Last week Rep Elijah Cumming released the full testimony of and IRS employee in Cincinnati named John Shafer. Cummings released the testimony despite the objections of Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, because he believes it destroys Issa’s contention that the White House was involved with the IRS scandal. Additionally Cummings believes this testimony should close the door on the investigation of the scandal.
As Eliana Johnson points out in today’s Wall Street Journal, Issa never stated that the White House was involve and there is evidence of extensive Washington involvement indicating the investigation needs to continue. That and the fact that Cummings stands alone in trying to fight off further inquiry.
Mr. Cummings’s enthusiasm for defending the IRS may make him a lonely figure among the 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, but he is likely to find an ally in his chief counsel on the committee. She is Susanne Sachsman Grooms, who worked for the IRS between 2008 and 2011 as an adviser to the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement and then as a senior counselor to the chief of criminal investigations. At the time, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement—her boss—was none other than Steven Miller, who held the post of IRS commissioner from November 2012 until his resignation in May after the scandal broke. Mr. Cummings also has a strong tie to the Obama administration: His staff director on the Oversight Committee, David Rapallo, is a former White House lawyer.
Why was Cummings trying to dispute a charge never made? Perhaps he is fearful that the White House will be eventually implicated.
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After seemingly supporting the investigation, the Democrat from Michigan has been trying to “will the investigation closed.
Cummings labeled the Oversight Committee’s investigation a “witch hunt”—in other words, something that should end immediately. A few days before that, in a June 9 CNN interview, he said, “The IG made some recommendations, those recommendations are being adopted by the IRS . . . I think we’re in great shape.”
Mr. Shafer, the manager of an IRS screening group in the Cincinnati office, told committee investigators that in February 2010 one of his employees brought a tea-party application for nonprofit designation to his attention.
Given the media coverage that the tea party was receiving, Mr. Shafer deemed the application a “high profile” matter and alerted his managers to its existence. Shortly thereafter, according to his testimony, lawyers in the IRS’s Washington, D.C., office said, “We want to look at the case.” On the evidence of the Washington office’s interest in that initial case, Mr. Shafer said IRS agents in Cincinnati then held the applications of tea-party groups until they were given “further direction” from D.C.
Case closed, according to Mr. Cummings, who wrote in a letter to Mr. Issa: “These statements by the screening group manager appear to directly contradict your allegations of political motivation.”
Mr Shafer himself couldn’t say the investigation into the teaparties were void of political motivation.
Ms Johnson’s article points to other testimony which provides strong evidence of Washington involvement.
- The suggestion of one Cincinnati employee that officials in Washington closely controlled the review of tea-party cases.
- The testimony of Gary Muthert who works in the Cincinnati office who was told by Mr. Shafer that”Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.”
- And Elizabeth Hofacre, the Cincinnati IRS who in 2010 had the responsibly handling all tea-party applications. She told the committee that she understood the “lookout list” used to flag the applications of tea-party groups was also intended to flag those of Republican and conservative groups.
- Ms Hofacre was upset that she had “no autonomy” in her handling of the cases, and she termed the behavior of IRS officials in Washington in the matter “very unusual.”
With his endeavors, Rep Cummings does not look like the serious legislator he is thought to be. Trying to do a Jedi-mind trick to convince America that these are not the scandals we are looking for is so apparent that even his colleagues on the committee aren’t jumping in to help. Cummings is willing to risk his reputation in an effort to defend the indefensible and protect guilty parties from being identified. Thankfully he will not succeed.