WASHINGTON -- The investigator who wrote a scathing report about the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party groups says he is "disturbed" the agency withheld newly-released documents showing progressive groups may also have been singled out for additional scrutiny.
In prepared testimony, J. Russell George told a congressional panel Thursday the IRS did not provide the documents to his office during a yearlong audit. George said he just received the documents last week.
George issued a report in May that said IRS agents in a Cincinnati office improperly singled out groups with "tea party" and other conservative labels for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
George's report blamed ineffective management for allowing the practice to continue for more than 18 months, delaying hundreds of applications for more than a year.
Since the revelations were made public, three congressional committees and the Justice Department launched investigations and much of the top leadership -- including the acting commissioner -- of the IRS was replaced.
"The reason the report focuses on the terms "Tea Party," "Patriots", and "9/12" is that the IRS provided us a document at the beginning of our audit that shows these were the terms they used to select the potential political cases," George said in prepared testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Last month, the IRS provided documents to Congress that suggested some liberal and progressive groups may have been singled out for additional scrutiny as well -- information that was not included in George's May report. Some Democratic lawmakers said this was proof that George's report was one-sided.
George, however, said he first saw the documents last week.
"They were not provided during our audit, even though similar documents that list "Tea Party" but not "Progressive" were," George said. "I am disturbed that these documents were not provided to our auditors at the outset, and we are currently reviewing this issue."
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The IRS was screening the groups' applications because agents were trying to determine their level of political activity. IRS regulations say tax-exempt social welfare organizations may engage in some political activity but the activity may not be their primary mission. It is up to the IRS to make that determination.