House Oversight schedules another IRS hearing

The House Oversight committee has scheduled yet another hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting controversy, this time to examine the relationship between the agency’s officials in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Charles Dharapak/AP - Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), left, and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Committee investigators have spent the past several months interviewing employees from the IRS offices in both regions to determine how and why the agency singled out conservative groups and subjected them to inappropriate scrutiny after they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

Those issues surfaced after IRS official Lois Lerner issued an apology for the misguided efforts in May, just days before the release of an inspector general’s report that detailed the behavior.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight committee have used transcripts of the IRS interviews to present competing narratives about who was responsible for the targeting.

Republicans, especially committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), suggested that Washington was deeply involved in an effort to go after President Obama’s “enemies list.” The congressman released transcript excerpts last month to support that assertion.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the House panel’s ranking member, countered by publishing a full transcript of an interview with a self-described conservative IRS employee from Cincinnati who said he flagged the first tea party case and elevated it to Washington for guidance.

Complicating matters, the IRS unveiled documents this month that showed the agency may have flagged liberal groups for extra scrutiny before it ever created a lookout list that targeted tea party organizations for closer inspection. That revelation intensified debate on Capitol Hill and left the inspector general scrambling to explain how he conducted his audit of the tax-enforcement agency.

In a statement Wednesday, Issa suggested that IRS officials in Washington are mostly to blame for the inappropriate actions.

“The evidence gathered in this investigation makes clear that had Washington IRS officials simply kept their hands off these cases and allowed employees in the Cincinnati office to process applications independently, instead of facing excessive delays, these cases would have been processed just like other advocacy cases,” Issa said.

The committee has not announced witnesses for the hearing next week.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-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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Josh Hicks · July 10, 2013