New testimony from IRS officials claims that Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations division, instructed employees to send Tea Party group applications for tax-exempt status through a multi-layered review that included the IRS chief counsel's office, which is led by Obama appointee William Wilkins.
Lerner "sent me email saying ... when these cases need to go through multi-tier review and they will eventually have to [through her staff] and the chief counsel's office," said Michael Seto, the head of the IRS unit that was handling Tea Party applications.
This new testimony suggests that the decision to target Tea Party organizations came from Lerner herself, and that Wilkins' office was closely involved in some of the applications.
Tax law specialist Carter Hull, who works for Seto, testified that despite his 48 years of experience approving or denying tax-exempt status applications, he was told in the winter of 2010 that, at the direction of Lerner, the applications would need to be sent to the chief counsel's office for further review. Hull said never before in his nearly five-decade career had he been told to send applications up the pipeline.
Hull testified that the IRS chief counsel's office told him that updated information was needed for the applications. Hull found this surprising because he had already provided updated information when he made his recommendations of whether to approve or deny the applications. It was suggested he use a template to develop Tea Party applications, which Hull found impractical because every application was different.
Hull's supervisor, Ronald Shoemaker, told the committees about the additional information requested by the chief counsel's office, which included the applicants' 2010 election activities. This additional information caused the entire approval process to slow down.
Several congressmen, including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are requesting documents from the IRS relating to this new testimony. "As a part of this ongoing investigation, the Committees have learned that the IRS Chief Counsel's office in Washington, D.C. has been closely involved in some of the applications," Issa and others wrote in a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. "Its involvement and demands for information about political activity during the 2010 election cycle appears to have caused systematic delays in the processing of Tea Party applications."