Scott Brown: Close IRS branch in Cincinnati

Scott Brown: Close IRS branch in Cincinnati
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Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) urged the IRS on Monday to kill a Cincinnati-based location that has played a central role in the agency’s Tea Party controversy.

“I believe the Cincinnati branch responsible for this sordid affair must be officially disbanded so that it can no longer have the opportunity to violate the First Amendment rights of law-abiding organizations seeking tax-exempt status,” Brown, now seeking a Senate seat in New Hampshire, wrote to John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner.

Brown, who’s trying to unseat Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (D), is the latest GOP candidate to cite the IRS controversy in the final weeks of the midterm campaign. Shaheen has led Brown in most recent polls, and is favored to win a second term.

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In his letter to Koskinen, Brown both wrongly identifies the IRS commissioner in office when the improper scrutiny occurred and splits from most GOP lawmakers in focusing on the Cincinnati office’s role in the controversy.

The IRS controversy broke more than 17 months ago, after former agency official Lois Lerner apologized for the way Tea Party groups were treated.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who’s in a race for a fourth term that has become much closer than had been anticipated, recently accused Valerie Jarrett, a top aide to President Obama, of being involved in the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Other Republicans have tried to tie the IRS’s actions to the White House, especially in the controversy’s early days, but Roberts appears to be the first to name Jarrett.

Brown said Monday that Shaheen was among the lawmakers pressing the IRS to more fully scrutinize applications from Tea Party groups, having reached out to then-commissioner John Shulman in 2012. The previous IRS chief is named Doug Shulman.  

Top GOP lawmakers like House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have also tried to downplay the Cincinnati office’s role in the controversy.

Obama, top White House aides and top Democrats have said the branch in Cincinnati deserved a big part of the blame for the treatment of conservative groups. Obama chalked up the controversy in February to “some bone-headed decisions out of a local office.”

But Republicans say Democrats are downplaying Washington’s role in dealing with the tax-exempt applications.

“Ultimately, it was Lois Lerner who violated the law, went before the bar association, and made a speech where she planted a question in order to pre-release and try to mislead people as to what she had been doing and try to cast the blame on a group of innocent people in Cincinnati,” Issa said at a hearing last month.