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Timelines of White House visits by IRS employees consistent with implementation of new healthcare law

by Earl F Glynn | Franklin Center

[Updated June 25] A chart of the timelines of the White House visits by certain IRS employees suggests the focus of the meetings was likely the implementation of the Affordable Care Act rather than political motivation to scrutinize the tax exempt status of conservative organizations.

In a Congressional hearing in May, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked former IRS Commisisoner Douglas H. Shulman about his many visits to the White House.  A review of the White House visitor logs revealed Shulman attended six White House events hosted by President Barack Obama, but attended 151 meetings with White House staff.

About two weeks ago more scrutiny of White House visitor data revealed a large number of  visits by other IRS officials working in the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division.

The chart below shows timelines of White House visits by former Commissioner Douglas Shulman and several members of  the TE/GE division.  The timelines suggest the meetings were consistent with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

Click on chart above to see an enlarged view of White House Staff Visit Timelines for Selected IRS TE/GE Employees. Each vertical line above represents a meeting with a White House staff member. (Any meetings with the President are few in number and are not shown). The frequency of meetings by Shulman and Livingston increased dramatically immediately after the ACA was signed into law. The frequency of meetings by Ingram increased dramatically only several weeks after she moved to the IRS ACA office. Note: The White House has not released Information about most visitors for meetings before Sept. 15, 2009.

Consider how White House visits shown in the chart above are consistent with the implementation of the new Affordable Care Act:

  • The frequency of IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman’s visits increased dramatically after the ACA was signed into law and continued during much of 2010.  This would be consistent with high-level IRS management planning to implement the ACA to make sure resources were available when needed.
  • The frequency of the IRS Healthcare Counsel Catherine E Livingston’s visits also increased after the ACA was signed into law.  Her presence was constant at White House meetings 2010-2013 until she left the IRS earlier this year.
  • According to ABC NewsSarah Hall Ingram retained the title of commissioner, with oversight over tax-exempt groups, but the IRS says she moved to the agency’s Affordable Care Act office full time by the end of 2010.”  The chart shows Ingram’s  regular visits to the White House only started in March 2011, which would be consistent with her new position.
  • [Updated June 21] While none of Shulman’s and Ingram’s many White House meetings overlapped, Shulman’s chief of staff Jonathan M Davis attended 127 meetings with Ingram and 26 with Shulman.  Davis attended about 250 White House meetings each with Jason A Levitis and Helen H Morrison from the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy.  Davis was also in about 260 of the over 400 White House meetings attended by Livingston. See Top Shulman aide frequent White House visitor in the Washington Examiner.
  • George W Madison, General Counsel of the Treasury, visited White House staff 45 times.  His White House visits increased slightly in the four months after ACA became law.
  • Alan Tawshunsky, IRS  Deputy Associate Chief Counsel for Employee Benefits in the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities division, started regular White House visits in Jan. 2012 as shown in the chart.  Tawshunsky was a speaker at a DC “Health and Welfare Benefit Plans” meeting on Oct. 31, 2011.  The frequency of Tawshunsky’s many White House visits only increased in early 2012.  Tawshunsky’s focus seems to have been on how the ACA might impact health benefit plans monitored by the IRS.
  • Judith Kindell, a Special Technical Advisor to the Director of IRS Exempt Organizations, started attending several White House meetings in Sept. 2010, several weeks prior to the Nov. 2010 elections.  One of Kindell’s specialties was explaining rules for exempt organizations during an election year.  The timing of her visits are consistent with reviewing what was happening in the 2010 general election.

The high number of White House visits is still curious, but may reflect the complexity of the ACA and its tax implications.  Does the average American understand how intertwined healthcare and taxes have become?

What are your thoughts about the number of White House visits by IRS officials?

An alternative view: The bar chart above shows the monthly count of White House staff meetings attended by seven selected IRS Staff members. Click on graphic above to view PDF with separate bar chart for each selected IRS staff member, and the composite total.



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