Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency’s Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.
The Cincinnati agents didn’t provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.
Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.
The revelation could prove to be significant if investigators are able to show that Washington officials were involved in singling out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny. IRS officials have said repeatedly that the targeting was initiated by front-line agents in the Cincinnati office and was stopped once senior officials in Washington found out.
Also, emails show officials in Cincinnati corresponding with Washington on the targeting of conservative groups. Carter Hull, an IRS Attorney in Washington, D.C. closely oversaw the agency’s scrutiny of tea party groups and other conservative organizations.
Transcripts show that in July 2010, Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS official in Cincinnati who was coordinating “emerging issues” for the agency’s tax-exempt unit, was corresponding with Washington-based IRS tax attorney Carter Hull.
In April 2010 Hofacre had been put in charge of handling tax-exempt status applications from conservative groups by her Cincinnati supervisor.
She was asked to summarize her initial findings in a spreadsheet and notify a small group of colleagues, including some staff in the Washington tax-exempt unit. However, she sent her email to a larger number of people in Washington by accident.
“Everybody in DC got it by mistake,” Hofacre said in the transcripts. She later clarified that she did not mean all officials but those in the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements unit.
The Cincinnati office, where IRS reviews of applications for tax-exempt status were centralized, used a “be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) list that included the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” for flagging applications for extra review.