Rep. Dave Camp (R–Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has sent a 14-page letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to act on the committee’s findings that, in relation to the IRS’s targeting of conservative organizations, Lois Lerner may have broken federal law.
The letter, released this morning, says that the evidence “tends to show intentional wrongdoing, including targeting specific taxpayers for adverse treatment, making misleading statements to law enforcement, and the possible disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.” The letter was sent after a closed-door meeting in which the committee approved the missive in a 23 to 14 vote along party lines.
Camp levels three accusations against Lerner. First, he says that she “used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” This charge constitutes a possible violation of 18 U.S.C. §242, which prohibits government officials from depriving a person of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Punishment for violating this provision can include both fines and up to one year’s imprisonment.
Second, Camp says that Lerner “impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.” It was the IG who issued the initial report in May of 2013 revealing the improper targeting of conservative organizations. Lying to a government official or making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” is a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1001. If Lerner violated that statute, she could be fined or imprisoned up to five years.
Finally, Camp claims that Lerner “risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information” when she forwarded IRS documents to her personal email account at msn.com. While sending confidential taxpayer information to a personal email is a violation of IRS policy but not federal law, Camp says that if “persons other than Lerner had access to her personal email account…and accessed this protected” material, she may have violated 18 U.S.C. §6103. This provision guarantees the confidentiality of tax returns and corresponding information and prohibits government officials, such as Lois Lerner, who have access to such “returns or return information” from disclosing them.
The letter from the House Ways and Means Committee says that while the IRS Administrative Review Board found no political bias or willful misconduct by Lois Lerner, “the Committee’s investigation has uncovered such evidence.” The real question is whether the Justice Department is conducting a serious criminal investigation of the IRS targeting. If not, then this criminal referral by a committee of the House of Representatives will likely be ignored.
The House of Representatives may, however, still vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt. If the Justice Department refuses to act on the contempt citation—as it did with the contempt citation of Eric Holder for refusing to turn over information and documents in connection with the Operation Fast and Furious investigation—the House may decide to proceed with its own lawyers to enforce the contempt citation against her in court.