Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors
and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte
and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to
tea party-affiliated groups.
IRS employees in Cincinnati also told conservatives seeking the
status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was
overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the
Lois G. Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, told reporters
on Friday that the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were undertaken
by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati to target groups with “tea
party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.
In one instance,
however, Ron Bell, an IRS employee, informed an attorney representing a
conservative group focused on voter fraud that the application was under review in Washington.
On several other occasions, IRS officials in Washington and California
sent conservative groups detailed questionnaires about their voter
outreach and other activities, according to the documents.
“For the IRS to say it was some low-level group in Cincinnati is simply false,” said Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP who sought to communicate with IRS headquarters about the delay in granting tax-exempt status to True the Vote. (Continues)