IRS officials in Washington may have directed targeting program

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that employees at the Cincinnati office of the IRS who were responsible for vetting organizations for tax exempt designation have told congressional investigators that they were being directed by higher ups working in the Washington office of the agency.

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.

The interviews provide new clues to the puzzle slowly being pieced together in several congressional probes and a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Investigators want to know exactly how the IRS initiated extra scrutiny to tea-party and other conservative grass roots organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status.

The transcripts don't suggest that Obama administration officials at the Treasury or the White House knew of or were involved in the targeting. Many questions remain unanswered, including who ordered the targeting.

The rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper and deeper. The Cincinnati IRS employee says that this overseeing by the Washington IRS office occurred in 2010. That's a full year that the IRS office in Washington knew about the targeting program before it supposedly came to the attention of Lois Lerner, chief of the tax exempt office. Not credible.

And that last question by the Journal is still dangling; why will no one at the IRS come forward and admit they ordered the targeting in the first place? If the program was so innocent in design and implementation, why the stonewall? We want a name and none has been forthcoming.

The IG report says that "rogue" employees came up with the targeting program on their own. This is becoming less and less likely the more we find out about who knew and who was responsible for implementing the program.

It makes one wonder if we'll ever get to the bottom of this.