House investigators see ‘contradictions' in IRS official's testimony

Top House Republicans are pressing a central figure in the IRS targeting controversy over what they see as inconsistencies in her testimony.

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) say that other IRS staffers are contradicting Holly Paz’s statements about when agency officials in Washington found out about the scrutiny given to Tea Party groups.

The two lawmakers are also asking Paz about her statements that the IRS didn’t really know how to judge how much politics 501(c)(4) groups were involved in.

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Paz, formerly a top official in the division that oversees tax-exempt groups, worked under Lois Lerner, the executive who first apologized for the targeting of Tea Party groups.

“Your input is critically important to the committee's investigation,” Issa and Jordan wrote to Paz, later adding: “The inconsistencies and contradictions contained in your testimony are of great concern to the committee.”

Issa and Jordan’s letter comes after Republicans have broadened their probe into the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt applicants and as they continue to make the investigation a key part of their political messaging.

Democrats have said that the evidence shows that the IRS hassled both progressive and conservative groups, and that the original report on the matter was flawed. But GOP lawmakers insist that Tea Party groups received harsher treatment than their liberal counterparts.

Paz was among the first IRS officials to be interviewed by the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees, sitting down with congressional investigators on May 21 — less than two weeks after the agency first disclosed the targeting.

In her interview, Paz said that agency staffers used Tea Party as a generic term for a political group, much as someone would use Kleenex for a tissue.

She added that Washington officials didn’t know about changes to internal agency watch records, also known as “be on the lookout” lists, or BOLOs, in January 2012 until months later, and that she had found out about the scrutiny given to Tea Party groups in June 2011.

But Issa and Jordan say that lower-level IRS staffers have said they worked to inform Paz about those issues earlier than she says, and that Paz herself had said in an email that political intervention and tax-exempt groups was not a new issue for the IRS.

Issa is also seeking any emails sent from Lerner’s personal account in which she conducted official IRS business, saying that some information important to the congressional investigation could be missed by government archives.

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