Cincinnati IRS Workers: Following Orders or Freelancing?

The IRS scandal around targeting tax-status applications for Tea Party groups is centered around the actions of the Cincinnati branch office. So what's local news saying? Here's a report from the local Fox 19 station.

What about those local employees?  Remember, [outgoing acting IRS director] Steven Miller claims that the targeting of conservative groups happened at the hands of low level Cincinnati employees who had gone "rogue" and were "off the reservation" and have already been "disciplined."

Have any of these four IRS agents, Mitchell Steele, Carly Young, Joseph Herr or Stephen Seok been disciplined?  We don't know.  But each one of these IRS employees could possibly face federal charges according to Speaker of the House John Boehner. 

Boehner spoke to reporters Thursday stating that federal law on this issue is clear.

"Section 7214 of the title 26 of the U.S. code states very clearly, 'any officer or employee of the united states acting in connection with any revenue law of the united states who is guilty of extortion or willful oppression under the color of law shall be dismissed from office and if convicted be fined up to 10,000 dollars and spend five years in jail'.  said Speaker Boehner.

A source tells Fox 19 that these agents say they were only doing what they were told.  If they face 5 years in prison, how long might it be before they say who was reportedly giving them orders?

More, including video, here.

As it turns out, a fifth employee has been added to the list and all will be interviewed in a closed-door meeting of the Oversight Committee in D.C.

Note that the word coming out of Cincinnati is directly at odds with what came out of yesterday's IRS hearings, where the Washington players continued to blame locals. From Politico:

The hearing put a harsh spotlight on a plot twist that was already uncovered in the inspector general report: The Cincinnati crew had to be told to change their screening terms not once, but twice.

In January 2012, the report found, the Cincinnati employees changed their search terms again — without telling management — after Lerner reined them in. This time, the search terms weren’t as specific as “tea party” and “9/12,” but they still focused on political positions like “limiting/expanding government” and “social economic reform/movement.”

Once again, top IRS officials had to step in and broaden the screening terms — and this time, the employees got a memo saying any other changes had better be approved by IRS management.

[Republican Michigan Rep. Sander] Levin used much of his questioning time to emphasize that lower level IRS employees actually went out of their way to continue targeting conservative groups — even after their superiors told them their searches were unacceptable.

“[Lerner] ordered they be changed, is that correct?” Levin asked Miller, noting that the inspector general report says the head director of exempt organizations told them to scratch the words like “tea party” and “Patriot” from their searches as soon as she learned they were being used in July 2011.

Miller responded yes.

“This change was again made without executive approval. Is that correct?” Levin continued. Miller again answered yes.

The inspector general report says the specialists reinstated, and even expanded, the politically sensitive criteria to target conservative groups in January 2012 without approval from their bosses because “they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad.”

More here.

With the threat of jail time hanging over their heads, it's likely the Cinncinnati people will either cough up names or be forced to admit that they were indeed freelancing. Neither outcome changes the fact that the IRS was abusing its power, though if it was a local operation, that obviously limits the political damage for the Obama administration.

Reason coverage of the IRS scandal.

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  • robc||

    Cant it be both?

  • Rrabbit||

    anticipatory obedience

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Chance that a low-level IRS Cincy employee communicated directly with a high-level Treasury official = 0.

  • Ted S.||

    What's the chance that higher-ups in the IRS were communicating with lower-level IRS employees about this?

  • tarran||

    Forget it dude, Shreak (aka Palin's buttplug) is the internet equivalent of a homeless guy screaming at a wall. Walk away, don't make eye contact, and breathe shallowly through your mouth to avoid being overcome by the stench of decomposing urine.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep, there's gotta be at least four layers of management involved, which is why this scandal will keep percolating and eventually blow open.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug| 5.18.13 @ 8:44AM |#
    "Chance that a low-level IRS Cincy employee communicated directly with a high-level Treasury official = 0."

