| WASHINGTON, June 18
WASHINGTON, June 18 A manager from a U.S.
Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati where staff have
been accused of unfairly subjecting conservative groups to extra
scrutiny has said his agents were not influenced by any
John Shafer, who described himself as "a conservative
Republican," told congressional investigators he sought advice
from his boss on how to handle the first Tea Party application
he and a lower-level agent came across in February 2010 because
it was a new, high-profile issue.
Asked if the lower-level agent sought to elevate the case to
Washington because he disagreed with Tea Party politics, Shafer
said this was not the case.
"We never, never discussed any political, personal
aspirations whatsoever," he said, according to a transcript of
his testimony reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
The IRS controversy erupted on May 10 when a Washington IRS
official apologized for the handling of applications for tax
exemption submitted to the IRS by conservative groups between
early 2010 and early 2012.
The furor since then has led to the ousting of the IRS chief
by President Barack Obama, an FBI investigation and a
Leaks from the congressional investigation, now in its sixth
week, have neither clearly supported allegations by Republicans
of undue influence by Washington officials or the White House,
nor ruled this out.
Some material has undermined the allegations by suggesting
that the screeners - some of whom were managed by Shafer at the
Cincinnati processing hub - acted largely on their own.
Shafer said his screeners knew when a new issue could be
difficult and might need to be evaluated by superiors.
"They were folks that had a lot of experience," he said. "So
as they would be reviewing these initial applications, they
would be well aware of things that they many not have seen
Shafer said he was in charge of the tax agency's first look
at all tax-exemption applications sent to Cincinnati. Forms that
needed a closer look were sent to another unit, he said.
"On an annual basis there would be upwards to 70,000
applications" submitted to the Cincinnati office, he said. "On a
monthly basis there would be 4,000 to 5,000 applications that
would go through my group."
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Brunnstrom)