Ways and Means Chairman: IRS targeting of Tea Party groups didn't start in Ohio

The IRS's singling out of conservative groups did not originate in Cincinnati, the House Republican in charge of tax policy said Wednesday. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said bipartisan interviews conducted by House investigators had found out that the targeting did not occur in the IRS offices in Ohio that have been at the center of the story.

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But the Michigan Republican did not elaborate much further and said there were still plenty of unanswered questions about the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“We know it didn’t originate in Cincinnati,” Camp said after speaking at an event hosted by Baker Hostetler and the Federal Policy Group. “We still don’t know who did originate this.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” the Ways and Means chairman added. “We’re not anywhere near being able to jump to conclusions. And there are a lot more people we have to talk to.”

This is the first time Camp has said the targeting didn't originate in Cincinnati since the top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight panel began bickering over the issue.

Investigators from House Ways and Means and House Oversight have sat down with at least five IRS staffers as they look into how and why the targeting began.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat at House Oversight, said over the weekend that an IRS staffer in Cincinnati said that office flagged a Tea Party case and said it should be forwarded to Washington.

Cummings and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has said he believes that Washington officials directly ordered the targeting, have sharply criticized the other’s handling of the investigation in recent days.

Both lawmakers have released partial transcripts of the interviews being conducted, and Issa said Tuesday that releasing a full transcript would allow other IRS officials too much opportunity to see where the investigation was going.

For his part, Camp said Wednesday that he was not surprised that the IRS case had raised partisan tensions.

“This is a very big issue, so I’m not surprised that there’s some back and forth on it,” Camp said. “Because it’s pretty shocking that this has actually happened.”

But the Ways and Means chairman also urged caution, and said that he would not be releasing any transcripts any time soon.

“We’re trying, through a series of interviews, to really get to the specifics of how and why this occurred, and why it was allowed to go on for so long,” Camp said.

“I wouldn’t draw a conclusion based on one interview.”