An Internal Revenue Service supervisor in Cincinnati has told lawmakers that the White House wasn’t involved in the agency’s scrutiny of small-government groups, said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Cummings, the top Democrat on a panel probing the IRS over its tougher review of Tea Party groups’ tax-exempt status, said today on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that it’s time to “wrap up this case and move on” by ending congressional investigations.
Cummings said he would make public a transcript of the closed-door interview lawmakers had with the IRS official, and other witnesses, by the end of this week if the chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, Darrell Issa of California, doesn’t. He didn’t name the official.
Issa rejected the call to end the panel’s probe.
“I strongly disagree with Ranking Member Cummings’s assertion that we know everything we need to know about inappropriate targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS and the case is, in his word, ’solved,’” Issa said in a statement. “His extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed Congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth.”
Bloomberg News and other media organizations had access to some transcripts of the panel’s interviews last week. They showed that the IRS’s closer scrutiny of the groups began with a tight focus on Tea Party groups in early 2010.
The effort was so concentrated on Tea Party groups that in addition to putting Democratic-leaning organizations’ applications back in the general pile, the IRS didn’t even give extra scrutiny to groups identified as conservative.
“It was more narrow than that,” said Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS employee who handled the first batch of cases. “It was Tea Party.”
The transcripts don’t show why IRS employees focused on Tea Party groups in 2010 and who made that decision. Employees said some IRS lawyers in Washington were involved in processing and managing the cases.
The effort eventually became a wider search for politically oriented nonprofits that caused significant delays for the groups and became a national scandal last month. IRS employees struggled to get guidance from their supervisors on which cases to analyze and how to assess them.
The episode has led to inquiries from six congressional committees and a Department of Justice criminal probe. Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, was forced out. Lois Lerner, who headed the oversight of tax-exempt organizations, was placed on administrative leave. On June 7, the IRS announced a replacement for Holly Paz, who worked for Lerner.
Cummings indicated today that the earlier transcripts didn’t include testimony from a 21-year IRS veteran who was the manager of the Cincinnati screening group reviewing the cases, and who said he’s a conservative Republican.
The official testified that he didn’t believe the screening was designed to target President Barack Obama’s political opponents, according to excerpts Cummings provided to CNN. The official also testified that he had “no reason to believe” the White House was involved, according to the transcript excerpt.
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