IRS Hearing: Trail Leads to Washington, Not Cincinnati 'Rogues'
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform resumed hearings on the IRS scandal Thursday, featuring two key witnesses: Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre, and Washington-based IRS lawyer Carter Hull, who recently retired after 48 years of service.
While both said they were unaware of any political motivations or White House involvement, Carter said the treatment of Tea Party cases had been unusual, and Hofacre said she had been "deeply offended" by attempts to blame rogue agents in Cincinnati.
Hull noted that even after he had recommended that certain Tea Party applications be approved, the approval was held up for further review by the office of the Chief Counsel of the IRS and other high-level officials. In his experience, he testified, that had never happened in nearly half a century of work at the IRS.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) led the witnesses through questions before Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) pounced, accusing him of politicizing the inquiry and attacking an op-ed by Issa in Thursday's USA Today, "IRS Tea Party trail leads to DC." Issa responded sharply by accusing Cummings of behaving "like a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar" who asks, "What hand? What cookie?"
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) responded by accusing Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George of "cherry-picking" examples in which the Tea Party had been investigated by the IRS. Democrats have attempted to claim that left-wing groups were equally subject to scrutiny. Connolly added that Issa had been forced to change his "narrative" in which the White House was to blame for the scandal.
Hofacre testified that she had not been asked to scrutinize "progressive" or liberal groups, and that she had been solely focused on groups with "Tea Party," "Patriot," or "9/12" in their names. She subsequently asked to be transferred to a different assignment.