Shortly after the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal became public in May, Obama administration officials, along with their allies in Congress and the news media, began a campaign to push the scandal as far away from their own backyard as possible.
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney chastised “the apparent conduct by our IRS officials in Cincinnati,“ while the media buzzed with claims of two supposed “rogue agents” in the Cincinnati IRS office.
As the congressional investigation started with interviews of Cincinnati IRS employees, we heard a much different story. “Even though I was taking all my direction from EO Technical (an IRS unit based in Washington), I didn’t want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over,” said Cincinnati-based Elizabeth Hofacre, who had once been assigned the Tea Party portfolio.
Following the trail of facts from Cincinnati to Washington, our investigation found corroboration that the scrutiny of Tea Party applicants was being directed by IRS officials in Washington. As one veteran D.C. IRS tax law specialist named Carter Hull told us, “I had to get my own cases done to be able to tell (Cincinnati) which direction the Service was taking and to be able to give guidance.”
Hull and his supervisors explained to committee investigators that scrutiny of Tea Party applicants — and the reasons for delays and enhanced scrutiny — went beyond the routine. It involved Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official who would later assert her right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions before Congress, as well as the office of the IRS chief counsel, which is headed by one of only two political appointees at the IRS.
Was the targeting of Tea Party applicants directed from the White House or somewhere else outside the IRS? As our investigation is ongoing, the responsible answer is that judgment should be withheld until all relevant witnesses are interviewed and all documents reviewed.
We candidly still don’t have clear answers to many important questions and have yet to begin interviewing senior IRS officials. The initial, and clearly intentional, attempts by this administration to pin the blame on “our IRS officials in Cincinnati” should give pause to those who would argue the case is somehow solved before all the evidence is known.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
USAToday VIEW: IRS scandal starts to lose luster