    Chance that shreek is cheerleading for his main squeeze = 100%
    Chance that shreek would do so if main squeeze pissed on his leg = 100%
    Chance that shreek addressed a strawman = 100%
    Chance that shreek has a brain cell = 0%

  • prolefeed||

    Chance that a low-level IRS Cincy employee communicated directly with a high-level Treasury official = 0.

    You seem to have an extraordinary degree of confidence for someone who wasn't working in the Cincy office or in Treasury.

    0.000% is different from "a perceived low probability".

  • tarran||

    I would be very surprised if they were freelancing.

    The whole thing smells of a giant data-gathering operation. Let's be frank; the extra work made for the applicants was also extra work for the IRS agents consuming the answers to the questions. They didn't do this on a whim.

    If I was trying to more rigorously screen or throw roadblocks in an application, we'd see more instances of lost paperwork etc.

    If, on the other hand, I was trying to build a database of opponents, particularly the ones who matter, in a swing state like Ohio, these are the questions I would be asking. We've already seen someone at the IRS leak confidential tax returns to the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign is very data driven, to the point of obsessiveness, and I think the IRS and it's savage power were too powerful a tool to leave unused.

    OF course, like much of what Obama and his henchmen do, it was a breathtaking combination of audacity and utter tone deaf stupidity. Not surprising for someone who lacks the ability, intelligence and the imagination to actually deviate from Dubya's retarded policies other than to compound them with more retarded policies of his own.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    If I was trying to more rigorously screen or throw roadblocks in an application, we'd see more instances of lost paperwork etc.

    And also more cases of flat out denial of 501(c)4 status which didn't happen on a widespread basis. And it's exactly what you'd expect of suspicious bureaucrats.

  • bendover||

    Tarran,

    Depends on what your definition of "freelancing" is.

    I have been a CPA for over 25 years. I have had numerous encounters with IRS agents. Generally - they are pretty reasonable, often - not so bright. Most of the time they work just hard enough to clear their desks of any work piling up.

    However, if you get that agent who, for whatever reason has a bug up his ass - they can make your life miserable. Imagine the worst DMV employee with the ability to take your money, house or any other assets.

    These agents were most likely (Occum's razor) pulling the same stunt that the Ohio jobs services employee people pulled on Joe the Plumber. They should be fired and possibly prosecuted for this stunt.

    The connection to the Obama's administration is this:

    1. they encouraged this type of scrutiny though their rhetoric.
    2. someone in the administration knew this was happening in June of 2012 and made sure it didn't go public until after the election.

  • Sevo||

    "However, if you get that agent who, for whatever reason has a bug up his ass - they can make your life miserable. Imagine the worst DMV employee with the ability to take your money, house or any other assets."

    Agreed, but getting several 'activists' together in the same office?
    I don't know how many level up it goes, but it must be far enough to direct several people.

  • bendover||

    Sevo - "Agreed, but getting several 'activists' together in the same office?"

    According to analysis and news reports I have read, the employees of the IRS gave (voted) overwhelmingly for Obama (85% or more). If the office reviewing these applications had 100 low level employees - it would not be hard to imagine that five or more would participate.

    I also don't find it hard to believe that upper level management, while not directly involved, turned a blind eye to the malfeasance of the lower level employees - until it looked too obvious.

    Please bear in mind, the IRS always has the trump card of "taxpayer confidentiality" - that means they can hide their illegalities from almost any oversight committee. Even if the injured party waives their right to privacy and asks for full disclosure.

  • Not an Economist||

    I'm not so sure about the freelancing part.

    If you take the line the inspector general report does, the managers of the freelancers only did the absolute minimum. The employees repeatedly crossed the line and were allowed to continue on the project. That says to me the managers were either incompetent or the employees weren't really freelancing.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Neither outcome changes the fact that the IRS was abusing its power, though if it was a local operation, that obviously limits the political damage for the Obama administration.

    This has been my theory from the beginning--that Obama officials weren't actually involved in this, but that it was the action of a few zealous bureaucrats trying to protect the king. I wouldn't be surprised if the local bureau chief directed this and the employees simply followed orders.

