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Washington - Republican IRS Agent Says Cincinnati Began 'Tea Party' Inquiries

Published on: June 10, 2013 09:19 AM
By: Reuters
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FILE - emocratic Representative from Maryland, Elijah Cummings, shouts about Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expenditures to J. Russell George, Inspector General for the IRS, Gregory Kutz, Assistant Inspector General for the IRS, and Faris Fink, Commissioner with the Small Business and Self-Employed Division of the IRS, at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled 'Collected and Wasted: The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses' in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 06 June 2013.  EPA/JIM LO SCALZOWashington - A U.S. Internal Revenue Service manager, who described himself as a conservative Republican, told congressional investigators that he and a local colleague decided to give conservative groups the extra scrutiny that has prompted weeks of political controversy.

In an official interview transcript released on Sunday by Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the manager said he and an underling set aside “Tea Party” and “patriot” groups that had applied for tax-exempt status because the organizations appeared to pose a new precedent that could affect future IRS filings.

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Cummings, top Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducting the probe, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program that the manager’s comments provided evidence that politics was not behind IRS actions that have fueled a month-long furor in Washington.

“He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way toward showing that the White House was not involved in this,” Cummings told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on,” he added.

Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said he would release a full transcript of the committee’s interviews with IRS officials by the end of this week, if the panel’s Republican chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, does not.

Issa has released his own excerpts of interviews with IRS employees the committee is conducting jointly, which the Republican says suggests the added attention given to Tea Party groups originated from Washington, D.C. and had political motivations.

Issa vowed to press ahead with the investigation and said the IRS manager’s comments “did not provide anything enlightening or contradict other witness accounts.”

“I strongly disagree with ... Cummings’ assertion that we know everything we need to know about inappropriate targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS,” the California Republican said in a statement released by his office.

Revelations that the tax agency set aside conservative groups for scrutiny has raised a political furor over the past month, leading President Barack Obama to fire the IRS commissioner. The House oversight panel, several other congressional committees and the FBI have launched investigations.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report on the matter last month finding no evidence of involvement beyond IRS officials.

Still, Republicans have raised questions about whether the scrutiny was directed politically at Obama’s opponents and have sought evidence of any White House involvement.

The House oversight committee has now completed five lengthy interviews with IRS employees, including four based in the Cincinnati office where applications for tax exempt status are handled.

Cummings said congressional investigators now know what happened based on these interviews.

CINCINNATI SOUGHT ADVICE FROM WASHINGTON

The excerpts of interviews with IRS workers released by Cummings indicate that the IRS manager and an underling first decided to contact Washington, D.C. IRS officials for guidance on the cases from groups aligned with the anti-tax Tea Party movement.

They did so to consolidate them, as they might be precedent-setting for future cases, the manager said, according to the interview transcripts.

It was an unidentified Cincinnati IRS worker who reported to the manager, identified as John Shafer by committee aides, who identified the first Tea Party case. That individual has not been interviewed by the committee yet.

Investigators asked Shafer if he believed the decision to centralize the screening of Tea Party applications was intended to target “the president’s political enemies.”

“I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do, other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development,” the manager answered, according to a transcript released by Cummings.

Asked if he believed the White House was involved, the manager replied: “I have no reason to believe that.”

John Shafer could not be reached for comment.

“They wanted to make sure that it was handled in a way whereby when other cases came behind it that were similar, that they would be treated in a consistent way,” the lawmaker said.

Another Cincinnati screener who worked for Shafer, Gary Muthert, indicated in committee interviews released in part by Issa last week, that “Washington wanted some cases,” to review.

Democratic committee staff said Muthert’s involvement came later, after the initial screener and Shafer first sought advice from Washington about the legal aspects of the newly-emerging cases.



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Read Comments (13)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 10, 2013 at 10:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Game, set, match....So Cong. Issa and the other right wing teabaggers can go pound sand and look for other conspiracies. Yes, the IRS is a disaster and needs new management but don't try to find some big left-wing plan to target the Republicans. Its a lie and they've known it all along.

2

 Jun 10, 2013 at 10:28 AM ralph1527 Says:

"The kettle calling the frying pan black "

3

 Jun 10, 2013 at 10:43 AM honestbroker Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Game, set, match....So Cong. Issa and the other right wing teabaggers can go pound sand and look for other conspiracies. Yes, the IRS is a disaster and needs new management but don't try to find some big left-wing plan to target the Republicans. Its a lie and they've known it all along.

So how do you explain the fact that not one left wing applicant
Was harassed??
Simple luck of the draw?
If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.

4

 Jun 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM MidwesternGuy Says:

"described himself as a conservative Republican". Anyone taking bets on who this self-described guy voted for in the Presidential elections? I thought not. He's probably a registered Dem.

