Lawmakers to interview Washington IRS official over Tea Party scrutiny
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - A congressional committee probing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative groups plans to interview a Washington IRS official involved in overseeing Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer, will be interviewed this week, said a source close to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives committee taking the lead in various investigations of the matter.
In an earlier interview with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a lower-level worker from the IRS' Cincinnati office criticized Hull for micro-managing the processing of applications for tax exemption when they began emerging in 2010.
Several congressional panels are probing revelations that came to light last month about the IRS using politically volatile terms, such as "Tea Party" and "Patriot," to single out for added scrutiny applications for tax-exempt status at the Cincinnati office where the applications are handled.
Some Republicans have alleged there were political motives behind the practice and are trying to find evidence linking it to the White House.
An audit last month from the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration, which monitors the IRS, found no evidence of political or White House involvement. The congressional panels are conducting their own investigations.
At least five IRS officials have given transcribed interviews so far to congressional investigators. Those interviewed include four workers in Cincinnati and Holly Paz, a mid-level Washington official who oversaw tax-exemption applications. Paz was replaced last week.
Hull was involved early on in assisting the Cincinnati office to review applications, according to a transcript of a congressional interview with an IRS specialist in Cincinnati.
Attempts to reach Hull were unsuccessful.
Elizabeth Hofacre handled Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status in mid-2010. She told investigators that Hull reviewed her responses to applicants, according to transcripts reviewed by Reuters.
She called his involvement unusual and said it eventually led her to seek a new job with more autonomy.
Leaders of the House committee have been squabbling all week about whether to release full transcripts of the interviews their staffers have done.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican, first released selected excerpts from some interviews on June 2.
He was criticized for that by Elijah Cummings, the committee's top Democrat, for "cherry picking" statements to prove there was political involvement.
Cummings on Sunday unveiled his own selected excerpts, including comments from an IRS manager in Cincinnati who described himself as a "conservative Republican." Cummings said the interview showed the screening of conservative groups originated in the Cincinnati office.
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)