Ed’s “WaPo versus WaPo” post spotlighted a quote from an IRS employee claiming that there had to be a “directive” issued to the Determinations Unit to get them to focus on tea partiers. Was there? Actually, yes — and, via Mickey Kaus and Sean Higgins, we know that from the lede of an NYT article that was designed to exculpate the agency. Quote:
During the summer of 2010, the dozen or so accountants and tax agents of Group 7822 of the Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati got a directive from their manager. A growing number of organizations identifying themselves as part of the Tea Party had begun applying for tax exemptions, the manager said, advising the workers to be on the lookout for them and other groups planning to get involved in elections.
Who was their manager, and at whose behest did he issue the directive? That’s what Rand Paul was getting at yesterday, despite CNN’s best efforts to make him look like a conspiracist for wondering. Per the Times, there are still no answers:
It is not yet clear which manager in Cincinnati asked for an initial keyword search of Tea Party applications, Congressional aides said. One of the employees that the House committee is seeking to interview this week, Joseph Herr, had been a manager in charge of the group of specialists in Cincinnati from its inception through August 2010, according to the aides.
Steve Miller was asked point blank during his testimony on Friday whether he was ever told the names of the employee(s) responsible for targeting conservatives. His answer: Yes, but … he can’t remember them now. I haven’t read the IG’s report cover to cover but, as far as I know, even the IG either never found out or simply didn’t name the manager responsible for the directive. Here’s the section from the report — with an extended redaction smack in the middle of it:
There’s a bunch of redacted stuff at the very beginning, when the policy’s being developed, and then suddenly a “Determinations Unit specialist was asked” to start looking for tea partiers. Who asked him? And why has any info been removed from the IG report? Here and elsewhere (specifically in the timelines), details about what was going on circa February 2010 are blacked out; when Sean Higgins asked the IRS why, they said some material had been redacted “because the information could identify a specific taxpayer.” The rest of the report avoids that problem, though, by referring to key players generically instead of by their names — a “Determinations Unit specialist” instead of “John Smith,” etc. If they were worried about identifying a taxpayer, they could have used a similarly generic description (“an applicant for tax exemption”). Why the redaction instead?
We should have answers soon. Darrell Issa’s House committee is set to interview the four IRS employees in Cincinnati at the heart of this later today. Sources told a local reporter last week that the employees “simply did what their bosses ordered.” Once we have the bosses’ names, then we can get down to business in finding out if they were only doing what their bosses ordered too. Fun.