At a White House press briefing today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the Treasury Department's review of Austan Goolsbee's comments on Koch Industries' tax status. Gibbs says Goolsbee's comments were "not in any way based on any review of tax filings," and added: "I don't think he'd use that example or examples like that in the future. And I think the fact that he was wrong might also give you an indication that what is ultimately being alleged isn't the case."
"I don't know if he got it wrong, don't know if he stretched things a bit," Koch Industries lawyer Mark Holden told me two weeks ago when asked if Goolsbee's alleged error indicated he didn't review tax information. "It doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't look at our income tax returns and doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't access our confidential information improperly."
The White House has claimed Goolsbee got his information from a publicly available source. When Gibbs was asked to name the source or sources, he replied: "I don't know the answer off the top of my head on that. Again, I can see if there's better information on that."
Republican senators wrote in a recent letter demanding an investigation that Goolsbee's "statement that Koch is a pass-through entity implies direct knowledge of Koch’s legal and tax status, which would appear to be a violation of section 6103. Alternatively, if the statement was based on speculation, it raises the question of whether the Administration speculating about any specific taxpayer’s liability is appropriate."
Full transcript of Gibbs's comments on Koch after the jump:
QUESTION: Can you just talk about the Republican calls for the investigation of Austan Goolsbee for the comment on the Koch brothers and their S-corporation status?
GIBBS: Yes, (OFF-MIKE)
QUESTION: Do you know where he saw that in the public record?
GIBBS: Well, again, I'll say there was a background call conducted in late August to provide an overview of tax reform (inaudible) done by the PERAB.
GIBBS: A senior administration official used an example when discussing an issue that was noted in the report: that half the business income that goes to companies (inaudible) they do not pay corporate taxes on. The -- the official statement was, "not in any way based on any review of tax filings." And I think that's probably...
QUESTION: Well, since Austan was just (inaudible) about what he said, why can't you just say right now, "Austan was wrong. He shouldn't have said that," and...
QUESTION: ... "He made a mistake"?
GIBBS: I don't think he'd use that example or examples like that in the future. And I think the fact that he was wrong might also give you an indication that what is ultimately being alleged isn't the case.
QUESTION: But it's being alleged that he got that information from IRS filings. I understand that he says -- administration officials say that he saw it in the public record somewhere.
Can you just, sort of, point to where it might have been...
GIBBS: I don't know the answer off the top of my head on that. Again, I can see if there's better information on that.