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U.S. lawmakers say IRS lax in helping their Tea Party probe

U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) questions outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller (not pictured) during
U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) questions outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller (not pictured) during

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two lawmakers probing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for its scrutiny of Tea Party and other conservative groups complained on Wednesday the IRS had handed over just a fraction of documents needed for their investigation.

Republican Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Sander Levin, the senior Democrat on the committee, said they had received just 13,000 pages of the 65 million pages of information the IRS had identified as possibly relevant.

"We are concerned that, at this rate, the full production will take months," the lawmakers said in a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. They asked Werfel to explain how the IRS was sorting through the documents.

The IRS said on Wednesday it had received the letter and planned to have more information available soon.

Controversy erupted on May 10 when an IRS official apologized for added scrutiny and delay given to Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax exemptions under a section of the tax code that allows limited political activity.

Werfel took over as acting IRS commissioner when President Barack Obama asked the then-acting IRS commissioner, Steven Miller, to resign in the days after the disclosure.

After more than two months of interviews and hearings, little evidence has emerged to link the controversy to Obama or political officials, although some Washington IRS officials did appear to be involved in the delays early on.

The Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has interviewed 17 IRS employees about their roles in the matter, according to a committee staffer.

In conducting its own investigation, the Senate Finance Committee has interviewed seven IRS staffers and is scheduled to do six more interviews in the weeks ahead, a committee spokesman said.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the IRS Tea Party scrutiny "was clearly bad judgment," but that investigations so far had uncovered no partisan interference.

"There has been no evidence of anyone in a political position having been involved in any of those decisions," Lew said, according to a transcript of an interview to be broadcast on Wednesday on CBS.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon and Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

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