A House committee voted Wednesday to formally ask the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecution against ex-IRS official Lois Lerner, the figure at the center of the political targeting scandal. The House Ways and Means Committee voted 23-14 to send the criminal referral, which accused her of “extreme bias.” The vote marked an escalation in Republicans’ push to confront Lerner over her role in the agency’s controversial practice of singling out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny.
“If we don’t stand up for the right of the American people, who else will?” committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said after the vote.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday plans to vote on the resolution below to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the panel. Lerner, who headed an IRS division that reviews tax-exemption applications, has twice invoked her Fifth Amendment right when asked to testify about the agency’s targeting of certain nonprofit advocacy groups for extra scrutiny based on their names and policy positions.
The outcome of the upcoming contempt vote is all but assured for the Republican-controlled committee, which already determined in a party-line vote last year that Lerner waived her right not to testify by declaring innocence before declining to answer questions at a June 2013 hearing.
And looky here! The same Honorable Gentleman is trying to cover for Ms. Lerner — you know, the Lois Lerner who was apparently angling for a job with Obama’s very own private army, Organizing for Action — with this particularly pathetic defense:
The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), has argued that Republicans cannot legally pursue contempt charges against the former IRS official because they did not explicitly overrule her Fifth Amendment assertion or clearly direct her to answer the committee’s questions.
Yeah, right. Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray explains over at National Review Online why a contempt citation for Ms. Lerner is so richly deserved:
Precisely because of the crucial role that nonprofit organizations play in American society, the IRS’s partisan abuse of power, singling out conservative tea-party organizations for particularly negative treatment, is a public scandal.
According to the public record, Ms. Lerner played a central role in perpetrating that scandal. From her IRS perch, she instructed colleagues that tea-party groups’ nonprofit applications were “a very dangerous matter,” and directed that such groups receive serious scrutiny. And she took the “tea party” label to be a “pejorative” — Samuel Adams and the other original Sons of Liberty notwithstanding.
The House Oversight Committee originally invited Ms. Lerner to testify in May 2013. She agreed to appear before the committee, but she also stated through counsel that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The committee then subpoenaed her, to force her to testify as to what she knew and did in the IRS scandal. But again she refused to testify.
When Ms. Lerner appeared before the committee on May 22, 2013, she swore to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and she voluntarily made an opening statement, but then she refused to answer the committee’s questions. The committee’s chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, put the hearing into recess and excused Ms. Lerner, subject to being recalled before the committee. The next month, the committee discussed Ms. Lerner’s refusal to testify, and then approved a resolution finding that Ms. Lerner’s voluntary opening statement constituted a waiver of her Fifth Amendment privilege against the committee’s questions.
In February 2014, the committee called for her to return for the reconvened proceedings. Chairman Issa reminded her that if she refused yet again to testify, after the committee already had found her to have waived her Fifth Amendment privilege, then the committee could recommend that she be held in contempt.
And she will be. The Lerner case is the Democrats’ worst nightmare, revealing the depth and breadth of their politicization of the federal bureaucracy (thanks to the “civil service,” a wholly owned subsidiary of the party) and offering long-suffering Americans a real chance at the reform or even the outright abolition of everyone’s least favorite and most intrusive federal agency — given even more power under the ongoing disaster of Obamacare. You know, the one that openly agitates on behalf of the current administration –
Even as the IRS faces growing heat over Lois G. Lerner and the tea party targeting scandal, a government watchdog said Wednesday it’s pursuing cases against three other tax agency employees and offices suspected of illegal political activity in support of President Obama and fellow Democrats.
In one case the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates federal employees who conduct politics on government time, said it was “commonplace” in a Dallas IRS office for employees to have pro-Obama screensavers on their computers, and to have campaign-style buttons and stickers at their office.
In another case, a worker at the tax agency’s customer help line urged taxpayers “to re-elect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name,” the Office of Special Counsel said in a statement. OSC said it is seeking “significant disciplinary action” against that employee. Another IRS employee in Kentucky has agreed to serve a 14-day suspension for blasting Republicans in a conversation with a taxpayer.
Proving once again that the fish rots from the head down, the Wall Street Journal sums up the importance of the Lerner case here:
The most troubling new evidence are documents showing that Ms. Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign-finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, which had asked the IRS to investigate if conservative groups including Crossroads GPS were violating their tax-exempt status. After personally meeting with the two liberal outfits, Ms. Lerner contacted the director of the Exempt Organizations Examinations Unit in Dallas to ask why Crossroads had not been audited…
Ms. Lerner says she did nothing wrong, and this week we met with her attorney, who told us she declined to testify only because the proceedings were bound to be unfair. But as a senior official in a public agency that wields the power to destroy, she had an obligation to explain what happened and why. We’d still like to hear her defense, but when Congress confronts a stonewalling Administration it has little choice but to tell the public what it has learned so voters can reach their own conclusions.
The question is: what will the House do when the Justice Department of Eric Holder — who’s already been found in contempt of Congress himself — refuses to take any action?