The IRS scandal is heating up on several fronts keeping it in the news and hopefully on the minds of the American people as we head to the midterms.
Former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner pled the Fifth for a second time, last month, prompting the Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa to consider contempt charges. Today he announced that the the process for holding Lerner in contempt begins next week.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) today announced that the Committee will convene for a business meeting on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 9:00 AM in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building to consider a resolution holding Lois G. Lerner, former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions before Congress on May 22, 2013 and March 5, 2014, at a hearing entitled, “Targeting Americans for their Political Beliefs.”
“Documents and testimony point to Lois Lerner as a senior IRS official responsible for conduct that deprived Americans of their rights to free speech and equal protection under our laws,” said Issa. “Americans expect accountability and want Congress to do all it can to gather relevant evidence about what occurred and who was responsible so that this never happens again. Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding.”
Ms. Lerner presided over the IRS division where targeting and improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups took place. She, herself, directed unprecedented scrutiny of Tea Party applicants and worked on new restrictive rules for non-profits after President Obama and other prominent Democrats expressed outrage at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Lerner is the only IRS official who has refused to testify before Congress in the IRS targeting investigation. At one point her lawyer actually told the Committee she was ready to testify publicly, but subsequently rescinded that offer.
The Committee released the report, “Lois Lerner’s Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations”, on March 11, 2014. As Ms. Lerner is the only IRS official who has refused to testify to Congress, this report is based on e-mails, documents, and other testimony about her role in targeting and efforts to mislead investigators about improper conduct. The Oversight Committee continues to conduct a broad investigation of IRS targeting abuses beyond Ms. Lerner’s personal role.
Additional background about the contempt process:
Contempt of Congress, as defined in 2 U.S.C. §192 states as follows:
Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, or any joint committee established by a joint or concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than [$100,000] nor less than $100 and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.
On March 26, 2014, the House Office of General Counsel wrote a memo to Chairman Issa refuting claims brought forward by Members of the Democratic Minority that the Committee had not followed procedures necessary to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. The memo notes the significance of the fact that the Committee passed a resolution, on June 28, 2013, that Ms. Lerner had in fact waived her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions.
If the full House of Representatives ultimately holds Ms. Lerner in contempt, the statute directs the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia “to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.” While in two past instances House contempt findings have also been accompanied by resolutions authorizing civil action, each still included a criminal contempt finding. Civil action has only been authorized in cases where the President of the United States has asserted executive privilege over documents or testimony. To date, President Obama has not asserted executive privilege to prevent Ms. Lerner’s from testifying.
The April 10 proceeding will be open to the public and debate by Members of the Committee.
“Lois Lerner is the focal point of the IRS targeting scandal”, the ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow told Fox News recently. “It was her office that did this, it was her leadership that presented this. She has a series of emails, some of which have been released, and others that have not been, (and you can imagine what those might say.) But the ones that have been released show that this was politically motivated by Lois Lerner and by people higher up than Lois Lerner. In one sense she was the key implememter, but I don’t think that this originated with her and they’re very hesitant….”
He went on to say, “we don’t yet have the depth and detail of what was going on here.” He went back to Obama’s SOTU speech of 2010, which is what many people think was the trigger for the targeting that would come. “With in weeks, action started at the IRS”, Sekulow said.
On Wednesday, B. Todd Jones, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had trouble explaining to Congress why his agents made two visits to True the Vote’s Catherine Englebrecht’s place of business in a 13-month period.
Englebrecht testified about the visits at a hearing last month before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She explained that shortly after filing the IRS form to establish 501(3)(c) and (3)(4) tax exempt organizations, “an assortment of federal entities, including law enforcement agencies” came knocking at her door. Engelbrecht declared, “in nearly two decades of running our small business, my husband and I never dealt with any government agency outside of filing our annual tax returns. We had never been audited, we had never been investigated, but all that changed upon submitting applications for the non-profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is one of the agencies that harrassed the Engelbrechts, conducting “comprehensive audits” at their place of business in 2012 and in 2013.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had an opportunity to query Jones about those visits during an Oversight and Reform hearing, Wednesday, on the ATF’s botched undercover storefront operations.
Jones, clearly deploying the Regime’s tried and true “run out the clock” strategy, provided no answers for Jordon and no promise of ever doing so. The documents Jorden requested six weeks ago need to be subpoenaed.
Savor the words of the acting IRS Commissioner re the IRS’s new regulations for 501 (C) (4) non profit organizations.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released the following statement regarding IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s remarks at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
“When Americans speak up, it makes a difference,” said Sen. Cruz. “A record number of Americans spoke out against a regulation being considered by the IRS to stifle free speech of 501(c)(4) political groups. As a result, it is unlikely those rules will be implemented this year. This is a substantial victory for the grassroots and should serve as motivation to continue pressuring the IRS to drop the rule completely.”
Specifically, Koskinen said:
Another recommendation by the IG was that the Treasury Department and the IRS should provide clearer guidance on how to assess the permissibility of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations’ activities. So last November, Treasury and the IRS issued proposed regulations that are designed to clarify the extent to which a 501(c)(4) organization can engage in political activity without endangering its tax-exempt status.
While I was not involved in the issuance of this draft proposal, because it happened before I was confirmed as Commissioner, I believe it is extremely important to make this area of regulation as clear as possible. Not only does that help the IRS properly enforce the law, but clearer regulations will also give a better roadmap to applicants, and will help those that already have 501(c)(4) status properly administer their organizations without unnecessary fears of losing their tax-exempt status.
During the comment period, which ended in February, we received more than 150,000 comments. That’s a record for an IRS rulemaking comment period. In fact, if you take all the comments on all Treasury and IRS draft proposals over the last seven years and double that number, you come close to the number of comments we are now beginning to review and analyze. It’s going to take us a while to sort through all those comments, hold a public hearing, possibly repropose a draft regulation and get more public comments. This means that it is unlikely we will be able to complete this process before the end of the year.
The Washington Post gave Koskinen 3 Pinocchios for some of his testimony before Congress, last week:
The Blaze: Washington Post: ‘Cat’s Out of the Bag’ on IRS Targeting Scandal:
The Washington Post says it’s just “bureaucratese” in fact checking IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who told Congress the tax collecting agency was never accused of targeting tea party organizations and other conservative groups from 2010 through 2012.
Koskinen testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 25, but the Post on Thursday, said it spent several days fact checking his testimony before giving it three Pinocchios. The newspaper’s fact check column has a maximum of four Pinocchios.
“The Inspector General found inappropriate criteria were used to select organizations for further review – he did not refer to it as targeting,” the commissioner told the committee. He also said, “Yes, inappropriate criteria were used. I don’t think I used the word target, but I do acknowledge that applications were delayed unnecessarily and for too long.”