IRS scandal: Is partisanship overshadowing facts?

IRS sign with magnifying glass Internal revenue Service tax taxes CBS/iStockphoto

Five weeks after the IRS acknowledged that at least one of its offices put undue scrutiny on conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, lawmakers are still sorting out the facts.

That, however, hasn't stopped lawmakers from forming partisan complaints over the matter. And as the politicized attacks continue, congressional investigations have yet to make clear whether the IRS' misconduct really was the result of intentional bias or gross mismanagement

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Monday released to CBS News and other media outlets the partial transcripts of an interview with Holly Paz, the former Washington-based deputy of the IRS division that oversaw applications for tax-exempt status. Paz was one of at least six IRS officials interviewed by bipartisan congressional investigators.

This partial release of information prompted a scathing rebuke from Issa's Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who has been pressing Issa to release the full transcripts.

"Another week, another leak from Chairman Issa of cherry-picked excerpts that show no White House involvement whatsoever in the identification and screening of these cases," Cummings said in a statement. "By leaking transcript portions that omit key details from the accounts witnesses provided to the Committee, Chairman Issa has now drawn condemnation even from House Republicans working with him on this very investigation."

Cummings repeated his call for Issa to release the full transcripts so the American people can form their own judgments on the controversy. "It's time to stop politicizing this investigation and start focusing on implementing the recommendations for reform in order to restore trust in the IRS," he said.

As Cummings has pointed out, Issa did earlier this month promise to release the full transcripts. Issa has since said that releasing the transcripts in full would be "reckless" because it would give those who have yet to be fully interviewed a "roadmap of the committee's investigation." Still, his refusal to do so raises suspicion about his efforts to frame the discussion -- especially in the wake of his charges that the misconduct was deliberate.

Still, Cummings himself has said that if Issa didn't release the transcripts, he would himself. And like Issa, he has only released excerpts. Furthermore, the transcripts that were released Monday somewhat undercut Cummings' efforts to take the focus off of Washington.

Paz told congressional investigators that her Washington office was crucially involved -- though she claims not deliberately -- in the delay of processing applications for conservative groups. For instance, Paz said that she believed references to "tea party" groups to be "shorthand" for all potentially politically-oriented groups -- not just conservative ones. "It's not uncommon for people to have a shorthand reference," she said.

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