We've known for weeks the argument made by senior IRS officials that targeting of conservative Tea Party groups was carried out by a "few low-level agents in Cincinnati" is bogus. Now, we have even more proof. NBC News reported last night that the signatures of senior level IRS officials, including that of IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner, are on documents that were sent to Tea Party groups asking for more information.
Additional scrutiny of conservative organizations’ activities by the IRS did not solely originate in the agency’s Cincinnati office, with requests for information coming from other offices and often bearing the signatures of higher-ups at the agency, according to attorneys representing some of the targeted groups. At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.
Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing 27 conservative political advocacy organizations that applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, provided some of the letters to NBC News. He said the groups’ contacts with the IRS prove that the practices went beyond a few “front line” employees in the Cincinnati office, as the IRS has maintained.
“We've dealt with 15 agents, including tax law specialists -- that's lawyers -- from four different offices, including (the) Treasury (Department) in Washington, D.C.,” Sekulow said. “So the idea that this is a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati is not correct.”
Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including "Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.," and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Two letters with "Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C." letterhead were signed by "Tax Law Specialist(s)" from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.
Lerner has been put on administrative leave after refusing to testify before the House Oversight Committee about the scandal last week. She is still pulling a $180,000 per year, taxpayer funded paycheck. Lerner was the first to publicly admit IRS targeting of conservatives was in fact taking place.