In May 2013, the IRS admitted that it was targeting conservative groups for their political beliefs. After reviewing hundreds of thousands of IRS documents and conducting interviews with IRS employees, the Congressional investigation uncovered that the IRS systematically targeted conservative groups, threatened conservative donors with higher taxes, and leaked confidential taxpayer information.
In April 2014, after further investigation, the House Ways & Means Committee sent a criminal referral letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Eric Holder revealing three specific acts undertaken by Washington, DC IRS official Lois Lerner that may have violated one or more criminal statutes:
- Lerner used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law. She showed extreme bias and prejudice towards conservative groups. The letter lays out evidence on how Lerner targeted conservative organization Crossroads GPS as well as other right-leaning groups, while turning a blind eye to similarly-organized liberal groups, like Priorities USA.
- Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
- Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.
It is clear that IRS employees used the power of the agency as a political tool to deprive conservative groups of their Constitutional rights. The crimes documented above are serious, and if convicted, Lerner could face up to 11 years in prison.
When the IRS abuses first came to light, President Obama vowed that his administration would “hold the responsible parties accountable.”
So, with evidence of these abuses detailed in black and white for the Department of Justice to investigate, what did then-Attorney General Eric Holder do?
And, despite potentially committing criminal acts and defiantly pleading the fifth before Congress, Lois Lerner retired after the scandal broke with a full federal pension, and after receiving $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013.
One thing is clear for those demanding answers and accountability – the administration’s silence might as well imply its consent.
As newly-confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch takes over at the DOJ, the Ways & Means Committee today sent a letter calling on her to pursue these charges. It is time for the administration to fully investigate these charges and deliver the accountability and answers the American people were promised.
The House will continue to work on a series of reforms to bring accountability and transparency to the IRS. The American people deserve to know that they will not be targeted and harassed by the IRS on basis of their beliefs ever again.