#IRS scandal: Rogue agents in Cincinatti apparently not so rogue

**Posted by Phineas

It’s kind of hard to “go rogue” when you’re only doing what your superiors in Washington, D.C., are telling you to do:

From the outset, Internal Revenue Service lawyers based in Washington, D.C., provided important guidance on the handling of tea-party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to both IRS sources and the inspector general’s report released in mid May.

Officials in the Technical Unit of the IRS’s Rulings and Agreements office played an integral role in determining how the targeted applications were treated, provided general guidelines to Cincinnati case workers, briefed other agency employees on the status of the special cases, and reviewed all those intrusive requests demanding “more information” from tea-party groups. At times, the Technical Unit lawyers seemed to exercise tight control over these applications, creating both a backlog in application processing and frustration among Cincinnati agents waiting for direction.

An IRS employee who asked not to be identified tells National Review Online that all members of the agency’s Technical Unit are based in Washington, D.C. A current list of Technical Unit managers provided by another IRS employee shows that all such managers are based at the agency’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in the District of Columbia, and the IRS confirmed, in a testy exchange with National Review Online, that the Technical Unit is “based in Washington.”

It seems that this Washington-based unit (1) exercised very tight control over those “rogue” agents, demanding to review the letters requesting additional information before they were sent out:

The IG report indicates this became a source of frustration, and specialists in Cincinnati pressed for a streamlined approach. “Why does the Technical Unit need to review every additional information request letter when a template letter could be approved and used on all the cases?” they asked via e-mail. The Washington unit rejected this approach and, in February 2011, was developing individualized letters itself. According to the IG report, an update from the Technical Unit acting manager to the Determinations Unit manager indicated, “Letters were being developed and would be reviewed shortly.”

We now know that such letters asked for lists of groups’ reading materials and volunteers, copies of fliers, and printouts of Facebook pages.

In other words, these “rogue agents” had leashes on them that stretched all the way from Cincinnati to the District of Columbia. If you ran a Tea Party group and wanted 501(c) status, those annoying questions about your personal life  and the lives of your friends, relatives, and members, and the infuriating delays they caused, weren’t coming from flunkies in Ohio, but high-powered lawyers back at the home office.

By the way, who gave those lawyers their direction? Note the date at the start of Eliana Johnson’s article: March, 2010, which just happens to be the time when the very anti-Tea Party head of the Treasury employees union, which covers IRS employees, was meeting with President Obama, who was looking ahead to crucial midterm elections.

And, just like that, the Technical Unit in D.C. all but formally takes over the applications from conservative groups.

Odd coincidence, that.

via Jim Geraghty.

RELATED: Channel 19 in Cincinnati has a good report on those rogue front-line agents and their chain of command, and who the manager is who ties them all together.

(1) Funny. I never knew Washington was a suburb of Cincinnati.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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