Cummings: Full IRS interview shows White House didn’t direct tea party targeting

An IRS supervisor working in Washington told congressional investigators that she personally reviewed applications from groups for tax-exempt status, in testimony that appears to show the agency’s scrutiny of conservative groups extended beyond the confines of the office in Cincinnati, as administration defenders and liberals initially claimed.

Holly Paz, who was a supervisor in the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt status division, indicated during an interview with congressional investigators that she did review such applications, but indicated that she believed “tea party” meant political advocacy in general — not necessarily conservative groups.

But Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS manager in the Cincinnati office in 2010, said that when she got cases of organizations that may have supported liberal or progressive causes, she “just sent those back to the specialists or the general inventory.”

“I was tasked to do tea parties, and I wasn’t — I wasn’t equipped or set up to do anything else,” Ms. Hofacre said.

Lois Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations for the IRS, last month told the oversight committee that she had done nothing wrong, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Ms. Lerner tried to stop the targeting of tea party and other right-leaning groups by directing specialists in 2011 to broaden their criteria so that it did not appear partisan, according to an audit by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Yet the audit says the behavior resurfaced and had to be fixed once more in May 2012.

Ms. Lerner apologized at a May event hosted by the American Bar Association for burdening the conservative groups from early 2010 to May 2012, an admission that set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill.

The announcement — staged through a prearranged question from the audience — was made days before the inspector general released the audit that critics said confirmed Republican lawmakers’ suspicions in 2012 that conservative groups had been singled out to have their applications “slow-walked” or their groups’ activities scrutinized more closely.

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