A pair of IRS agents who worked out of the Cincinnati office at the center of the widening Tea Party discrimination scandal told Congressional investigators that they were ordered by “higher-ups” in Washington, D.C. to target conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status.
That’s a contention, notes CBS-D.C., that “directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.”
One Cincinnati agent, Gary Muthert, said he was instructed by a local, unnamed supervisor to go through tax-exempt applications to see if they had “Tea Party” in their titles. But that local supervisor was acting, said Muthert, on order from on high: “He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.”
Using the “Tea Party” criteria yielded a small handful of applications, but, when Muthert widened his search to include phrases like “patriots’ or “9-12 project,” he hit upon close to 40 more applications.
“I used ‘patriots’ because some of the tea partiers wouldn’t, they would shorten their name to TP Patriots,” Muthert said. “I thought, OK, I will use ‘patriot.’”
From there, Muthert’s supervisor told him that “someone in Washington” had requested to see seven of those applications, but he told investigators he never knew who that “someone” was.
Another Cincinnati IRS agent, Elizabeth Hofacre, was responsible for processing Tea Party applications that had already been flagged in 2010. Her local supervisor, also unnamed, assigned those applications to her. But an IRS attorney in Washington, D.C. named Carter Hull – who worked in the tax-exempt division – allegedly “micromanaged” Hofacre’s work and contributed to the groups’ delay in receiving tax-exempt status.
Hofacre said she thought Hull’s interest in the cases was both unusual and “demeaning.”
“It was demeaning. One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education, whereas on this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process,” she told investigators.
Hull also allegedly took his time signing off on letters Hofacre sent asking the flagged groups for extra documentation. “All I remember saying and thinking is, ‘This is ridiculous.’ Because at the same time, you are getting calls from irate taxpayers. And I see their point,” she said.
If the testimony is true and leads to the uncovering of additional evidence, it will further refute the many assertions made by IRS officials and the Administration of President Barack Obama that “rogue” agents acting independently in Cincinnati were solely responsible for the election-season targeting of conservative nonprofits.