WASHINGTON — Congressional investigators say they uncovered emails Wednesday showing that a former Internal Revenue Service official at the heart of the tea party investigation sought an audit involving a Republican senator in 2012.
The emails show former IRS official Lois Lerner mistakenly received an invitation to an event that was meant to go to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
The event organizer apparently offered to pay for Grassley's wife to attend the event. In an email to another IRS official, Lerner suggests referring the matter for an audit, saying it might be inappropriate for the group to pay for his wife.
"Perhaps we should refer to exam?" Lerner wrote.
The other IRS official, Matthew Giuliano, waved her off, saying an audit would be premature because Grassley hadn't even accepted the invitation.
The name of the event organizer was blacked out on copies of the emails released by the House Ways and Means Committee because they were considered confidential taxpayer information. Grassley and his wife signed waivers allowing their names to be released. The emails were among the thousands that have been turned over to congressional investigators.
In a statement, Grassley's office said the senator did not attend the event.
"This kind of thing fuels the deep concerns many people have about political targeting by the IRS and by officials at the highest levels," Grassley said.
The IRS said in a statement that it could not comment on specifics of the case "due to taxpayer confidentiality provisions."
"As a general matter, the IRS has checks and balances in place to ensure the fairness and integrity of the audit process," the IRS statement said.