CINCINNATI - The agents inside the Cincinnati IRS office are not talking about the federal and congressional investigations into the targeting of conservative groups, but former workers are stepping forward to defend them and offer insight into what goes on in the federal building at 550 Main St.
"People may talk politics, but as to working the return, people in the service, in the field, are concerned with one thing: the law," said Ronald Ran, a retired Cincinnati IRS agent.
Ran was an IRS agent in Cincinnati for 35 years, working with Estates and Gifts tax returns. He says people don't understand what that world is like.
"Some of the attorneys I dealt with, I knew which ones were big in the Republican Party, some of them big in the Democratic Party. It didn't make any difference. We're dealing with the tax code," Ran said.
Ran doesn't believe politics motivated Cincinnati IRS agents to single out conservative groups filing for tax-exempt status.
"To the outside person, and I have to admit, the terms definitely seem like you were politically motivated," Ran said.
The Treasury inspector general found agents used key works like "tea party," "patriot" and "9/12" to set aside tax applications for extra scrutiny. This week, leaked interviews between Cincinnati workers and investigators showed IRS officials in Washington offered guidance in the targeting of conservative groups.
"Washington reviews stuff. That is their job," Ran said.
Bonnie Esrig, another retired Cincinnati agent, was a manager in Exempt Organizations, the office at the center of the IRS scandal. She dismissed the claims by IRS higher-ups in Washington that two "rogue" agents in Cincinnati did the targeting on their own.
"I don't believe there were rogue agents," Esrig said. "I think there were some errors. I don't think there was intent to treat one group different than the other."
Plenty of lawmakers do think this is political. There have been five congressional hearings so far, and at least four Cincinnati IRS workers have been interviewed by congressional investigators.
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