Congressional Republicans are beginning to focus their investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups away from Cincinnati to agency officials in Washington and want to discover if the scandal leads to the White House.
According to Politico
, the House Ways and Means Committee is particularly interested in Joseph Grant, a top Internal Revenue Service official who retired on Monday, and the role, if any, he may have played in the agency's handling of nonprofit groups applying for tax exemptions.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has made it clear that he believes the extra scrutiny directed at tea party and other conservative groups was ordered by someone in Washington.
"By linking the scandal to Washington-based officials, Issa and other House Republicans hope to prove that the targeting of conservative groups was politically motivated and not just the result of bureaucratic bumbling by Cincinnati officials operating without proper supervision," Politico reported Tuesday.
Grant headed the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division before he resigned. He was over Lois Lerner, the IRS official who was in charge of the tax exemptions office.
Lerner pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination when she testified before Congress last month. In addition to Grant, Republicans still are interested in learning more from former acting IRS Director Steven Miller.
A staff member with the Ways and Means Committee confirmed to Politico that Grant "is definitely someone we've been interested in."
"Clearly, his knowledge or however he was involved, whether it was telling people to cut it out … that is something we're looking at," the staffer said. "He is definitely involved in the same way Miller and Lerner are involved, but we don't have a good grasp on the role."
Grant, according to Politico, could not be reached for comment. But, the publication said, he told the inspector general investigating the matter that he first learned in April 2012 that employees in the Cincinnati IRS office were targeting specific groups.
Grant, who joined the agency in 2005 and who once worked as an aide to the Ways and Means Committee, is quoted in the inspector general's report saying that the exrtra scrutiny of groups' tax applications was because of increased spending on elections and not because of the increase in the number of groups applying for nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
“In February 2010, activity in the area of significant spending by 501(c)(4) organizations seeking to influence elections began to increase,” Grant told the inspector general’s office in November 2012, according to Politico.
IRS agents in Cincinnati, he said, then created a “BOLO" — or "be on the lookout" — list for applications that included terms such as “tea party.”
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