IRS Leaders to Testify on Targeting of Conservative Organizations

A special committee will meet Thursday morning to continue the investigation into the IRS concerning the delay of applications for tax-exempt received from conservative organizations.  The committee is looking to interview the IRS leaders involved in the targeting effort to determine just how high up the IRS’ chain of leader the effort reached.

Specifically, the committee has requested that two IRS leaders testify on the matter today.  One of those leaders is Lois Lerner, the former Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division.  The other is a representative of the chief counsel’s office of the IRS.

Lerner has yet to testify, previously invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  Lerner invoked that right because the leaders involved in the effort could face criminal charges for contempt of Congress, a charge that carries jail time.

However, committee members indicated Lerner effectively waived that right when she issued a statement on the matter.  As a result, the committee has requested that she return to testify.

Representative Darrell Issa of California is responsible for heading up the committee.  Issa and other committee members notified Danny Werfel, the current acting Commissioner of the IRS, of the request via a letter.

“As a part of this ongoing investigation, the committees have learned that the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. has been closely involved in some of the applications,” the letter to Werfel read.

When news first broke about the targeting of conservative organizations, IRS leaders including Lerner and then acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller indicated it was the brainchild of rogue agents in the IRS’ Cincinnati office.  However, those local agents quickly testified, indicating that they were receiving direction from their local leaders and ultimately IRS leaders in Washington, D.C.  One of those local leaders was Carter Hull.

Hull was a tax specialist for the IRS for over 40 years.  Hull is now retired, although he testified recently before the committee.  It was that testimony from Hull that led the committee to Lerner and the counsel’s office.

Hull noted that when he attempted to approve or deny certain applications for tax-exempt status, Lerner instructed him to send those applications to her office and the chief counsel’s office for further review.  Hull noted he had never previously sent tax-exempt applications to their offices, as he and other lower-level IRS employees had the power to approve or deny such applications.

The hearing on Thursday is also expected to include further testimony from Elizabeth Hofacre.  Hofacre is one of the IRS agents based in the Cincinnati office who Lerner referred to as a rogue agent responsible for the delay tactics.

Although Democrat representatives acknowledge that the IRS delayed certain groups applying for tax-exempt status, they claim those groups were broader than only those affiliated with the Tea Party and other conservative organizations.  They plan to have Inspector General J. Russell George testify on Thursday as well.

George allegedly has knowledge of what groups were targeted and requested that Werfel withhold documents from the committee that prove the IRS’ targeting effort was not limited to conservative organizations alone.

In the event the committee finds the targeting focused largely if not solely on conservative organizations, it will reflect poorly on Democrat-led leadership, as such targeting would appear to be politically motivated as a part of the 2012 Presidential election in an effort to limit support for Democrat political opponents of the Democratic Party.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.