Evidence of high-ranking political influence in the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives continues to grow. And repeated denials from the agency — and the Obama administration — can’t hide it.
The latest troubling revelation came Thursday from Carter Hull, a recently retired IRS attorney. During testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he said the IRS chief counsel’s office showed major — and “rare” — interest in the scrutiny of Tea Party applicants for tax exemptions from 2010 to 2012. That chief counsel, William Wilkins, is a political appointee of President Barack Obama.
Mr. Hull testified that he found himself “waiting for word from chief counsel as to how to proceed” on the Tea Party cases.
Elizabeth Hofacre, a Cincinnati office employee who reviewed Tea Party applications under Mr. Hull’s supervision, testified Thursday that she was “deeply offended” when higher-ups at the agency tried to blame the targeting on the Ohio office. She stressed that “micromanagement with respect to these applications” had come from Washington.
Certainly not many definitive answers are coming from IRS big shots. Lois Lerner, head of the tax-exempt division, has even taken the Fifth Amendment rather than answer Congress’ questions.
And IRS Inspector General J. Russell George, who also testified Thursday, objected to what he called Democratic lawmakers’ “unprecedented” attacks on his office. Among the lawmakers who offended the inspector general was Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. That ranking Democrat on the panel tried again Thursday to dismiss the serious, substantive allegations against the IRS as “baseless accusations.”
However, emerging facts have already forced what another committee member, 4th District Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has aptly called “the evolution” of the IRS’ defense.
As Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote Thursday night on the newspaper’s website: “First, Lerner planted a question at a conference. Then she said the Cincinnati office did it — a narrative that was advanced by the president’s spokesman, Jay Carney. Then came the suggestion the IRS was too badly managed to pull off a sophisticated conspiracy. Then the charge that liberal groups were targeted too — ‘we did it against both ends of the political spectrum.’ When the inspector general of the IRS said no, it was conservative groups that were targeted, he came under attack. Now the defense is that the White House wasn’t involved, so case closed.”
But if a presidential political appointee micromanaged the targeting of Tea Party groups, the White House was involved.
And this case is not closed.