The audit released last month by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General indicated that senior IRS officials were notified of the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups in June 2011. However, Reuters reported on Friday that an IRS official in the agency’s embattled Cincinatti office accidentally alerted the entire Tax Exempt Division office in Washington of the targeting nearly a full year earlier:
A misfired email from a U.S. Internal Revenue Service employee in Cincinnati in July 2010 alerted a broad group of Washington IRS officials to the heightened scrutiny being given conservative groups, according to an interview the IRS worker gave congressional investigators.
The interview transcripts, reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, provide new details about Washington IRS officials’ awareness of the scrutiny given to groups seeking tax-exempt status using terms like “Tea Party” or “patriot” to flag applications.
The 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.
She was asked to summarize her findings in a spreadsheet and notify a small group of colleagues, including some staff in the Washington tax-exempt unit. She sent an email that month to a larger number of people in Washington by accident.
“Everybody in D.C. 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.
House Democrats are quick to draw attention to a claim by another IRS employee who claims that the White House had no involvement in the sordid mess. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has spent much of the investigation defending the Obama Administration, told CNN this weekend that this random IRS employee’s testimony shows that the case is solved.”
But as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently explained, President Barack Obama created an atmosphere where this sort of abuse of the system could take place under the radar and unchecked for so long:
Cruz said that even though the President himself didn’t give direct instructions for the IRS to target conservative groups, his rhetorical attacks on conservative groups and the inaction of his staff allowed the abuses to happen, and therefore a ”smoking gun” directly implicating the President was unnecessary.
“When the President goes and blasts these Tea Party groups and says ‘You need to go and look at them’ it’s not complicated that those in the trenches — look, if there’s one thing those who work professionally in Washington know how to do it’s to survive when there’s a political agenda and those marching orders were given every day over the televisions, over the newspapers, on the explicit agenda of this administration,” Cruz said.
“The whole game of looking for a direct instruction from the White House misses the way things are done post-Watergate,” he also said.
It’s also curious that Senate Democrats would go to such great lengths to block Sen. Rand Paul’s resolution calling for an independent investigation into the IRS scandal. Perhaps it’s because they’re hands aren’t clean this. Remember, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) asked the IRS back in 2010 to investigate conservative groups that had tax exempt status. It’s quite possible that there would be things discovered in an investigation that show a greater political involvement in an approval process that is supposed to be free from politics.