I-Team: IRS worker called to be interviewed in Washington worked at Cincinnati office, official says

CINCINNATI -- The I-Team is digging deeper into the Cincinnati IRS workers called to speak with congressional investigators this week.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested five IRS workers travel to Washington and give transcribed interviews on what they know about the Cincinnati IRS office targeting tea party and conservative groups in the last few years.

One of those workers is Holly Paz, who was an IRS manager in Cincinnati, according to Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George -- the man who headed the scathing IRS audit.

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Paz is currently the director of the office rulings and agreements for the IRS in Washington, D.C.

But according to George, Paz was a manager at the Cincinnati IRS office during the systematic scrutiny of conservative groups.

"She was the acting director for a significant period of time that this was occurring," George said during Friday's hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Federal records show Paz donated $4,000 to President Barack Obama's campaign in 2008.

There are no records of political donations for the other four Cincinnati IRS workers called to give interviews with Oversight Committee staff this week.

The I-Team confirmed they are John Shafer, a screening manager who began in March 2012; Gary Muthert, a screener who also began in March 2012; Liz Hofacre, a case coordinator from April 2010 to October 2010; and Joseph Herr, a group manager from April 2010 to August 2010.

The head of the Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), did not explain why these five employees were chosen and made no accusations that they engaged in criminal activity.

You can read Issa's letter about the interview requests below or at  http://goo.gl/67GgJ .

The Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday. The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday.

Lawmakers are trying to determine who directed Cincinnati IRS workers to improperly target groups with "Tea Party," "Patriots" or "9/12 Project" in their applications for tax exempt status. The practice started in March 2010, the inspector general's report said. By August 2010, it was part of the written criteria used to flag groups for additional scrutiny. It went on for 18 months until it was stopped by IRS officials.

In his testimony Friday, ousted Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller stuck to his story that Cincinnati staffers started the process without any direction from Washington, with no political bias and without the knowledge of higher-ups. He said it resulted from a misguided effort to handle a flood of applications in the Cincinnati office.

One Cincinnati worker was reassigned as a result of the improper targeting, Miller said.

George cited "gross mismanagement" of the Cincinnati IRS office in his testimony Friday. His report, based on interviews in Cincinnati and Washington, mainly criticized supervisors in Washington who were overseeing Cincinnati workers.

You can read the Treasury inspector's general report on these incidents below or at http://goo.gl/o5mCN.

 

 

George reiterated that IRS officials said they were not politically pressured to target conservative groups. "We have no evidence at this time to contradict that assertion," he told the Ways and Means Committee, but he said he is continuing to ask that question.

George's report said that while their applications languished in the Cincinnati office - some for two years or longer -  tea party groups were asked to fill out exhaustive questionnaires that asked: Who are your donors? What are the political affiliations of officers? What issues are important to the organization, and what are your positions on those issues? Will any officers in the group run for public office? Where do you work?

Miller, George and former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman are scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will be one of the lawmakers asking questions.

Lois Lerner, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, who was ultimately in charge of the Cincinnati screeners, is scheduled to testify Wednesday along with Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, George, and Shulman.

See the IRS questionnaire sent to the Liberty Township Tea Party below or at http://goo.gl/ph8mW

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