The IRS’s Best Friend in Congress

Elijah-Cummings-AP-Images-hearingThe House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s discrimination against conservative groups continues—but at least one unenthusiastic member seems to think the committee’s work is done.

Over the objections of Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) last week released online the full, 205-page transcript of an interview that committee investigators conducted with an IRS employee in Cincinnati named John Shafer.

Mr. Cummings explained that he was compelled to release the Shafer transcript because it explodes Mr. Issa’s “conspiracy theories”—chiefly, that the White House played a role in the targeting of conservative groups, and that it was orchestrated out of IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. In fact, Mr. Issa has never said the former, and much that is known so far about the IRS scandal suggests that the Washington connection is substantial.

Mr. Cummings’s enthusiasm for defending the IRS may make him a lonely figure among the 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, but he is likely to find an ally in his chief counsel on the committee. She is Susanne Sachsman Grooms, who worked for the IRS between 2008 and 2011 as an adviser to the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement and then as a senior counselor to the chief of criminal investigations.

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At the time, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement—her boss—was none other than Steven Miller, who held the post of IRS commissioner from November 2012 until his resignation in May after the scandal broke. Mr. Cummings also has a strong tie to the Obama administration: His staff director on the Oversight Committee, David Rapallo, is a former White House lawyer.

The release of the Shafer transcript came after a June 12 interview with Politico in which Mr. Cummings labeled the Oversight Committee’s investigation a “witch hunt”—in other words, something that should end immediately. A few days before that, in a June 9 CNN interview, he said, “The IG made some recommendations, those recommendations are being adopted by the IRS . . . I think we’re in great shape.”

As it happens, the revelation of Mr. Shafer’s testimony isn’t likely to discourage the investigation.

Mr. Shafer, the manager of an IRS screening group in the Cincinnati office, told committee investigators that in February 2010 one of his employees brought a tea-party application for nonprofit designation to his attention.

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