WASHINGTON – A misfired email from an Internal Revenue Service employee in Ohio alerted officials in Washington that conservative groups were being targeted a full year earlier than previously acknowledged, Fox News confirms.
Transcripts from interviews held with IRS employees in Cincinnati show that managers in Washington knew about the heightened scrutiny put on Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status in July 2010.
The transcript, which was initially reviewed and reported by Reuters, apparently shows that Cincinnati IRS official Elizabeth Hofacre was in communication with D.C.-based IRS attorney Carter Hull. Hofacre was put in charge of handling tax-exempt status applications from conservative groups by her Cincinnati boss, she claims.
According to the report, Hofacre was asked to summarize her initial findings and send it via email to a small group of IRS workers, including a few in the D.C. tax-exempt unit. Mistakenly, she sent the email to everybody in the Washington IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements unit.
Hofacre’s Cincinnati bureau used a “be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) list that included the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” that was used to flag conservative applications for extra scrutiny. Many targeted groups have come forward in the days since the scandal broke and said the IRS held up their applications, asked invasive questions and tried other tactics to slow the approval process.
Still, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has said there is no evidence that the screening list was created by high-level IRS officials or the Treasury Department, or was tied to the White House.
Separately, at a hearing Monday, the watchdog who exposed the IRS' targeting testified nobody in the Ohio office being blamed for the scandal would tell his investigators who directed the program, as the new IRS chief vowed to "get to the bottom" of that growing question.
Lois Lerner, the IRS official who set off the controversy, has said that she first learned of the BOLO list in June 2011, and that she ordered the partisan criteria to be removed immediately.
Transcripts with IRS officials, though, have shown them claiming officials in Washington requested the lists.
Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.