By Ken Berry
There seems to be plenty of blame to go around in the Tea Party scandal, but no one has stepped forward to accept responsibility. Now it's been revealed that the supervisor in the Cincinnati office accused of wrongdoings by Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations (EO) division, took umbrage when the finger was pointed her way.
Cindy Thomas, director of the Cincinnati EO office in 2010 when conservative groups were targeted for extra scrutiny, has remained mum publicly since the scandal broke in May. But she had lots to say in an internal e-mail with the subject line of "Low-Level Workers thrown under the Bus." The e-mail was uncovered by the House Ways and Means committee investigating the matter.
"Cincinnati wasn't publicly 'thrown under the bus' (but) instead was hit by a convoy of Mack trucks", Thomas wrote on May 10 just hours after Lerner passed the buck at an American Bar Association (ABA) conference. Lerner told the ABA attendees that lower-level staffers had singled out certain applications based on terms like "Tea Party" and "patriot." She also claimed that the actions weren't motivated by political bias.
"They didn't have the appropriate level of sensitivity about how this might appear to others and it was just wrong", said Lerner. In doing so, she was trying to deflect criticism based on a report from the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA), issued a few days earlier that concluded the IRS had acted inappropriately.
Lerner's speech triggered a quick response from Thomas." As you can imagine, employees and managers (in the Cincinnati tax-exempt division) are furious", she e-mailed Lerner. "Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington office for assistance and the Washington office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?" (For emphasis, the term "low-level" was underlined and boldfaced.)
"How am I supposed to keep the low-level workers motivated when the public believes they are nothing more than low-level and now will have no respect for how they are working cases?" continued Thomas. "The attitude/morale of employees is at the lowest it has ever been."
The e-mail chain, which was obtained by the Gannett Washington Bureau, doesn't indicate if Lerner responded. Since then, the embattled head of the EO division has pleaded the Fifth in a hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and resigned her post. Ironically, Thomas is now serving as a senior technical adviser to Ken Corbin, Lerner's replacement in the EO division.