It’s time to talk tough on the IRS—after all, it’s tax season. But the sad reality is, the investigation of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups has gone nowhere.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week that “Somebody at the IRS violated the law. Whether it was Lois Lerner or not, we’ll find out.”
Lerner was head of the division that grants nonprofit status—and she has been at the center of the controversy since it became known that conservative groups’ applications were being held up and flagged for special scrutiny.
Today, the House Ways and Means Committee is reportedly working on a letter that will refer Lerner to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. The Wall Street Journal reports that the letter will cite criminal activities, including “violating taxpayers’ constitutional rights,” “misleading investigators,” and “exposing private taxpayer information.”
But what does that mean? Would the Obama Justice Department take up such an investigation?
Not likely, says Heritage legal expert Hans von Spakovsky.
“The House should not expect the Holder Justice Department to do anything,” von Spakovsky told The Foundry. “It does not seem that DOJ has been conducting a serious criminal investigation of the IRS targeting or of Lois Lerner, and it seems highly unlikely that Eric Holder will do anything about such a referral.”
There is still the possibility that the House could vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate in testifying—and von Spakovsky says it would be difficult to enforce that, too.
The House should hold Lerner in contempt because, under the applicable law in the District of Columbia, she waived her Fifth Amendment right when she voluntarily gave a “lengthy interview” to the Justice Department without a grant of any immunity. The House will then be forced to go to court with its own lawyer, because it is also very doubtful that Eric Holder will fulfill his legal obligation and duty to enforce the contempt citation in court.
This all bothers Kevin Kookogey, who has been in a long and costly battle with the IRS since his fledgling organization—aimed at mentoring high school and college students in conservative philosophy—was targeted in 2011.
“I’m quite frustrated with Congress—I don’t think they’re serious about this case,” Kookogey told The Foundry. When he testified before Congress last year, Kookogey said, congressional staffers behind the scenes told him their goal with the inquiry was “to use this IRS matter to push for tax reform.”
“My constitutional rights were violated…and members of Congress are telling me they’re using this to push for tax reform?” he said. “I’m for tax reform, but…I think their own political advantage would be accomplished better if they just pursued the truth.”
Sure, April is a convenient time to spotlight the IRS. But Obama’s IRS has brought the spotlight on itself—and Americans who were targeted with the power of the federal government deserve to see a real investigation.
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