July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Interviews with 15 U.S. Internal Revenue Service employees show no political motivation or White House involvement in targeting groups applying for tax-exempt status, House Democrats said in a memo.
The 36-page memo released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee includes excerpts from several employee interviews with congressional investigators that haven’t been distributed publicly until today. The IRS has apologized for the delays and selective scrutiny given to Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status.
Democrats in Congress have resisted Republican arguments that IRS employees used their positions to harm Republican-leaning groups. Instead, they maintain that Tea Party groups were the victims of inadequate rules and inadvertent bungling.
“Despite an extremely aggressive investigation involving thousands of documents and more than a dozen interviews of IRS employees, the overwhelming evidence before the committee reveals no political motivation or White House involvement in this process,” aides to Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said in the memo.
In one excerpt, a Republican IRS employee based in Washington said she hadn’t seen evidence that anyone at the agency tried to influence elections.
“That’s kind of laughable that people think that,” she said of the notion that the IRS was targeting President Barack Obama’s political enemies.
Any delays, she said, stemmed from the difficulty of determining the rules and whether groups were impermissibly political.
“The lingering length of time, unfortunately, was just trying to apply the law to the specific facts of each case,” the employee said.
Democrats have also pointed to recent revelations that IRS watch lists included so-called progressive groups and that an inspector general’s review of 5,500 e-mails between employees showed no evidence of political motivation.
The committee is scheduled to hold a July 18 hearing on the agency’s scrutiny of politically oriented nonprofit groups. The memo doesn’t identify the employees.
The oversight panel is one of six in Congress that have opened inquiries. The Justice Department is pursuing a criminal probe. At least four IRS executives have been pushed out of their jobs.
Republicans have pointed to the early attention of Washington-based IRS officials as a potential source of political involvement. The excerpts released today include the comments of seven Washington-based employees.
Another self-identified Republican said he was unaware of any political bias or outside influence.
“I had seen or heard nothing that would suggest any political bias,” he said.
Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, the committee chairman, didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.
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