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Dems, GOP diverging on IRS

| Sunday, July 14, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Low-level IRS employees will testify before a congressional committee this week as Democrats move to challenge the basis of the investigation into the agency's targeting of Tea Party groups.

Thursday's hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee may highlight the fracture in the once bipartisan outrage into the scandal.

Democrats, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., want to know why an inspector general's probe didn't include evidence that liberal groups' applications for tax-exempt status were given additional scrutiny as well. Cummings released documents on Friday showing key words such as “progressive” and “Occupy” appeared on watch lists for IRS screeners.

Republicans still want to know how high in the Obama administration the decisions in the targeting went. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said last week,

“Even as dozens of applications for progressive groups were being approved, orders from senior levels within the IRS resulted in inappropriate and disparate treatment for Tea Party applications.”

A congressional source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sunday that three witnesses have been invited to testify. They are Elizabeth Hofacre, the emerging issues coordinator in the IRS's Cincinnati office who handled the Tea Party cases before seeking a transfer in 2010; Carter “Chip” Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington who advised Hofacre on those cases; and Steve Grodnitzky, Hull's supervisor.

Hofacre has told congressional investigators she felt “micromanaged to death” by Hull and that Grodnitzky had asked Tea Party groups to disclose any contracts they might enter, according to transcripts of interviews reviewed by USA Today.

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