The PJ Tatler

Sen. Flake to Baucus, Hatch: Call the Cincinnati Exempt Orgs Chief to Testify

A freshman GOP senator is urging the leaders of the Finance Committee to call a name not heard much thus far in the IRS scandal to testify before the panel.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), in today’s letter to Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), noted that “former IRS commissioner Doug Shulman and then Acting Commissioner Stephen Miller were less than forthcoming about the individuals involved in the matter” before the committee.

Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division Lois Lerner refused to answer questions before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Cindy M. Thomas, Cincinnati-based manager of Exempt Organizations Determinations at the IRS, has not yet appeared to testify under oath.

Thomas’ role includes mediating disagreements between organizations and IRS staffers on exempt status.

“Given Mr. Thomas’s management of the EO Determinations unit for more than eight years and her expertise on applications for tax-exempt status, the Committee fully investigating her involvement in the political targeting of organizations under her review would appear useful,” Flake wrote.

Local media in Cincinnati reported that at least four of the IRS employees who sent the controversial requests for information to conservative groups “are under the purview of Ms. Thomas,” the senator noted.

Thomas is also linked to the release of conservative groups’ applications to ProPublica:

On Nov. 15, 2012, ProPublica requested the applications of 67 nonprofits, all of which had spent money on the 2012 elections. (Because no social welfare groups with Tea Party in their names spent money on the election, ProPublica did not at that point request their applications. We had requested the Tea Party applications earlier, after the groups first complained about being singled out by the IRS. In response, the IRS said it could find no record of the tax-exempt status of those groups — typically how it responds to requests for unapproved applications.)

Just 13 days after ProPublica sent in its request, the IRS responded with the documents on 31 social welfare groups.

…The IRS cover letter sent with the documents was from the Cincinnati office, and signed by Cindy Thomas, listed as the manager for Exempt Organizations Determinations, whom a biography for a Cincinnati Bar Association meeting in January says has worked for the IRS for 35 years. (Thomas often signed the cover letters of responses to ProPublica requests.) The cover letter listed an IRS employee named Sophia Brown as the person to contact for more information about the records. We tried to contact both Thomas and Brown today but were unable to reach them.

“Your commitment to uncovering the details of the targeting of conservative organizations, holding those responsible accountable and restoring the faith of the taxpayer is greatly appreciated,” Flake told his colleagues. “As you evaluate witnesses for future hearings on this matter, I hope that you will consider the evidence suggesting Ms. Thomas’s involvement. The question of who gave the order to target organizations based on their political beliefs needs to be answered and must be followed by swift corrective actions.”