Misfired 2010 email alerted more IRS officials to Tea Party scrutiny

A misfired email from a U.S. Internal Revenue Service employee in Cincinnati in July 2010 alerted a broad group of Washington IRS officials to the heightened scrutiny being given conservative groups, according to an interview the IRS worker gave congressional investigators.

The interview transcripts, reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, provide new details about Washington IRS officials’ awareness of the scrutiny given to groups seeking tax-exempt status using terms like “Tea Party” or “patriot” to flag applications.

The transcripts show that in July 2010, Elizabeth Hofacre, an IRS official in Cincinnati who was coordinating “emerging issues” for the agency’s tax-exempt unit, was corresponding with Washington-based IRS tax attorney Carter Hull….

Lois Lerner, the IRS official who set off the controversy, said she first learned of the “be on the lookout list” (BOLO) of partisan terms in June 2011, and ordered the criteria be removed immediately. The Treasury inspector general backed that up….

Washington IRS officials including Lerner, who was put on administrative leave in response to the fracas, have stressed the lack of Washington involvement in the scrutiny….

Neither Hofacre, nor a second IRS worker in Cincinnati, Gary Muthert, knew who asked for the partisan names to be added to the BOLO list in the first place, the transcripts showed.

Still, Muthert said that when his supervisor in Cincinnati initially asked him to look for “Tea Party” applications, “he told me Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” according to his interview with congressional investigators.

IRS Workers Say Supervisors Directed Targeting

Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency’s Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.

The Cincinnati agents didn’t provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.