Sunday, June 09, 2013

An IRS Political Timeline
Perhaps the only useful part of the inspector general's audit of the IRS was its timeline. We know that it was August 2010 when the IRS issued its first "Be On the Lookout" list, flagging applications containing key conservative words and issues. The criteria would expand in the months to come.

What else was happening in the summer and fall of 2010? The Obama administration and its allies continue to suggest the IRS was working in some political vacuum. What they'd rather everyone forget is that the IRS's first BOLO list coincided with their own attack against "shadowy" or "front" conservative groups that they claimed were rigging the electoral system.

Below is a more relevant timeline, a political one, which seeks to remind readers of the context in which the IRS targeting happened.

Aug. 9, 2010: In Texas, President Obama for the first time publicly names a group he is obsessed with—Americans for Prosperity (founded by the Koch Brothers)—and warns about conservative groups. Taking up a cry that had until then largely been confined to left-wing media and activists, he says: "Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads . . . And they don't have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation."

Aug. 11: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sends out a fundraising email warning about "Karl Rove-inspired shadow groups."

Aug. 21: Mr. Obama devotes his weekly radio address to the threat of "attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names. ...

IRS employees point fingers at Washington
Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010.

Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati.

Elizabeth Hofacre said her office in Cincinnati sought help from IRS officials in the Washington unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations after she started getting the tea-party cases in April 2010. Ms. Hofacre said Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington, closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.

“I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” she said, according to the transcripts.

Mr. Hull could not be reached for comment....

IRS employees: Washington IRS official Carter Hull oversaw targeting of conservative groups
...IRS attorney Hull sent Hofacre additional information request letters [pdf] that he’d already sent to two tea party groups and instructed her to use them as a “foundation to prepare and review” cases and prepare her own letters to new applicants...

IRS Workers Say Supervisors Directed Targeting
...The Associated Press viewed transcripts of interviews with two IRS agents working in the Cincinnati office.

Gary Muthert, an IRS agent there, said his local supervisor told him in March 2010 to check the applications for tax-exempt status to see how many were from groups with “tea party” in their names. The supervisor’s name was blacked out in the transcript.

“He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” Muthert said of his supervisor.

Muthert said he came up with fewer than 10 applications. But after checking some of the group’s websites, he noticed similar groups with “patriots’ or “9-12 project” in their names, so he started looking for applications that mentioned those terms too....

Cincinnati IRS staffer: D.C. showed interest in Tea Party cases
...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."...