This week, Darrell Issa will begin new hearings into political corruption at the IRS, hearing from some of the “low-level employees” that IRS executives and the Obama administration blame for the targeting of conservative groups. Issa has also released passages from depositions taken from these witnesses, who tell quite a different story. Rather than go along with the company line that the targeting of conservatives was an inadvertent outcome from the reaction to Citizens United, they claim that the targeting was both deliberate policy and aimed specifically at conservatives and Republicans.
One employee was frustrated by dictates coming down from Washington on this policy:
And another more senior IRS Cincinnati employee complained about micromanagement from D.C.:
Q: But you specifically recall that the BOLO terms included “Tea Party?”
A: Yes, I do.
Q: And it was your understanding ‑‑ was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Tea Party groups?
A: That is correct.
Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify conservative groups?
A: Yes, it was.
Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Republican groups?
A: Yes, it was.
Another was at least led to believe that this policy came from IRS headquarters:
Q: So is it your perspective that ultimately the responsible parties for the decisions that were reported by the IG are not in the Cincinnati office?
A: I don’t know how to answer that question. I mean, from an agent standpoint, we didn’t do anything wrong. We followed directions based on other people telling us what to do.
Q: And you ultimately followed directions from Washington; is that correct?
A: If direction had come down from Washington, yes.
Q: But with respect to the particular scrutiny that was given to Tea Party applications, those directions emanated from Washington; is that right?
A: I believe so.
Some of these cases got sent to HQ, because as this employee explained, that’s who wanted them in the first place:
Q: Okay. Now, was there a point around this time period when [your supervisor] asked you to do a search for similar applications?
Q: To the best of your recollection, when was this request made?
A: Sometime in early March of 2010.
Q: Did [your supervisor] give you any indication of the need for the search, any more context?
A: He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.
Q: So as of April 2010, these 40 cases were held at that moment in your group; is that right?
A: Some were.
Q: How many were held there?
A: Less than 40. Some went to Washington, D.C.
Q: Okay. How many went to Washington, D.C.?
A: I sent seven.
And here’s the kicker — at least some of these cases that went to IRS HQ in Washington DC were by special request:
Q: Did anyone else ever make a request that you send any cases to Washington?
A: [Different IRS employee] wanted to have two cases that she couldn’t ‑‑ Washington, D.C. wanted them, but she couldn’t find the paper. So she requested me, through an email, to find these cases for her and to send them to Washington, D.C.
Q: When was this, what time frame?
A: I don’t recall the time frame, maybe May of 2010.
Q: But just to be clear, she told you the specific names of these applicants.
Q: And she told you that Washington, D.C. had requested these two specific applications be sent to D.C.
A: Yes, or parts of them.
Q: Okay. So she asked you to send particular parts of these applications.
Q: And that was unusual. Did you say that?
Q: And she indicated that Washington had requested these specific parts of these specific applications; is that right?
So do these employees believe the spin that this is just a few rogue employees? Hardly:
Q: And you’ve heard, I’m sure, news reports about individuals here in Washington saying this is a problem that was originated in and contained in the Cincinnati office, and that it was the Cincinnati office that was at fault. What is your reaction to those types of stories?
A: Well, it’s hard to answer the question because in my mind I still hear people saying we were low‑level employees, so we were lower than dirt, according to people in D.C. So, take it for what it is. They were basically throwing us underneath the bus.
The explanation offered is absurd on its face for anyone with some familiarity with bureaucracies. They don’t innovate — they calcify. The only way that an organization of this size decides to start targeting specific groups is if its management decides to do it, and in this case, that decision would have to come from pretty high up the ladder. Having the home office request specific cases makes that much more plain, and suggests that the cases were being produced for a purpose.
Whose cases got this special attention? Who asked for the files? Were any of these files among those that mysteriously got leaked in 2012, or were related to unsubstantiated claims about tax records by Democrats in the last election cycle? Perhaps Issa will get to the bottom of those questions over the next two weeks.