Cincinnati IRS Staffer: Washington D.C. Showed Unprecedented Interest In Tea Party Cases

Cincinnati IRS Staffer: D.C. Showed Interest In Tea Party Cases – The Hill

An IRS staffer in Cincinnati told congressional investigators that a Washington official was the driving force behind the targeting of Tea Party organizations in 2010, and showed unprecedented interest in those groups’ tax-exempt applications.

Elizabeth Hofacre, the Cincinnati staffer, said that she started receiving applications from Tea Party groups to sift through in April, 2010. Hofacre’s handling of those cases, she said, was highly influenced by Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington.

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Hofacre said that she integrated questions from Hull into her follow-ups with Tea Party groups, and that Hull had to approve the letters seeking more information that she sent out to those organizations. That process, she said, was both unusual and “demeaning.”

“One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education,” Hofacre said, according to transcripts reviewed by The Hill. “Whereas in this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process.”

“I thought it was over the top,” she added, in interviews held by investigators in both parties from the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees. “I am not sure where it came from, but it was a bit unusual.”

Hofacre, who oversaw Tea Party applications from April, 2010, to October, 2010, said Hull eventually became slow to endorse her letters. She eventually took another position within the IRS that year, after dealing with what she called “irate” applicants.

“And I see their point,” Hofacre said. “Even if a decision isn’t favorable, they deserve some kind of treatment and they deserve, you know, timeliness.”

The investigators’ interviews with Hofacre and another Cincinnati staffer, Gary Muthert, cast some doubt on statements from the former acting IRS commissioner, Steven Miller, and other agency officials that the targeting of Tea Party groups was limited to Cincinnati.

They also show the tension that developed between officials in Cincinnati and Washington, especially after Lois Lerner – the D.C.-based director at the center of the targeting storm – placed the responsibility for the singling out on the Ohio office. Lerner was the IRS official who first disclosed, and apologized for, the targeting.

Hofacre told investigators that officials trying to blame the Cincinnati office were misleading the public on purpose.

“I was appalled and I was infuriated,” Hofacre said. “Because they are inaccurate, and everybody that has been making those statements should know they are inaccurate.”

Still, the interviews also contain few answers on who exactly ordered the targeting, and contain no suggestions that White House or Treasury officials – or even the top IRS brass – knew about the extra scrutiny.

Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration found that the IRS inappropriately screened for Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, asked them inappropriate questions and kept some waiting for years for a verdict.

In addition to the congressional inquest, the tax administration inspector general is further investigating the targeting, as is the Justice Department.

The controversy swirling around the IRS has also only grown since the inspector general’s report came out almost a month ago, with a separate audit finding that the agency spent more than $4 million on a single conference in 2010.

Muthert told investigators that he started collecting Tea Party applications in March, 2010, and eventually sent seven cases to Washington after hearing officials there had shown an interest in those applications.

The number of cases he found ultimately grew from less than 10 to roughly 40, after broadening his search beyond “Tea Party” to include “patriots” and “9/12.”

Hofacre, the Cincinnati staffer charged with dealing with the Tea Party applications after they were found, said the 20 cases she was originally given mushroomed into 40 to 60.

Hofacre’s Ohio-based supervisor directed her to deal with the Tea Party cases. But it was unusual, Hofacre told investigators, for one agent to have such exclusive oversight of applications from one type of organization.

The Cincinnati staffer also said that the letters she sent to follow up with Tea Party groups asked for information about the groups’ rallies, emails and web sites.

Those questions, developed after her consultations with Hull, were pretty standard, Hofacre said.

But Hofacre added that she found one request from Washington – that they press groups for information on contracts they might have in the future – to be odd.

She also said that some requests she suggested came after she stopped working Tea Party cases in 2010 – like for donor lists – were “appalling.”

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Lois “Fifth Amendment” Lerner directly involved in IRS targeting

I wonder if she is going to be thrown under the Magic Obama Bus or if Obama will reward her good deeds by promoting her too

A series of letters suggests that senior IRS official Lois Lerner was directly involved in the agency’s targeting of conservative groups as recently as April 2012, more than nine months after she first learned of the activity.

