WASHINGTON — The White House denied Monday that it had Paula Corbin Jones singled out for an IRS audit, calling the idea of such retaliation "certifiably crazy."
"It's inconceivable to me," White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said in response to a question on whether the White House pushed for the IRS investigation after Jones rejected a settlement of her sexual harassment suit against President Clinton.
"We do dumb things from time to time, but we are not certifiably crazy," McCurry said. "So don't imagine for a minute we did. We don't even call the IRS to find out how they do those sorts of things, literally."
Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, filed a lawsuit contending that then-Gov. Clinton asked her for oral sex in a Little Rock, Ark., hotel room in May 1991. Clinton has denied Jones' accusation.
Jones and her husband, Stephen, received notice last week that they would be audited for their 1995 tax return, according to Susan Carpenter-McMillan, Jones' advisor. Carpenter-McMillan called the audit "very peculiar" because it came days after Jones rejected a settlement plan and parted with her lawyers.
Citing taxpayer confidentiality, the Internal Revenue Service declined Monday to give details of Jones' case. But IRS spokesman Frank Keith dispelled the notion of using audits as retaliation, saying, "When we select a tax return to be examined, we make that selection for tax purposes."
Carpenter-McMillan said Monday that although she does not believe "Bill Clinton personally picked up the Oval Office phone and directed the IRS" to conduct an audit, she does not underestimate the White House's potential for officially harassing the president's critics.
Jones' audit notice arrived after lawyers Gil Davis and Joseph Cammarata left her case. She had turned down a proposed settlement of $700,000 and a general statement of regret from Clinton for any damage to her reputation.