Cincinnati IRS employees lash out at Lerner’s “nuclear strike” on them

posted at 10:01 pm on June 12, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Elizabeth Hofacre does not go under the bus quietly:

Elizabeth Hofacre, who coordinated ”emerging issues” cases for the IRS and handled all tea-party applications between April and August 2010, called Lerner’s May 10 disclosure of the scandal at a tax-law conference ”a nuclear strike” on Cincinnati employees. Hofacre told House Oversight Committee investigators in an interview, the transcript of which has been reviewed by National Review Online, that her boss immediately called her to apologize on Lerner’s behalf, presumably because “she was flabbergasted that Lois had made such a statement” and “appalled that Lois Lerner said that.” …

Upon hearing this, “I was furious,” Hofacre told investigators.

Hofacre also charged that top brass in the IRS, including Lerner, misled the public by blaming the scandal on a few rogue employees. “Everybody that has been making those statements should know they are inaccurate,” Hofacre said. Asked whether “the public has been purposely misled,” Hofacre responded, “Exactly.”

Hofacre also described the process Tea Parties were put into as, “‘These cases were basically in a black hole,’ she told internal IRS reviewers in 2012,” and said she was “micromanaged to death” by a Washington IRS lawyer. Eliana Johnson has reported before that lawyers with Washington’s technical unit frequently advised on Tea Party cases.

A USA Today report today shed some more light on how the targeting might have started and how it was allowed to continue. It did indeed start in Cincinnati, but was quickly and regularly sent up to Washington for guidance and affirmed and helped along the way:

The Tea Party affair started with a Feb. 25, 2010 e-mail from Cincinnati-based IRS agent Jack Koester to his boss, Screening Group Manager John Shafer. Shafer, in turn, sent it to his superiors, including some Washington staff, elevating it as a “high profile case.”

The Cincinnati employees weren’t quite sure what the Tea Party was, but they knew it was politically sensitive. “This case will be sent to inventory for further development. Political campaigns on behalf (of) or in opposition to any political candidate do not promote social welfare,” Shafer wrote to his bosses. The Tea Party groups were seeking tax exempt status as “social welfare” groups.

A few days later, Shafer came back to Muthert asking him to look up how many Tea Party cases had been received, and how many had already been approved. “He told me that Washington, D.C wanted some cases,” Muthert said, according tot he transcripts.

Shafer, though, told congressional investigators that he asked for the list on his own — not on orders from Washington. “No one said to make a search,” he said.

“Based on what I saw at the time, this organization is something — I don’t know what it is, but it is something that appears to be growing, some type of movement,” Muthert said. “So when I was asked to research the Tea Parties, it was like OK, I understand why you would want me to look at these cases and see if there is going to be a million coming in or not.”

Muthert began flagging the Tea Party cases as an “emerging issue,” meaning that the cases might raise new legal issues that should be looked at by tax law specialists. In effect, that meant that the Tea Party cases were put in a “holding pattern,” Muthert said.

In other good news, the IRS is training with AR-15s. Considering who it has targeted in the past, the agency might want to consider its foes likely have equal fire power.

Rep. Jeff Duncan wants to know why IRS law enforcement agents are training with AR-15 rifles.

As chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, Duncan (R-S.C.) toured a federal law enforcement facility in late May and noticed agents training with the semi-automatic weapons at a firing range. They identified themselves as IRS, he said.

“When I left there, it’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability,” Duncan told POLITICO. “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability?”

While Duncan acknowledges that the IRS has an enforcement division, he questions if that level of firepower is appropriate when they could coordinate operations with other agencies, like the FBI, especially in a time of austerity.

But on the bright side, the agency canceled an order for surveillance equipment. I’m feeling better already.


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