5

 Jun 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM Mark Levin Says:

Find out who he voted for. This man is NOT a "conservative republican."

I will bet ANYTHING he's an oh so typical socialist liberal democrat.

6

 Jun 10, 2013 at 11:51 AM Geulah Says:

Regardless of party affiliation, we are asked to believe and confirm in our beliefs that low level managers can run amok without any senior level oversight. We are asked to believe that there are no operations auditors within the IRS. We are asked to believe that the IRS is akin to the KGB. At some point, we the electorate, are going to have to ask ourselves what makes our elected choices representative of us. Are we really so debased? Is our total societal concern centered around dubious musical talent and reality show trash? These are our choices, when will we get that?

7

 Jun 10, 2013 at 12:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Mark Levin Says:

Find out who he voted for. This man is NOT a "conservative republican."

I will bet ANYTHING he's an oh so typical socialist liberal democrat.

Levin....its sort of funny that when clowns like you and Issa and the other right wing nutcases are caught in a lie, your answer is to tell an even bigger lie and blame it all on the socialist, communist, left-wing, Bolshevik conspiracy. You still haven't gotten over the fact that your guy lost in 2008 and again in 2012. The American people have seen through your lies, understand your hatred for this President but want you to hang around for a while to provide comic relief. Listening to your namesake on the drive home every night provides that comic relief until its safe to go online and read your rants.

8

 Jun 10, 2013 at 12:16 PM allmark Says:

Let's see what he says under oath when testifying before Congress.

9

 Jun 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM Repair the IRS Says:

Does anybody think that the American public, both Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, are that stupid, that we would believe that some low level bureaucrats at the IRS would begin targeting conservative tea party groups, without any direction from above? The White House did not have to be specifically involved, but SOMEONE at the IRS in a high position of authority, made the decision to target certain groups. Lower level bureaucrats at the IRS or at any governmental agency cannot sneeze, without their supervisors finding out. Secondly, what is this nonsense regarding the IRS spending $50,000,000 (Fifty Million Dollars) of taxpayer money, to send their staff to fancy junkets, staying at fancy hotels, etc., and not keeping any records? This is the same agency which requires taxpayers to keep business records, as they will disallow for certain business expenses during an audit, if you fail to produce those records. Get rid of the corrupt, and incompetent IRS bureaucrats, who are a disgrace!!

10

 Jun 10, 2013 at 01:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Levin....its sort of funny that when clowns like you and Issa and the other right wing nutcases are caught in a lie, your answer is to tell an even bigger lie and blame it all on the socialist, communist, left-wing, Bolshevik conspiracy. You still haven't gotten over the fact that your guy lost in 2008 and again in 2012. The American people have seen through your lies, understand your hatred for this President but want you to hang around for a while to provide comic relief. Listening to your namesake on the drive home every night provides that comic relief until its safe to go online and read your rants.

And for 8 years we had to hear "Bush stole the election". It doesn't matter to me that my guy lost the election. What matters is how the president is doing now. I just think its strange that whole messes of one group's applications were singled out and NOT ONE of any other group were to this extent. I think it's crazy to assert that not one upper level person knew about it. If they knew, they should of reported and stopped it. All th supervisors should be fired for not doing their job. It went on for a while and they didn't know?? Oh, they were off staying at 3,000 dollar a night hotel rooms at our expense. They were spending millions of our money on extras and wasted spending. Entertainment at a conference? Videos of them creating a video just to be shown one time at one conference ( and that video cost us a bundle)...

11

 Jun 10, 2013 at 01:25 PM Facts1 Says:

"he manager said he and an underling set aside “Tea Party” and “patriot” groups that had applied for tax-exempt status because the organizations appeared to pose a new precedent that could affect future IRS filings."

Huh, would you care to explain what these words mean or is this Clintonian language?

12

 Jun 10, 2013 at 01:27 PM mistahkurtz Says:

I don't know why it's so hard to believe that this mess might not have been overseen from Washington. Large organizations like the IRS typically have lower level people doing things that the higher ups don't know anything about until it's too late.

13

 Jun 10, 2013 at 02:53 PM MidwesternGuy Says:

Reply to #12  
mistahkurtz Says:

I don't know why it's so hard to believe that this mess might not have been overseen from Washington. Large organizations like the IRS typically have lower level people doing things that the higher ups don't know anything about until it's too late.

Mostly because the lower level governmental functionaries have one goal: to get through the day doing as little work as possible. No such thing as a "go-getter" at that level because they're on a union scale for pay. Only the real higher-ups are responsible for stuff like this.

14

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