A top Internal Revenue Service official has faced harassment, including threatening telephone calls and visits to her home, after being singled out for criticism by Republicans, her lawyer alleges in a letter to lawmakers.
The official, Holly Paz, has been on administrative leave since June in connection with the controversy over how the IRS scrutinized conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Paz was involved in subjecting some tea party groups to scrutiny and helped conduct an internal review of the program, but has not been formally accused of wrongdoing.
In a Tuesday letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Paz’s attorney wrote that she and her family have suffered repeated threats and harassment since Republicans suggested she had been inconsistent in her testimony to the panel.
The attorney, Roel Campos, said that the “one-sided public attack” by Republicans has added to “the physical danger faced by Ms. Paz and her family.”
Campos continued, “Because of prior inaccurate reports and allegations, Paz and her family have received threatening phone calls, messages, and visits at their home. Her oldest son jumps every time the home phone rings because he has heard the threatening messages. Her son was followed home from the school bus and harassed by a stranger claiming to be a reporter. Paz’s sons had to hide in their room one night when a process server tried to force his way into Paz’s home and would not leave until escorted away by the police.”
Campos also said Paz had testified truthfully “and to the best of her recollection” about the IRS controversy.
Committee spokesman Frederick Hill called the letter “disappointing” and said Campos should focus on the panel’s questions about the accuracy of her testimony.
“Ms. Paz’s account is critical to understanding the IRS’s inappropriate and disparate treatment of applicants for tax exempt status,” Hill said. “While any harassment of his client’s family by reporters or others is clearly inappropriate, Mr. Campos had not brought such claims separately to the Committee’s attention before he apparently decided to publicize them.”
The political uproar over how the IRS has treated tea party and other conservative groups has largely faded. Many Democrats say recent evidence shows that the agency targeted groups of all political stripes for scrutiny.
But the House oversight committee and other GOP-controlled congressional panels are continuing to probe the matter, saying there is more to learn about how the IRS examined political groups seeking tax exemptions.
The uproar was sparked by an inspector general’s audit that found that the agency inappropriately targeted applicants for extra scrutiny based on their names, which often suggested political preferences. The issue led to a string of congressional hearings, apologies from agency officials and personnel departures, including the forced resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller.
Paz provided closed-door testimony to the House oversight panel in May. The committee sent Paz a letter Aug. 20 saying it had “uncovered additional information that appears to contradict your testimony in several areas relevant to the Committee’s investigation.”
In his letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Campos argued that lawmakers could have contacted him or Paz privately if it wanted to resolve any alleged discrepancies.