IRS targeting didn’t start in Ohio, Ways and Means chairman says

The House Republican in charge of tax policy said Wednesday that the IRS targeting of conservative groups did not originate in Cincinnati, contrary to the narrative that Democrats have pushed.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said after a Wednesday event on tax policy that bipartisan congressional interviews with IRS employees led him to believe that the initiative began outside the agency’s Ohio tax-exemption office.

Charles Dharapak/AP - Rep. Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
Rep. Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means committee (Charles Dharapak/AP)

“We know it didn’t originate in Cincinnati,” Camp said, according to an article in The Hill. “We still don’t know who did originate this.”

Camp spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart clarified the congressman’s comments Wednesday, saying by e-mail: “Chairman Camp was stating the facts presented by the Cincinnati employees – they were directed by Washington to collect tea party cases and Washington had a hand in writing many of the onerous questions.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House oversight committee, has argued the opposite point in recent days, saying bipartisan interviews by House oversight staff show that the targeting campaign did start in Cincinnati.

On Sunday, Cummings released partial transcripts in which a manager from the Cincinnati office, a self-described conservative Republican, told congressional investigators that he flagged the first tea party case for review by Washington officials.

A special agent from the same office said he created the initial search criteria used to single out conservative groups for additional review, according to the excerpts.

“Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved,” Cummings said during a talk show appearance Sunday. “If it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.”

On Wednesday, the Hill reported that Camp said: “We’re not anywhere near being able to jump to conclusions. And there are a lot more people we have to talk to.”

Other Republicans have echoed the same sentiments this week, insisting that the IRS case is not closed and that responsibility for the targeting efforts lie outside the agency’s Cincinnati office.

A group of GOP lawmakers from the House oversight committee released a joint statement Tuesday attacking Cummings for his recent remarks.

“While Ranking Member Cummings might be expressing the preferences of the White House and Leader Pelosi and Whip Hoyer, the reality is until the American people have a full understanding of what went wrong at the IRS and why, this investigation should and will continue,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee, also sent a letter to Cummings rejecting the ranking member’s statements.

“Your decision to publicly announce that the investigation should wrap up was irresponsible, but not surprising,” Issa said. “However, your push to release entire transcripts from witness interviews while the investigation remains active was reckless and threatened to undermine the integrity of the Committee’s investigation.”

Like Cummings, Issa has released partial transcripts, only his disclosures provided a different type of narrative. They showed that a Washington-based IRS attorney had considerable say over how to deal with targeted groups, and that a misfired e-mail relating to the targeting effort reached a broad group of agency officials in the capital during the summer of 2010 — suggesting that high-ranking IRS staff had knowledge of the efforts.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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