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

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Families seek to change wrongful death law

A bill would allow or parents or siblings who wish to pursue a suit for an unmarried, childless adult.

Most Read