Justice Department has conflict of interest in IRS abuse case
Republicans on a House oversight panel say the Justice Departmentasked former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in 2010 to help them build criminal cases against nonprofit groups conducting political activity.This could be one explanation of why the DOJ has been so reluctant to move this case. It turns out they may have been co-conspirators with Democrat officials aiming to suppress first amendment activities of conservative Tea Party groups. If that is the case then a special prosecutor needs to be appointed to investigate the abuse. What seems clear is that the Tea Party abuse was not the work of rogue elements in Cincinnati but was directed from the Justice Department and senior Democrats in the House and Senate.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and subcommittee chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have requested an interview with Jack Smith, who heads the Justice Department's Public Integrity Unit, after a subordinate revealed the department meetings with Lerner in a closed-door interview.
“The Justice Department convened a meeting with former IRS official Lois Lerner in October 2010 to discuss how the IRS could assist in the criminal enforcement of campaign-finance laws against politically active nonprofits,” Jordan and Issa said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “This meeting was arranged at the direction of Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith.”
The GOP-led House recently found Lerner, who headed the IRS Exempt Organizations department, in contempt for refusing to testify before the Oversight panel about her role targeting conservative and Tea Party groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.
In October 2010, Lerner delivered an address at Duke University in which she told the audience, “everyone is screaming at us” to fix campaign finance before the 2012 election.
Issa and Jordan said they believe the Justice Department, “contributed to this pressure” on Lerner and other IRS officials to stop right-leaning organizations from achieving tax-exempt status, following a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on their activity.
Democrats were particularly angered by the ruling because they believe it created a surge in social welfare groups who were engaged in blatant political activity, many of them conservative.
“By encouraging the IRS to be vigilant in possible campaign-finance crimes by 501(c)(4) groups, the [Justice] Department was certainly among the entities ‘screaming’ at the IRS to do something in the wake of Citizens United before the 2010 election,” Jordan and Issa said to Holder in the Letter.
Issa and Jordan said they learned of the Justice Department’s involvement from Richard Pilger, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch. Issa has subpoenaed Pilger because he would not fully answer the questions asked recently in a closed-door meeting with House oversight investigators, although he did answer some questions and provided a lengthy statement.
In the letter to Holder, Issa and Jordan said they learned the Justice Department contacted Lerner again in 2013 after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., suggested the Justice Department “prosecute nonprofits for false statements made on the groups' application forms about whether they intended to engage in political speech.”