The Obama administration’s narrative that the targeting of conservatives by the IRS was the work of “low-level” agents in Cincinnati took another serious blow Thursday when the Wall Street Journal released a new report citing viewed transcripts of interviews with those agents in which they name names of those in Washington who oversaw the action.
“I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” Elizabeth Hofacre, a Cincinnati agent, said according to transcripts of the interviews between two Cincinnati IRS agents and congressional investigators.
According to the Journal, Hull is an an IRS lawyer in Washington, and “closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.”
And Hofacre isn’t happy about being thrown under the bus.
“I was furious,” she told interviewers. “It looked like Lois Lerner was putting it on us.”
The Journal details how it all started, including an order from an unidentified manager that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases” [emphasis added]:
The interview transcripts suggest it began with a search for tea-party groups by name among applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. The Cincinnati employee who conducted the search, Gary Muthert, said he started gathering applications in March 2010, at the request of an unidentified local manager, who allegedly told him that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” according to the transcripts. Mr. Muthert first heard of tea-party applications from another Cincinnati employee.
The cases were handed off to Ms. Hofacre the following month, according to the interviews, which were conducted jointly by the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. Both Republican and Democratic investigators participated in the interviews.
But it doesn’t end there. According to the report, the manager who requested the action and specifically asked the phrase “tea party” be used has been redacted in the transcript. That same manager, according to Muthert, “asked him to find all the tea-party applications in the office’s files, both pending and closed.”
Around the same time, the local manager “said Washington, D.C., wanted seven” cases, Mr. Muthert said in the transcript. That month, he said, he “batched up” seven of the cases for “EO Technical,” a unit of the Exempt Organizations Division in Washington, then headed by Ms. Lerner, according to his interview.
Around May of 2010, Mr. Muthert said, another local official asked him to locate a couple more applications to send to Washington. Over the next two months, Mr. Muthert said, he located about 40 tea-party cases after expanding his search to include the terms “patriot” and “9/12.”
Ms. Hofacre said Mr. Hull, the IRS attorney in Washington, emailed her letters that he had already sent to two tea-party applicants. She was instructed to use those letters as a “foundation to prepare and review my cases and prepare my letters” to applicants, she said. She said she found the intervention by Mr. Hull “demeaning,” according to the transcripts.
“All I remember saying and thinking is, ‘This is ridiculous,’” Hofacre said. “Because at the same time, you are getting calls from irate taxpayers. And I see their point. Even if a decision isn’t favorable, they deserve some kind of treatment and they deserve, you know, timeliness, and…these applications and their responses were just being sent up there [to Washington] and I am not sure what was happening.”
Read the Journal’s full report here.
This story has been updated.
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