"It's like calling soda 'Coke' or you know, tissue 'Kleenex.' They knew what they meant, and the issue was campaign intervention."
Applications for tax-exempt status "was an area that did not get a great deal of attention ... outside the IRS," Paz added. "It's only been in recent years that it's something that has gotten, you know, more media attention and congressional attention."
Many IRS employees have been with the agency "for decades" and "were used to a world where how they talked about things internally was not something that would be public or that anyone would be interested in," Paz said. "So I don't think they thought much about how it would appear to others. They knew what they meant, and that was sort of good enough for them."
Paz insisted she never took part in any discussion about targeting conservatives. She also noted other cases in recent years involved a denial of tax-exempt status for liberal groups, an assertion challenged by critics.
"I had no indication that we were not being balanced in what we were doing," she said.
Paz noted that she was personally involved in a review of roughly 40 cases in the fall of 2010, an acknowledgment undercutting claims that the Cincinnati office was solely to blame for the debacle. Roughly half of the cases involved groups with the words "tea party" in the name.
Tea party and other conservative activists are planning to hold a rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to protest the IRS actions.