by Wynton Hall 24 May 2013, 12:45 PM PDT
On Wednesday, House hearings on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) political targeting of conservative groups uncovered a startling revelation about the interview process used to construct the Inspector General’s report: Obama donor-turned-IRS director of tax exempt organizations Holly Paz sat in on 36 of 41 interviews with IRS employees.
“Why was Holly Paz... in almost all of the interviews you conducted?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “Why would you have someone from the IRS in those meetings? Is that proper protocol?”
“I am unaware of it,” said Inspector General J. Russell George. “This is the first I’ve heard this.”
George then requested time to research the revelation. “This is the first time that I was made aware of this,” said George.
George then clarified he and his agency performed an audit, not an investigation.
“The operative word, Mr. Chairman, is audit,” said George. “It was not conducted as an investigation.”
Still, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) seemed unsettled that Paz was allowed to sit in on the IG’s interviews of IRS employees.
“Usually when you are conducting an investigation—I know this was an audit, I got that—you want to keep your witnesses separate because you’re in search of the truth and you are trying to make sure there’s no advantage of a person hearing what somebody else said,” said Cummings. “That’s pretty standard procedure.”
George ultimately conceded to Cummings that, “in hindsight, given this matter, obviously this seems somewhat unusual. I need to do a little more research.”
Cummings pressed on, suggesting that Paz’s reason for sitting in on interviews may have been to protect herself or the IRS.
“It sounded like Ms. Paz felt like she needed to be in the room because she wanted to be able to defend herself—or the agency, I don’t know—based on what may have been said or the information gathered in that interview,” said Cummings.
“But again, hindsight is 20/20, sir,” said George.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) read testimony from Paz. Issa said Paz claimed the IG auditors left the room for a short time at the end of each interview so investigators could ask any additional questions.
Issa said Paz claimed either she or the recently removed IRS director of the tax-exempt unit, Lois Lerner, brokered the unusual interview scheme.
“Yes I believe... I can’t remember if I made the request or Lois Lerner made the request,” said Paz. “But we discussed that in order for the IRS to be able respond to the report we had to understand what information TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] had and what they were being told.”
In 2008, Holly Paz donated $2,000 to the Obama campaign.