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

Departing mayor’s locally drawn portrait joins city’s pantheon

Artist Elizabeth Person’s portrait of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will hang with others at City Hall.

Inslee proposes tapping reserves, carbon tax in budget plan

The proposal also includes money for the mental health system and efforts to fight opioid addiction.

One dead in crash south of Granite Falls

Two cars collided near the intersection of N. Lake Roesiger Road and Hidden Valley Road.

2 women struck, injured while crossing busy roads

The first happened Wednesday night in Everett. The second was Thursday morning in Edmonds.

Lynnwood robbery leads to lockdown at Edmonds schools

Edmonds police said it was just a precaution as they search around Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Marysville 7-Eleven hit by armed robbers

Officers set up a perimeter and brought in a police dog, but the man couldn’t be found.

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Counties fed up with unfunded mandates may sue the state

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

Pain lingers decade after recession

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Most Read