Lerner, the director of the IRS exempt organizations office in Washington, D.C., signed cover letters to 15 conservative organizations currently represented by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) between in March and April of 2012. The letters, such as this one sent to the Ohio Liberty Council on March 16, 2012, informed the groups applying for tax-exempt status that the IRS was “unable to make a final determination on your exempt status without additional information,” and included a list of detailed questions of the kind that a Treasury inspector general’s audit found to be inappropriate. Some of the groups to which Lerner sent letters are still awaiting approval.

Lerner has denied involvement in the targeting, which she has blamed on a few “front-line people” in the agency’s Cincinnati field office. “I have not done anything wrong,” she told members of the House oversight committee on Wednesday. However, she then refused to answer any questions, citing protection under the Fifth Amendment. She has since been placed on (paid) administrative leave, and the committee may call her to testify again.

“One thing is clear: this correspondence shows [Lerner’s] direct involvement in the scheme,” wrote Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ. “Further, sending a letter from the top person in the IRS Exempt Organization division to a small Tea Party group also underscores the intimidation used in this targeting ploy.”

 

March Madness rolls on Sweet Sixteen

The Regional Semi-Finals start tonight, and my Gators will be taking on Marquette in the late game, check back for scores!

Syracuse survives Badger attack 64-63

C.J. Fair broke out of a scoring slump with 15 points and top-seeded Syracuse held on for a 64-63 victory over fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Thursday night in the East Regional semifinals.The Badgers had two shots at the win after Kris Joseph, a 75 percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18.9 seconds left and the Orange leading by a point. Jordan Taylor came down and missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left and Mike Bruesewitz’s toss with the rebound was off, at the buzzer.Scoop Jardine added 14 points for the Orange (34-2), who advance to play Ohio State or Cincinnati in the regional final Saturday.

Cardinals stun Spartans 57-44

The first #1 seed has fallen,and Louisville is in the Elite Eight. The Cardinals played tough defense and dominated the game. They now await the winner of Marquette and Florida, who play later tonight

Buckeyes top Bearcats 81-66

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes had blown a 12-point lead and fallen behind Cincinnati in the second half of the East Region semifinals.It was time for the “cool guys” to take a seat, and let the blue-collar team take over.Sullinger scored 23 points with 11 rebounds and Ohio State turned back Cincinnati’s last charge with a 17-1 run to beat the Bearcats 81-66 on Thursday night and advance to the NCAA regional finals for the first time since 2007.

Gators top Marquette 68-58

Exactly as his coach asked him to, Bradley Beal is bringing out his A-game. His latest bit of wizardry moved Florida a win away from the Final Four, and set up Billy Donovan with a perfectly scripted matchup against his old coach and boss, Rick Pitino.Beal, the freshman with NBA written all over him, scored 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting Thursday night to help the Gators to a 68-58 victory over Marquette.Next up for No. 7 seed Florida (26-10) is a West Regional final Saturday against Louisville and Pitino, who taught ol’ Billy The Kid a lot of what he knows.

Baylor holds off Xavier 75-70

Quincy Acy picked up the slack for his roommate to help push Baylor to another regional final.The 6-foot-7 senior had a double-double on an off night for the sharpshooting Brady Heslip as the Bears moved their attack inside to beat Xavier 75-70 Friday.

Tar Heels squeak by Bobcats

The last of the little guys gave North Carolina a massive scare.Harrison Barnes scored five of his 12 points in overtime and the top-seeded Tar Heels escaped a huge upset with a 73-65 victory over No. 13 seed Ohio on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

Wildcats too much for Hoosiers 102-90

They ran up and down the court, two storied programs going toe to toe.In the end, Kentucky was just too big, too quick, too good for Indiana.The top-seeded Wildcats moved another step closer to the only goal that matters in the Bluegrass State, shaking off a rather quiet night from freshman star Anthony Davis to pull away from the Hoosiers 102-90 in the South Region semifinals Friday.

Jayhawks pullout win over NC State

Thomas Robinson kept missing easy buckets. Tyshawn Taylor had a shooting performance he’d rather soon forget. Kansas made just two shots from outside 5 feet, and seemed to be in constant trouble against North Carolina State.Yet a smile kept creeping across Robinson’s face. Taylor spent most of the second half Friday night trying to calm down coach Bill Self, who was stomping along the Jayhawks’ sideline.