* Conservative Republican IRS agent says Tea Party inquiries
began in Cincinnati
* Cummings says IRS case is solved, vows transcript release
* Issa dismisses IRS mgr's comments, says probe to continue
(Recasts top; shifts attribution to transcript, adds details
from IRS worker interviews)
By David Morgan and Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, June 9 A U.S. Internal Revenue
Service manager, who described himself as a conservative
Republican, told congressional investigators that he and a local
colleague decided to give conservative groups the extra scrutiny
that has prompted weeks of political controversy.
In an official interview transcript released on Sunday by
Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the manager said he
and an underling set aside "Tea Party" and "patriot" groups that
had applied for tax-exempt status because the organizations
appeared to pose a new precedent that could affect future IRS
Cummings, top Democrat on the House of Representatives
Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducting the probe,
told CNN's "State of the Union" program that the manager's
comments provided evidence that politics was not behind IRS
actions that have fueled a month-long furor in Washington.
"He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I
think this interview and these statements go a long way toward
showing that the White House was not involved in this," Cummings
told CNN's "State of the Union" program.
"Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved. And if
it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on," he added.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said he would release a full
transcript of the committee's interviews with IRS officials by
the end of this week, if the panel's Republican chairman,
Representative Darrell Issa, does not.
Issa has released his own excerpts of interviews with IRS
employees the committee is conducting jointly, which the
Republican says suggests the added attention given to Tea Party
groups originated from Washington, D.C. and had political
Issa vowed to press ahead with the investigation and said
the IRS manager's comments "did not provide anything
enlightening or contradict other witness accounts."
"I strongly disagree with ... Cummings' assertion that we
know everything we need to know about inappropriate targeting of
Tea Party groups by the IRS," the California Republican said in
a statement released by his office.
Revelations that the tax agency set aside conservative
groups for scrutiny has raised a political furor over the past
month, leading President Barack Obama to fire the IRS
commissioner. The House oversight panel, several other
congressional committees and the FBI have launched
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued
a report on the matter last month finding no evidence of
involvement beyond IRS officials.
Still, Republicans have raised questions about whether the
scrutiny was directed politically at Obama's opponents and have
sought evidence of any White House involvement.
The House oversight committee has now completed five lengthy
interviews with IRS employees, including four based in the
Cincinnati office where applications for tax exempt status are
Cummings said congressional investigators now know what
happened based on these interviews.
CINCINNATI SOUGHT ADVICE FROM WASHINGTON
The excerpts of interviews with IRS workers released by
Cummings indicate that the IRS manager and an underling first
decided to contact Washington, D.C. IRS officials for guidance
on the cases from groups aligned with the anti-tax Tea Party
They did so to consolidate them, as they might be
precedent-setting for future cases, the manager said, according
to the interview transcripts.
It was an unidentified Cincinnati IRS worker who reported to
the manager, identified as John Shafer by committee aides, who
identified the first Tea Party case. That individual has not
been interviewed by the committee yet.
Investigators asked Shafer if he believed the decision to
centralize the screening of Tea Party applications was intended
to target "the president's political enemies."
"I do not believe that the screening of these cases had
anything to do, other than consistency and identifying issues
that needed to have further development," the manager answered,
according to a transcript released by Cummings.
Asked if he believed the White House was involved, the
manager replied: "I have no reason to believe that."
John Shafer could not be reached for comment.
"They wanted to make sure that it was handled in a way
whereby when other cases came behind it that were similar, that
they would be treated in a consistent way," the lawmaker said.
Another Cincinnati screener who worked for Shafer, Gary
Muthert, indicated in committee interviews released in part by
Issa last week, that "Washington wanted some cases," to review.
Democratic committee staff said Muthert's involvement came
later, after the initial screener and Shafer first sought advice
from Washington about the legal aspects of the newly-emerging
(Reporting by David Morgan and Kim Dixon; Editing by Maureen
Bavdek and Theodore d'Afflisio)