Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service disclosed that it had singled out groups whose names contained words like “Tea Party” or “patriot” for additional examination before deciding whether to grant tax-exempt status. The subsequent controversy has already cast a dark shadow across the second term of President Barack Obama and made the issue of tax reform all the more pressing.
But in typical government fashion, the investigation is now caught up in hours of hearings before House of Representative’s Ways and Means Committee and its Oversight and Government Reform panel. Congressional investigators plan to interview four Internal Revenue Service employees — John Shafer, Gary Muthert, Liz Hofacre and Joseph Herr — who work in the Cincinnati office that handles applications for tax-exemption status. Already, the House Oversight panel has questioned Holly Paz, a fifth IRS employee, according to Ali Ahad, a spokesman for California Republican Representative Darrell Issa.
Altogether, four congressional committees and the U.S. Department of Justice have began investigations into the actions of the IRS.
Three IRS officials have left their jobs as a result of the controversy so far; Steven Miller, the former acting commissioner, was forced out of that position, and Joseph Grant, who oversaw tax-exempt groups and government bodies, announced his retirement eight days after he was promoted to that position. However, the probe has still not revealed which IRS official decided to single out the groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names alone.