Attorneys for conservative groups that applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status say some requests for additional information came from Washington rather than from the agency's Cincinnati office as the IRS has maintained.
Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing 27 conservative groups which claim they were targeted by the IRS, gave some of the letters to NBC News
, saying that their contacts with the agency show that the practices went beyond a few employees in Cincinnati.
He said he was preparing to file a federal lawsuit this week on behalf of his clients.
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"We've dealt with 15 agents, including tax law specialists — that's lawyers — from four different offices, including [the] Treasury [Department] in Washington, D.C.," he told NBC. "So the idea that this is a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati is not correct."
At least one letter, which requested additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp., had the stamped signature of Lois Lerner, director of the IRS Exempt Organizations section in Washington. She was placed on administrative leave last week.
Invoking her Fifth Amendment rights, Lerner on May 22 refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"I have not done anything wrong," she told the committee. "I have not broken any laws, violated IRS regulations or provided false information to this or any other committee."
Among the letters that Sekulow showed NBC were several with return IRS addresses from "Department of the Treasury/Internal Revenue Service/Washington, D.C." Two of those letters were signed by "Tax Law Specialist(s) from Exempt Organizations Technical Group 1 and Technical Group 2."
Cleta Mitchell, another attorney representing conservative groups which claim they were targeted, told NBC that an IRS agent in Cincinnati advised her that a "task force" IRS office in Washington was making the decisions about processing applications.
"I know that this process was going on in Washington because I've dealt with those people," she said.
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