After the IRS revealed it had wrongly targeted hundreds of conservative and Tea Party groups, the agency claimed that the misconduct was limited to "low-level employees" in its Cincinnati office. Yesterday, the attorney for Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division, told the House Oversight Committee she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights, making that explanation much less credible.
Now the local Cincinnati Fox affiliate, FOX19, has done some digging and uncovered information suggesting that top officials at the IRS weren't too far removed from the six low-level employees identified as making unjustified inquiries. Fox19 has not only identified all six IRS agents in question, it turns out that they all have only one supervisor in common:
When an application for tax exempt status comes into the IRS, agents have 270 days to work through that application. If the application is not processed within those 270 days it automatically triggers flags in the system. When that happens, individual agents are required to input a status update on that individual case once a month, every month until the case is resolved. ...
So who in the chain of command would have received all these flags? The answer, according to the IRS directory, one woman in Cincinnati, Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager of the Tax Exempt Division. Because all six of our IRS workers have different individual and territory managers, Cindy Thomas is one manager they all have common.
Cindy Thomas's name is significant, because Thomas is the woman who leaked nine tax documents to the journalism outlet ProPublica last year. The leaking of pending tax documents is a clear violation of the law. After having uncovered the nature of Thomas's involvement, FOX19 looks at her place in the IRS chain of command:
Former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller… retires
Joseph Grant, Commissioner of Tax Exempt and Government Entities... retires.
Lois Lerner, Head of Exempt Organization…says she will invoke her 5th amendment right to not incriminate herself when called before Congress on Wednesday.
Holly Paz, Director of Exempt Organizations, subpoenaed to Washington to be interviewed by members of Congress.
All of this IRS leadership, in Washington D.C.
Then one level down is Cindy Thomas, the highest ranking employee in Cincinnati in this Tax Exempt and Government Entities Department that no one in Congress is talking to... yet.
Read FOX19's whole report here.