABC News. Issa released the letter, along with his own letter dated June 28, 2012 requesting the investigation, last week.

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"We would be happy to provide a status update to the Subcommittee staff and provide a copy of our interim and final reports on the matter when they are issued," George wrote in the letter to Issa. An identical letter was also sent the Rep. Jim Jordan, who, like Issa had raised the issue with the IRS.

The letter notes that it was Issa who had written him about "questionnaires that the IRS has issued which may exceed appropriate scrutiny and a potential lack of balance in the use of criteria for reviewing organizations that are applying for tax-exempt status." George offers no confusions but says, "our Office of Audit recently began work on this issue."

According the Issa aide, the committee received an email update from George in December saying, "We are leaving no stone unturned as part of our due diligence. As such, we won't be able to provide a detailed, substantive briefing until late April/early May."

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On Friday, in his testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, George said he had notified top Treasury officials - including Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin - about his investigation in June 2012, part of a routine briefing on the issues he was looking into.

Republicans pounced on that revelation as evidence top Administration officials knew about the targeting of conservative groups well before the 2012 election. It is now clear that at least some key Republicans knew about the investigation as well.

While George informed Treasury officials about the fact he was conducting the investigation in 2012, the Treasury Department says he did not go into detail about his investigation or tell them about his conclusion that IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups. Similarly, the letter to Issa says the investigation had begun but does not say that it had uncovered any wrongdoing.

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