The IRS’ upper management was behind the controversial decision to use a planted question to disclose the agency’s practice of singling out conservative groups, according to transcripts of interviews reviewed by Fox News.
Holly Paz, who had been a Washington supervisor in the agency’s tax-exempt unit, told House oversight committee officials that Lois Lerner — the director of that division — told her ahead of time that she would be addressing the targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Lerner told Paz that then-IRS Commissioner Steve Miller had contrived an approach, though did not go into detail during her interview behind closed doors with House lawyers.
Paz told the House panel that Lerner informed her that “she and (Miller) had discussed her addressing it and decided what she would say about it.”
Lerner would go on to address the issue, after using a planted question during an American Bar Association (ABA) event at a Washington, D.C., hotel on May 10.
House investigators asked Paz if Miller specifically requested Lerner to bring up the issue at the ABA meeting.
“I don’t recall if she said that he asked or that they agreed,” said Paz.
House lawyers then asked Paz if Lerner spoke willingly to the ABA about how the IRS handled the applications of conservative organizations.
“She did it. I don’t know if she was directed,” replied Paz. “She didn’t say no.”
Miller has since expressed regret for using the planted question. During a Senate hearing last month, Miller called it an “incredibly bad idea.” He acknowledged the agency was trying to get ahead of the scandal, though did not specify his role in strategizing at the time. Miller resigned his post after the scandal broke.
At the ABA event, tax lawyer Celia Roady asked Lerner about concerns over Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status. At that point, Lerner said that they saw an “uptick” in those sorts of applications and that they “used names like Tea Party and patriots and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive and inappropriate.”
Paz, who is the employee who also acknowledged having reviewed some of those applications, told the House Oversight Committee that employees at the IRS’s Cincinnati office were not “political” and did not make their judgments based on partisanship.