    The real issue, of course, is that the IRS is using its clout to harass ordinary citizens. The lawsuit against them for stealing medical records is proof enough that they have far more power than is warranted.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I pray pray pray that one of the patsies has a memo or recording or some piece of evidence that higher ups called the shots. I assume they're not going to be criminally charged in an attempt to keep from forcing them to name names, but since their names are out there to be vilified by the public, that might enough incentive for them to spill the beans anyway.

  • ||

    They are going to be interviewed in a closed door meeting. I am guessing the interview will go something like this:

    "If you dont want to go to prison, keep your fucking mouth shut."

    From Fast and Furious to this...how many scandals now? Each one of them have the same qualities, as tarran put it, " a breathtaking combination of audacity and utter tone deaf stupidity", and each one perfectly serving the Obama agenda. I am sure it is just a coincidence, and that president shitweasel knew nothing about it.

  • prolefeed||

    They are going to be interviewed in a closed door meeting. I am guessing the interview will go something like this:

    "If you dont want to go to prison, keep your fucking mouth shut."

    I imagine those were the first words out of their lawyer's mouth, assuming even minimal competence, though possibly reworded to avoid the F-bomb.

  • WomSom||

    Wow thats kidna crazy when you think abouti it man. Wow.

    www.Prox-Anon.tk

  • Jerryskids||

    'kidna crazy'? Like crazy about kidna beans, you mean? Is this another clue as to what anon-bot is really all about?

  • ||

    It is pedo-bot.....and when you see the generic posts like the one here, you know the AI has put the old stupid pedo-bot on auto-post and has snuck off to cruise the net for child porn.

  • Kathyb||

    There were not that many applications yearly less than 3000 per year for most of the time period I doubt anyone needed a data base for a written application that says Tea Party, etc Per Washington Post Garance Frank Ruta they could not target as they were voluntary applications so in IRS language they asked for it they got it although most were advised that mingling group funds with personal is against the law or at least taxable event and to open a bank account you need IRS documentation but it is another branch that rules banking oh wait it's treasury again but the IRS is an independent agency I get so confused

  • Entropy Void||

    WTF???

    Methinks the last four words are controlling for the entire post ...

  • Agammamon||

    PUNCTUATION MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU UNDERSTAND IT?

  • prolefeed||

    .......................................
    ???????
    !!!!!!!!!
    ,,,,,,,,,,

    Here's some punctuation marks -- if you run out, I'll give you more.

  • Contrarian P||

    Clearly what we need is a federal department of punctuation to make sure there is protection of competition for periods, commas, and exclamation points!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    A source tells Fox 19 that these agents say they were only doing what they were told.

    Even if this is true, they still ought to go to jail. The Nuremberg defense isn't a valid excuse.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I'm guessing Levin is a former lawyer? He's setting up Miller very nicely with his questions. That's not the typical congressional blather.

  • Mike M.||

    Freelancing, my ass. Block Yomomma's systematic targeting of his political enemies began during the election season, and Kimberly Strassel discovered it and wrote about in the Wall Street Journal over a year ago.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    As Tarran points out above, this has the hallmarks of a data gathering/mining operation. So a big question is, was the data leaked, and if so, to who? Who had access, and was there anything in place to track that?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "A source tells Fox 19 that these agents say they were only doing what they were told. If they face 5 years in prison, how long might it be before they say who was reportedly giving them orders?"

    There are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and government bureaucrats writing memos just to cover their asses.

    If John Boehner wants to bet on a sure thing--and get himself some credibility with the Tea Party--then betting on those low level employees having documented what they were doing and why is a really good bet.

    Government bureaucrats simply do not freelance. If there's ever anything that's up to their discretion, it's only because there's documentation somewhere specifically given them that discretion.

    They cannot freelance--that's one of the big reasons why we libertarians despise them so. And if they're ever EVER forced to do something beyond their standard instructions, then they document what they're doing to their bosses--so they can't get in trouble for it later...

    As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, those memos or those emails are there.

  • prolefeed||

    "With the threat of jail time hanging over their heads, it's likely the Cinncinnati people will either cough up names or be forced to admit that they were indeed freelancing lawyer up."

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