An accidental email may have revealed as far back as 2010 the extra scrutiny the Internal Revenue Service was giving conservative groups — one year earlier than officials previously said they were aware of what was happening, Reuters reported Friday.
According to transcripts of interviews between IRS workers and congressional investigators obtained by Reuters, an IRS worker in Cincinnati accidentally sent details of the targeting to IRS officials in Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Hofacre was coordinating “emerging issues” for the tax-exempt division and had been asked to summarize her findings on groups flagged on a “be-on-the-lookout” list, which included words like “Tea Party” and “patriot.” An April 2010 email meant just for a small group of colleagues — including some in the Washington tax-exempt unit — went to “a larger number of people in Washington by accident,” Reuters reported.
“Everybody in D.C. got it by mistake,” Hofacre said according to Reuters, later clarifying she meant those in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements office.
IRS officials have blamed the targeting of conservatives seeking tax-exempt status on lower-level workers in Cincinnati, but a report in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday quoted Hofacre — also from transcripts — as saying her actions were overseen by officials in Washington.
“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,” Hofacre said according to the Journal, which identified Hull as an IRS lawyer in Washington who “closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.”
Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt division who set off the controversy by revealing last month that the IRS had improperly scrutinized conservatives, previously said she didn’t learn of the situation until June 2011. Lerner has been placed on administrative leave.