The Man Who Blew the Whistle on the IRS

The audit by J. Russell George, who once dated Michelle Obama, ignited the scandal.

Inspector General J. Russell George (Brendan SmialowskiGetty Images)
Inspector General J. Russell George (Brendan SmialowskiGetty Images)

(The Root) — If you have followed any of the Internal Revenue Service scandal (hopefully here at The Root), you may have noticed two things: Three congressional hearings have uncovered exactly nothing relevant; and the wearer of the white hat, for once, is a black man.

J. Russell George, a graduate of Howard University, is the Treasury Department inspector general who ignited the controversy by blowing the whistle on the IRS’s targeted scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

So far, George’s 48-page audit has led to the firings of the top two IRS officials and administrative leave for another and immediate reforms. It has also breathed new life into conservative rhetoric about governmental abuses of power under President Obama.

Oh, and George went out with Michelle Obama when they were students at Harvard Law School.

They dated? “That is overstating it,” George told the National Journal. He explained that through the Black Law Students Association, he’d gotten to know the former Michelle Robinson:

“Michelle was a lovely person, and down to earth,” he said. ” … The BLSA went out for pizza; we would go out together.”

He paused, for a beat. “Don’t get me in trouble,” George said.

At 49, George has spent most of his career in the federal government, but this is his first turn in the spotlight.

It’s difficult to exaggerate the challenges of his role as watchdog of the IRS. George relies on a staff of fewer than 800 to help him find and disclose fraud, abuse and waste at one of the largest governmental organizations in the world, with some 100,000 employees.