IRS scandal prompts questions about Rep. Peter Welch - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

IRS scandal prompts questions about Rep. Peter Welch

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out who is behind Internal Revenue Service agents singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

"The conduct portrayed in the report is inappropriate," said Jay Carney, a spokesman for the White House.

"My question is who's going to jail over this scandal?" asked Rep. John Boehner, R-U.S. House Speaker.

The fallout hitting the White House has also reached Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Some conservative critics charge he encouraged the IRS to do what so many are angry about now.

In a press release last year announcing he sent letters to the IRS and President, Welch encouraged the IRS to "investigate whether nonprofit 501(c)(4) organizations affiliated with super PACs - such as Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-backed group... are in violation."

Reporter Kristin Carlson: In hindsight, do you think singling out conservative groups was a bad move?

Rep. Peter Welch: No, I don't. Bottom line here is the law's the law.

Reached by phone in Washington, Welch says the intent of his letter was clear-- to make sure that all groups getting tax exempt status follow the law-- and other lawmakers signed on, too. And the timeline of the controversy shows the IRS was already targeting tea party groups two years before Welch's letter.

Kristin Carlson: But do you think your note-- where you single out crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-backed group-- may have helped the IRS down this path they were going down?

Rep. Peter Welch: I don't have any relationships with the IRS people... No person in the IRS has a right to deviate from the responsibility to do equal enforcement of the law... You have people in the IRS saying they are going to go after tea party-affiliated groups-- that's outrageous.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a conservative think tank.

"His letter basically is saying we hope that you would enforce the law and in his follow-up comments-- wink, wink-- we hope they are against people like Karl Rove. So, I do think it's incredibly poor judgment on the part of Congressman Welch," Roper said.

Roper says the role of Welch's letter should be looked at.

"If his letter really is the domino that caused all of these actions to occur, I think it's a really big deal," Roper said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is chair of the Democratic Governors Association. The head of the Republican Governors Association is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate wrongdoing at the IRS. Shumlin isn't sure that's necessary.

"I won't make a judgment on that because I don't pay enough attention to how things work in Washington to go in the weeds on that one," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Welch says at the minimum, someone should be fired over the IRS scandal and possibly prosecuted. He is not sure who is behind it, but says it's important to uncover all the facts.

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