IRS worker: No political bias against tea party

WASHINGTON — An Internal Revenue Service manager and self-described conservative Republican said the close scrutiny of tea party groups’ tax forms originated in his Cincinnati IRS office and not in Washington, according to a full transcript of his interview by congressional investigators released Tuesday.

John Shafer, who oversaw a small group of IRS workers who screen applications for tax-exempt status, told the investigators that the initial tea party application was spotted by one of his workers in February 2010.

Shafer said he decided to send it to higher-ranking supervisors because it was unclear whether the group would qualify for the tax exemption and because of the media attention the conservative groups were garnering at the time.

Managers in the IRS’ Exempt Organizations office in Washington ended up expressing interest in the case, he said. Shafer said it was normal to pay careful attention to such cases to make sure similar applications are treated the same way.

“This ends up to be a case that we want to make sure we’re consistently going to look at, and that’s where this started,” Shafer said.

The transcript was released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who had made public excerpts of the interview earlier this month. The full 205 pages provide new details of how the screening of conservative groups began but lack bombshell, damaging new revelations about involvement by top officials inside or outside the IRS.

The IRS has been under fire from the White House and members of both parties since May, when one of its officials publicly apologized for targeting conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status for close examination. President Barack Obama has replaced the agency’s acting director and several other top IRS officials have stepped aside.

Several Republicans have said they believe the focus on conservative groups came from the White House. No direct ties to White House or any other top administration officials have yet to be publicly established in ongoing investigations by three congressional committees and the FBI.

Asked in the June 6 interview whether he believed the White House was behind the decision to target conservative groups, Shafer said, “I have no reason to believe that.”

Cummings, top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter to that panel’s chairman that the testimony “debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases.”

While conceding that investigators have concluded that some IRS officials were aware of the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups, Cummings wrote, “These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the president’s political enemies.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee chairman, said Cummings’ release of the transcript “will serve as a road map for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress.”

He criticized Cummings for declaring this month that it was time for Congress to move on from the probe and added, “Americans who think Congress should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings’ efforts to obstruct needed oversight.”

Cummings has complained that Issa has allowed reporters to view full transcripts of interviews committee investigators have conducted with some other IRS officials.

More in Local News

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

Man, 60, in critical condition after Bothell crash

Police believe the driver may have been speeding when he hit a rock wall.

FBI operation arrests 3 linked to exploitation of 32 women

The sting focused on Everett and other cities in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties.

Man arrested in Monroe Walmart robbery; second suspect flees

The pair fled in a stolen Mitsubishi Lancer with a distinctive green spray paint job.

Fugitive convict, missing more than a year, surrenders

Charles Coggins, 60, turned himself in Monday. He could now spend up to 30 days behind bars.

Former homeless camp needs needles and garbage cleaned up

The Hand Up Project will lead a volunteer effort this weekend on wooded land south of Everett.

County Council postpones vote on conservation programs

A decision on funding agricultural and water-quality programs will come after the budget process.

A Q&A with the candidates running for Snohomish County Council

Republican incumbent Sam Low faces Democratic challenger Kristin Kelly in District 5.

Front Porch

EVENTS Seahawks event postponed A Toys for Tots Blue Friday fundraiser that… Continue reading

Most Read