A collection of letters shows high-level officials in the IRS signed off on requests for additional information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. As NBC News reports, at least one letter sent to a conservative group has the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended IRS official at the center of the controversy. Here's more from NBC:
Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing 27 conservative political advocacy organizations that applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, provided some of the letters to NBC News. He said the groups’ contacts with the IRS prove that the practices went beyond a few “front line” employees in the Cincinnati office, as the IRS has maintained.
“We've dealt with 15 agents, including tax law specialists -- that's lawyers -- from four different offices, including (the) Treasury (Department) in Washington, D.C.,” Sekulow said. “So the idea that this is a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati is not correct.”
Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including "Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C.," and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Two letters with "Department of the Treasury / Internal Revenue Service / Washington, D.C." letterhead were signed by "Tax Law Specialist(s)" from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.
Lerner has become one of the public faces of the controversy after refusing to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last Wednesday, citing her Constitutional Fifth Amendment rights after reading a brief statement: “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, violated IRS regulations or provided false information to this or any other committee.”