CINCINNATI - Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency's Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea party groups that began in 2010 -- contradicting earlier statements by top IRS officials that two low-level workers were to blame, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Transcripts of the interviews appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed the "rogue" Cincinnati agents.
In mid-May, ousted IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said the agency pinpointed two "rogue" employees in the Cincinnati IRS office as being responsible for "overly aggressive" handling of tea party requests for tax-exempt status over the past two years.
Miller described the employees in a meeting on Capitol Hill and said they were "off the reservation."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Hofacre said her office in Cincinnati sought help from IRS officials in the Washington unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations after she started getting the tea party cases in April 2010.
Hofacre said Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington, closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions that applicants were asked.
In March of 2010, Gary Muthert was one of the first Cincinnati agents to begin selecting and setting aside tea party applications for extra scrutiny, according to the Journal.
Muthert told investigators a local manager asked him to round up seven tea party applications using the key phrase "tea party" and send them to Washington.
Over two months, Muthert said he located a total of 40 applications using key words, according to the report.
It's important to note, as the Wall Street Journal reported, the transcripts don't suggest that President Barack Obama's administration at the Treasury Department or the White House knew of or were involved in tea party targeting.
The I-Team has made multiple attempts to speak with Muthert and Hofacre.
No one is talking.
I-Team's Jason Law contributed to this report
You can read an example of an extra questionnaire some tea party members were sent from the IRS seeking more information about trying to obtain 501 C3 status at http://goo.gl/ph8mW.
You can read the Treasury inspector's general report on these incidents below or at http://goo.gl/o5mCN.
To read the full report, go here: http://on.wsj.com/13aM7Ph