Issa, Republicans Blast Decision Not to Pursue Criminal Charges in IRS Scandal
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 04:40 AM
By: Newsmax Wires
Representative Darrell Issa blasted Tuesday what he called a questionable U.S. criminal investigation into the screening of Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service, saying that anonymous leaks had harmed the inquiry.
Issa, a California Republican who has led congressional probes into the matter, criticized Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department after a media report that federal authorities didn’t plan to pursue criminal charges in the case.
“These revelations further undermine the credibility of the Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department under his leadership,” Issa and Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement released late Monday night. “Given the circumstances, there is little reason for the American people to have confidence in this investigation.”
The IRS said in May that it had given extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status, unleashing a scandal that led to the ouster of the agency’s acting chief and several other senior officials.
Congressional committees, including the House Oversight panel led by Issa, have begun investigations and the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe.
Issa was responding to a report in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t plan to seek charges.
Spokesmen with the Justice Department and the FBI either declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.
As the federal investigation unfolded, Republicans have criticized the slow release of documents from the IRS and emphasized the involvement of IRS lawyers in Washington. Democrats have focused on the lack of clear rules governing the tax agency’s oversight of political groups.
The IRS gave extra attention to some small-government Tea Party groups starting in 2010 solely because of their names. Those groups, and others, encountered delays and were asked questions that the agency’s inspector general deemed inappropriate.
Since May, congressional investigators have found that some Democratic-leaning groups also received extra scrutiny, though it remains unknown whether and how they differed from Republican-leaning organizations.
Those investigations and an internal review of Lois Lerner, the agency’s former head of exempt organizations, have found no evidence of political bias or involvement from outside the IRS, Representative Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in September.
Last week, Issa criticized the Justice Department for having as an investigator in the case a prosecutor who had made a campaign contribution to President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Other conservatives, meanwhile, were dumbfounded that FBI investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent in the unusually heavy scrutiny Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials applied to conservative — especially tea party — groups that sought tax-exempt status.
The New York Post editorialized that "criminal liability [had] never been our priority. All along our position has been that federal agencies such as the IRS should be held accountable the way the Founders intended: through our democratic system."
Lerner "basically took her own version of the Fifth at hearings, telling Congress she'd done nothing wrong but wasn't planning on saying anything else," the Post said.
"Maybe the FBI is right, that it's just all a big misunderstanding" but the U.S. Constitution "doesn't leave accountability to the judgment of the FBI," the Post argued.
Even if the "threat of criminal charges" have been removed, "there's no more excuse for Lois Lerner not to tell us, under oath, what she was apparently afraid to say in May."
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story that FBI investigators found only bureaucratic mismanagement not criminal intent at the IRS, editorialized: "We'd be willing to credit that conclusion if there were more evidence that anyone did much of an investigation."
The FBI hasn't interviewed some of the conservative groups targeted by the IRS. "That's like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled," said the Journal.
The paper acknowledged that "Not every scandal is a crime, but if the report is right it means no one will be held accountable in any meaningful way for the misuse of the taxing power of the state. This is why Americans don't trust government."
Conservative groups also questioned the impartiality of the Justice Department prosecutor overseeing the case, Barbara Bosserman, because she has been a contributor to the Obama campaign and other Democratic causes.
IRS officials acknowledged that their grilling of conservative groups was inappropriate and in May 2013 apologized for their behavior.