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Cincinnati IRS Worker Testifies In Washington
Cincinnati IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre told a House committee Thursday she felt her work in reviewing tax-exempt applications for Tea Party groups was "micromanaged" by IRS officials in Washington, D.C. Hofacre said she was so annoyed that she requested a transfer to another department two months after being assigned to review the cases.
"My frustration was primarily that I had to sit on them and wait for guidance from D.C.," Hofacre told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Hofacre worked in the Emerging Issues section of the Exempt Organizations department in Cincinnati. She said she was assigned 20 Tea Party cases at the end of April 2010 and subsequently received more cases. By July, she had asked to be transferred to another department.
Hofacre said her supervisors instructed her to consult Carter Hull in the Washington, D.C. office. Hull recently retired from the agency after working there for 48 years. Hull said his supervisors gave him two "test cases" to review. He described a bureaucratic nightmare in which he had to seek guidance from his supervisors in evaluating the applications and later the IRS chief counsel's office - headed by Obama administration appointee, William Wilkins.
Hull said he was instructed to ask groups for more information and eventually the cases were taken away from him.
"Often times, there was more than one reviewer. But, multi-tiered is unusual," Hull said.
Elizabeth Hofacre was asked how she felt when Lois Lerner, the head of the Exempt Organizations department, said Cincinnati employees singled out Tea Party groups in response to a question at a meeting in May as the scandal broke.
"I can't comment on what others but personally, I felt like it was a nuclear strike. I felt like they were blaming us," Hofacre said.
Committee Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked "Ms. Hofacre, do you know of anyone that you would say in your opinion had political motives in the role treating of Tea Party groups?"
Hofacre replied, "No, I do not."
Local Tea Party groups were among those scrutinized. George Brunemann of the Southwest Ohio Tea Party said he felt Hofacre and Hull were truthful and could "see their frustration."
"The IRS is probably the epitome of bureaucracy. And that they were trying to say that low-level employees were doing this of their own accord, is totally unbelievable," Brunemann said.
Ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-MD), asked Hofacre if anyone from the White House ever contacted her about tea party group applications. She said no one had.
Meanwhile, J. Russell George, the Inspector General who investigated the IRS told the committee Thursday he's "disturbed" the IRS may have withheld information during his investigation. George said just last week, he received information that progressive groups may have received extra scrutiny.
His audit of the IRS started in 2012 and lasted a year.
George said of the 298 cases that received extra scrutiny, seven contained the word progress or progressives.
Democrats have accused George of conducting a shoddy, one-sided investigation.