Evidence emerges that Obama administration official knew of IRS targeting during 2012 campaign

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - There were new questions Saturday night concerning if anyone in the White House was aware of the IRS' targeting of conservative groups.

Inspector General Russell George said he informed a deputy at the Treasury Department in June of 2012 about the probe into the IRS.

The Treasury Department confirmed the timeline but said they did not know the details of the investigation until last week.

It's the first evidence that someone within the Obama administration knew about the practice during the presidential campaign.

It is unknown whether anyone in the White House was told of the federal investigation.

Republican Congressman Aaron Schock serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS.

"We don't have any reason to believe at this point that it was anybody outside the IRS directing them to do this," said Schock. "Obviously there's been claims that the White House might have been involved and other groups. I don't have any reason to believe that."

Special Section: IRS Targeting Controversy

He says the IRS' behavior was criminal, claiming it hurt the ability of conservative groups to fundraise and that limited their influence.

"Until we know who it was responsible for the activities, we need to continue to investigate," Schock said.

A six-month-long investigation by the inspector general failed to pinpoint exactly who made the decision to subject some applications to extra scrutiny.

Marcus Owens ran the tax-exempt division at the IRS for 10 years. He said it isn't difficult to figure out who's doing what at the agency.

"But I think the issue here is that it was not one person," said Owens. "It was a number of people who developed the criteria."

Owens says it appears the errors are symptoms of an overburdened bureaucracy, not a political conspiracy.

"I think there was miscommunication," said Owens. "I think there was careless attention to some details, but I would not call it incompetence."

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew ordered the IRS to hold staff accountable for any wrongdoing. He also tasked the IRS to review whether this is a system-wide issue. They'll deliver that report to President Obama in 30 days.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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