Mr. Cummings acknowledged in a letter to Mr. Issa this week that IRS employees in Washington were involved. An inspector general’s report said Lois Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations at the agency, put a halt to some of the terms being used to single out organizations two years ago, and a “Be on The Lookout” list was subsequently revised in July 2011.
“These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the President’s political enemies,” Mr. Cummings wrote. “At this point in the investigation, not one witness who has appeared before the Committee has identified any involvement by any White House officials in the identification or screening of Tea Party applicants for tax exempt status, and the Committee has obtained no documents indicating any such involvement.”
After 459 days
But that investigation, in addition to a Justice Department probe, is still ongoing. The actions of the IRS have created heartburn for Becky Gerritson, founder and president of the Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama.
The group was launched in April 2009 and applied for 501(c)4 nonprofit status in October 2010.
“Our check was cashed 7 days later. We got a letter saying they received our information and we should wait about 90 days to hear something,” Ms. Gerritson said. “We did not hear anything back for 459 days. That’s when I received a letter from the IRS asking for approximately 90 pieces of additional information for our group.”
She said that after having the American Center for Law and Justice look at the case, they retained counsel and were granted tax-exempt status last July.
“It felt like they were trying to shut us down,” she said. “And, at the time, we didn’t know how many people had been targeted, but I did know there were at least 30 groups, so it was pretty obvious something was going on. Of course that number has grown to about 10 times as much as that.”
In another potentially embarrassing episode for the beleaguered agency, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, is claiming that the IRS was poised to flout an April directive from the White House Office of Management and Budget that “discretionary monetary awards” should not be issued while sequestration cuts were in place, unless legally required.
The directive was written by acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, who was then working at OMB. Mr. Grassley wrote that the IRS intended to execute an agreement Wednesday with the National Treasury Employees Union preserving about $70 million in worker bonuses.
“While the IRS may claim that these bonuses are legally required under the original bargaining unit agreement, that claim would allegedly be inaccurate,” Mr. Grassley wrote. “In fact, the original agreement allows for the re-appropriation of such award funding in the event of budgetary shortfall.”
An IRS spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the agency was “actively engaged” with NTEU on the matter.
As for the rally, Mike Vontz, a 55-year-old handyman from the St. Louis area, said he was a little disappointed that the crowd wasn’t as big as one at a “9/12” rally, but it’s hard “to keep coming to Washington, D.C., to tell the politicians ‘we don’t want you shoving your laws down our throats.’”
“And especially when it turns out that it rarely matters what we seem to think,” he said. “But at the same time, you know, all the people here came here to make a physical statement that we care about what our lives are [done to] and we want our own freedom to do what we want.”