IRS Scandal Originated at Highest Levels in Washington

Much was revealed during Thursday’s Oversight Committee hearing on IRS targeting. Above all, however, once thing became apparent: House Democrats do not want this investigation to continue.

When the IRS scandal first erupted, some Democratic politicians made bipartisan noises, condemning the targeting and promising to get to the bottom of things. President Obama even called the IRS’ actions “outrageous.” On Thursday, however, Oversight Democrats tried desperately to obstruct and derail the watershed hearing from start to finish.  

While Republicans on the committee asked probing questions, Democrats continually tried to strawman Republican concerns,  asking IRS officials if they had been personally ordered to target conservatives by the White House – and then claiming victory when the answer was no.

Oversight Democrats’ rising panic over the investigation is no mystery.  For months, Democrats have watched Committee Chairman Darrell Issa follow the IRS trail into higher and higher levels of government. Moreover, Thursday’s questioning of Elizabeth Hofacre and Carter Hull may hold the most important clues on this trail yet.

Hofacre, of the now-infamous Cincinnati office, was initially scapegoated by agency higher-ups as one of the “rogue” agents said to be responsible for the scandal. Yet Hofacre testified that Tea Party applications were targeted in spite of her efforts to process them fairly.

At Thursday’s hearing, Hofacre described how administrators obstructed her work at every turn, preventing her from closing any of the more than 40 Tea Party applications she was assigned. Hofacre says that “In my experience this was a highly unusual process.” In fact, she found the delays so frustrating that she requested, and was granted, a transfer to another division.

To Hofacre, it looked as if these applications were being stonewalled by her supervisor, DC-based IRS lawyer Carter Hull. Yet Hull, who also testified, said that he too was acting under instructions. Hull even noted that one Tea Party application was taken out of his hands after he suggested it be approved.

Hull was reporting, interestingly, to the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in DC. This office is headed by William Wilkins – a longtime Democrat and Obama appointee.

Hull, a recent retiree and longtime veteran at the IRS, said that he’d had no experience like this in his 48 years of service at the agency.  He did, however, vaguely recall that he’d seen something similar happen in the agency’s distant past.

Carter Hull has worked at the IRS since the mid-1960s. Perhaps this similar occurrence was the Civil Rights Movement.