(CNSNews.com) – A career Internal Revenue Service employee in the Cincinnati office told Congress she resented the accusation that the targeting of Tea Party organizations was the work of “rogue” agents from her office.
“I was deeply offended they would impugn my reputation and the reputation of other agents and employees,” said IRS Cincinnati employee Elizabeth Hofacre during her testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday.
Hofacre said several times that assertions that the entire scandal involving the targeting of Tea Party groups was the fault of Cincinnati rogue employees was like a “nuclear strike.”
Suspended Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner, former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney all blamed Cincinnati employees after a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report first exposed the improper scrutiny.
Later evidence surfaced that the IRS in Washington was involved. Most recently, IRS employees said that the office of the IRS chief counsel was involved. IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins is one of two political appointees in the agency.
From 1999 through October 2010, Hofacre was employed as an IRS Exempt Organization Determination Specialist. After that, she made a lateral move to the Exempt Organization Quality Assurance office because of her frustration over dealing with supervisors in the processing of tax-exempt applications from Tea Party organizations.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), asked Hofacre, “Do you think the public has been purposefully misled by assertions that Cincinnati was to blame? And your response was?”
Hofacre responded, “Yes, I believe so.”
She later said, “It was inferred that I was one of them,” referring to rogue employees.
“I was not,” Hofacre said. “I was following direction of management, and they were aware of what I was doing.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked, “When the spokesperson for the president of the United States stood up and said IRS line persons from Cincinnati were targeting conservative groups, what’s the accuracy of that statement?”
Hofacre said, “Sir, the accuracy to any inference to rogue agents is incorrect.”
She said after the inference, “The press hounded my family and me. They were hounding us at work.”
Chaffetz asked, “What did you want to do?”
“Go back to my life previous to May 10,” Hofacre answered.
Chaffetz denounced Obama administration officials for blaming lower-level employees for the scandal, when in fact it turned out that Washington was involved.
“That’s the sad part of this story. I’m glad the truth is surfacing. I think most people reflecting back, realize you are more heroic in this,” Chaffetz said. “I think when you have such senior powerful people in Washington, D.C., trying to discredit you and your person for your service, this is wrong. I’m proud of the fact that we are pursuing this.”
“If we did what the White House wanted us to do, if we did what the ranking member suggested we do, this thing would be over,” Chaffetz said. “Nothing here, don’t do it. As far as I’m concerned it’s over. When you have the spokesperson for president of the United States make a definitive statement that it was two rogue agents and start poking at these people who have no power to do anything about it, that’s wrong. How dare anyone suggest we’re at the end of this! This is the beginning of this.”
Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he did not want to end the investigation.
“What I said was when it came to issue the president or the White House being responsible, evidence for that is not and continues to be not there,” Cummings said. “I want to get to the bottom of this.”
Hofacre told the committee that she was assigned review applications with “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12” beginning on April 30, 2010.
“In my experience, this was an unusual process – I never before had to send development letters that I had drafted to EO Technical for review, and I never before had to send copies of applications and response that were assigned to me to EO Technical for review,” she told the committee.
“I was frustrated because of what I perceived as micromanagement with respect to these applications. I also received numerous calls from applicants asking about the status of their applications,” she continued. “I was only able to tell those applicants that their applications were under review. I became frustrated, because until I received guidance from EO Technical, I was unable to process those applications.