Cringeworthy: The Holly Paz IRS Targeting Story

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Jun 17, 2013 2:26 PM

According to the Associated Press, Holly Paz has told congressional investigators that all these pesky charges about IRS targeting are, well, just the result of some unfortunate misunderstandings:

Paz described an agency in which IRS supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field but didn't fully understand what those agents were doing. Paz said agents in Cincinnati openly talked about handling "tea party" cases, but she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active -- conservative and liberal.

. . .

Paz said an IRS supervisor in Cincinnati had commonly referred to the applications as "tea party" cases. But, Paz said, she thought that was simply shorthand for any application that included political activity.

 "Since the first case that came up to Washington happened to have that name, it appeared to me that's why they were calling it that as a shorthand," Paz told congressional investigators.

 Paz said she didn't think the agents in Cincinnati were politically motivated.

 "My impression, based on, you know, this instance and other instances in the office is that, because they are so apolitical, they are not as sensitive as we would like them to be as to how things might appear," Paz said.

Yeeeah, that's the ticket!

Seriously, this excuse-making is just cringeworthy. If Ms. Paz expects anyone to take her seriously, she really needs to account for unfortunate facts like some of those laid out in USA Today this morning, which effectively rebut her claims:

Elizabeth Hofacre, the agency's emerging issues coordinator in Cincinnati when the targeting began, has told investigators that she kicked out any progressive groups that other agents tried to put in with the Tea Party cases. She said she understood the term to mean conservative or Republican groups. "I was tasked to do Tea Parties, and I wasn't — I wasn't equipped or set up to do anything else."

A USA TODAY analysis of IRS data shows that dozens of liberal groups received tax-exempt approval in the 27 months that Tea Party groups sat in limbo, even though the liberal groups were engaging in similar kids of activity. Groups applying for the exemption are supposed to be primarily focusing on social welfare, not political activity.

If "Tea Party" was just shorthand for "politically sensitive," (1)Why was Elizabeth Hofacre tasked with just "Tea Party" cases, rather than "politically sensitive" ones? and (2) If confusion about how to process politically sensitive cases was genuine, how did it happen that the "apolitical" workers were somehow able to process only lefty applications, and (3) how was it that Democrats couldn't find a single liberal group that had been harassed like conservatives had?

In a word: Cringeworthy. Who can take anything these people say seriously?