former head of the U.S. tax agency says he was "dismayed and saddened" to learn that conservative groups were targeted for special scrutiny under his watch, but told a congressional panel Tuesday he did not know about it as it was occurring.
Douglas Shulman served as the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service for more than four years until last November. It was a period in which the agency asked conservative groups extensive questions about their activities as they sought tax-exempt status.
But Shulman said he "did not have a full set of facts" about the targeting of the right-wing groups until he read a recent report by a Treasury Department watchdog.
Many of the conservative groups oppose a larger role for the national government and the tax and spending policies of President Barack Obama, a Democrat in the first months of his second term. Targeting of the conservative groups has provoked a political outcry from Mr. Obama's Republican opponents, but the president also says he was outraged when he learned of the practice.
The tax agency said it looked at conservative groups that had the words "Tea Party" and "patriot" in their names. The IRS said it was not meant as targeting, but rather as a way to make sure that the tax law affecting groups involved in political activity was complied with.