Internal IRS emails analyzed by the Wall Street Journal indicate -- albeit not conclusively -- that the agency's targeting of conservative groups was designed by low-level employees in the Cincinnati office.
[House Oversight] Committee staff on Wednesday released several documents related to the matter—including the IRS emails and a 2012 statement by Ms. Lerner—that helped provide a clearer picture of what happened. The criteria were developed by an IRS screening group in Cincinnati "based on cases they were seeing," Cindy Thomas, a supervisor in the Cincinnati office, wrote in a June 2011 email to an official in Washington. "When the screening group starts seeing new type cases that have similar issues, they meet and come up with criteria to identify 'emerging issue' and elevate information," she wrote.
In another email from June 2011, a screening manager in Cincinnati, John Shafer, outlined the criteria the group was using to select applications for extra review. They included references in the case file to "tea party," "patriots" or "9/12 Project"; issues such as government spending, debt and taxes; advocacy or legislative activity to "make America a better place to live"; and "statements in the case file that are critical of…how the country is being run."
The Journal notes that the emails don't rule out involvement by high-level officials by they also don't contain any evidence that the tareting scheme was developed by anyone other than low-level staffers.