The chief counsel is one of only two political appointees at the IRS.
The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing “tea party” cases, according to a top IRS attorney.
In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review applications that the agency had screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.
Previous accounts from IRS employees had shown that Washington IRS officials were involved in the controversy, but Hull’s comments represent the closest connection to the White House to date.
According to a partial transcript released by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chief counsel’s office also discussed using a template letter to ask questions about the groups’ activities, despite Hull’s warning that such a boilerplate approach would be impractical.
“My reviewer and I both said a template makes absolutely no difference because these organizations, all of them are different,” Hull told investigators. “A template would not work.”
Hull told investigators that he had already requested additional information from the applicants at that point and felt he had enough facts to make a determination about their eligibility, according to the transcripts.