Despite a new batch of Internal Revenue Service documents released this week showing involvement from the Washington headquarters into the improper targeting of Tea Party groups, the White House Friday maintained that it was a decision made by a local office.
Asked about the IRS scandal in a pre-Super Bowl interview, President Barack Obama said, “There were some bone headed decisions out of – out of a local office.”
In light of the new e-mails, obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, White House press secretary Jay Carney is sticking with the president’s assertion in the pre-Super Bowl interview. But added, he has not seen the newly released e-mails.
“Our position hasn’t changed, and I certainly haven’t seen any facts to suggest otherwise,” Carney told TheBlaze. “But I haven’t seen the report that you mentioned.”
Since the inspector general report a year ago that first revealed the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting that placed conservative groups on the “be on the lookout” list, or BOLO, the administration has insisted that it was a matter that began in the local Cincinnati IRS office.
It was in that same Feb. 2 interview that Obama told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, “Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgeon of corruption, I would say,” was involved in the IRS-Tea Party matter.
But the e-mails and letters that resulted from the FOIA lawsuit tell a different story from the White House assertion, Judicial Watch attorney Chris Farrell said.
“The documents speak for themselves,” Farrell told TheBlaze late Friday afternoon. “They show IRS headquarters, Washington direction of a political targeting operation with a ‘BOLO’ list for ‘Tea Party’ groups. The emails specifically instruct all activities be coordinated for Washington’s approval. Mr. Carney should take the time to read the court-ordered documents Judicial Watch fought to uncover.”
Holly Paz, of the IRS Office of Rulings and Agreements in Washington, told IRS Exempt Organizations Unit lawyer Steven Grodnitzky in an email to “let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.” Paz was referring to Cindy Thomas, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati, and Sharon Camarillo, a senior manager in the IRS’ Los Angeles office.
Grodnitzky responded, “working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in D.C. and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases.”
In a 2010 memo, Thomas instructed a colleague to “let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially politically embarrassing case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization.”
The e-mails also showed close contact in 2012 between Steven Miller, then the number two man at the IRS, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who was pushing for a crackdown on the tax exempt status of conservative nonprofit groups.