Slatest PM: The IRS's "Horrible Customer Service"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 17 2013 3:59 PM

Slatest PM: The IRS's "Horrible Customer Service"

168934245
Outgoing IRS Commissioner Steve Miller arrives to testify before a full House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Friday

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The IRS's "Horrible Customer Service": Washington Post: "A House committee grilled the outgoing acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service on Friday about the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, eliciting an admission that the agency 'provided horrible customer service' but denials that it was politically motivated. In nearly four hours of often testy exchanges with Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, Steven T. Miller, whose resignation was demanded and accepted by President Obama this week in connection with the controversy, said groups were not 'targeted' in reviews of their applications for tax-exempt status because they were conservative but merely 'listed' because they were engaged in political activity. ... The testimony came in the first of several hearings in which lawmakers are summoning current and former officials to be grilled about the screening of applications for tax-exempt status."

Advertisement

Advanced Warning: New York Times: "The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year. ... J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his investigation on June 4, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin 'shortly thereafter.' The new information came as part of a routine briefing of the investigations that the inspector general would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said. Still, Mr. George’s testimony will most likely fuel efforts by Congressional Republicans to show that Obama administration officials knew of efforts to single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny, but did not reveal that knowledge during President Obama’s re-election campaign."

Good Luck With That: Wall Street Journal: "Anger wasn't limited to Republicans. The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, called for the resignation of another official, Lois Lerner, who runs the exempt-organizations unit at the IRS. But he also cautioned Republicans against using the inquiry for partisan gain. 'We must seek the truth, not political gain,' Mr. Levin cautioned. ... Seeking to restore order at the agency, President Barack Obama on Thursday named a new acting IRS commissioner, a day after sacking Mr. Miller. Mr. Obama chose Daniel Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget, equivalent to the government's chief financial officer. His appointment is effective Wednesday, and Mr. Werfel has agreed to serve through the end of fiscal year on Sept. 30."

Hooray, it's Friday! You made it; we all did. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

Your Daily Troubling Update From Syria: Reuters: "The most feared and effective rebel group battling President Bashar al-Assad, the Islamist Nusra Front, is being eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond overthrowing the Syrian leader. Al Qaeda's Iraq-based wing, which nurtured Nusra in the early stages of the rebellion against Assad, has moved in and sidelined the organization, Nusra sources and other rebels say. Al Qaeda in Iraq includes thousands of foreign fighters whose ultimate goal is not toppling Assad but the anti-Western jihad of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri—a shift which could extend Syria's conflict well beyond any political accord between Assad and his foes. The fighting has already cost 90,000 lives."

The Cannes Jewelry Heist: ABC News: "t sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller: while a fancy jewelry company is hosting a ball at the Cannes Festival,  thieves break into a company employees’ hotel room and steal $1 million worth of jewelry. But this story is real. It happened in Cannes overnight. A representative of Chopard, the Swiss-based watch and jewellery company, left the stash in the safe in his room at the Novotel Hotel in Cannes while he attended a late-night gala at a much fancier hotel across town. When he returned, thieves had ripped a safe from the wall of his room. Police are still trying to determine exactly what was inside, but they say the contents were likely Chopard jewels to be loaned to A-list celebrities as they walked the festival’s red carpet surrounded by a phalanx of eager photographers."

The Cleveland Fund: Cleveland Plain Dealer: "A charity established to help Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight has raised more than $480,000, and the money will now go into four trust funds established for the victims. There have been more than 5,100 donations to the Cleveland Courage Fund through the Cleveland Foundation and Key Bank, said Lynne Woodman, vice president of media relations for KeyBank. Donations have come from all 50 states and several foreign countries, she said."

Buy (Me) a Ticket: Associated Press: "Powerball officials say the jackpot has climbed to an estimated $600 million, making it the largest prize in the game's history and the world's second largest lottery prize. Lottery officials say the prize is growing quickly Friday because so many people have been purchasing the $2 tickets. The jackpot has grown by an estimated $236 million since the last drawing on Wednesday. The last jackpot was won on March 30, so it's been growing for about six weeks. The next drawing is Saturday night."

The Richest Man in the World: NBC News: "Move over Carlos Slim, Bill Gates has taken back the title of Richest Man in the World. Gates’ fortune stands at a staggering $72.7 billion, according to the updated Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Slim, 73, now worth $72.1 billion, saw his wealth drop after Mexico’s Congress passed a bill that hit his company, America Movil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas. The company has dropped 14 percent this year, helping erase more than $3 billion from the tycoon’s net worth, according to Bloomberg."

Padding the Campaign Coffers: Roll Call: "New Jersey 2014 Senate Democratic candidate Cory Booker reported he received $497,410 in lecture fees in 2012 in addition to his $174,500 in salary as the mayor of Newark. The disclosure was part of his personal financial disclosure report filed Thursday under the Ethics in Government Act. The 25 lectures were at 14 universities around the country and eleven other organizations. The fee for his lectures ranged from $10,500 to $31,500."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

See you back Monday. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.