Today the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee approved a resolution to hold former senior IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her involvement in the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. This comes on the heels of Rep. Darrell Issa (R–Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sending a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D–Md.) yesterday, demanding an explanation for emails between Lois Lerner, other IRS employees, and Cummings’ staff concerning True the Vote. Issa alleges that the IRS may have “improperly shared protected taxpayer information” with the oversight minority staff run by Cummings.
During a House Oversight Committee hearing in February, True the Vote’s attorney Cleta Mitchell raised the possibility of coordination between the IRS and Cummings, stating: “[W]e’re going to try to figure out…if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies.” Cummings replied that this was “absolutely incorrect and not true.”
But according to newly obtained emails, Cummings’ staff notified IRS employees that they were “about to launch an investigation similar to the one launched by Representative Peter Welch’s (D–Vt.) office.”( In March 2012, Welch and other Democrats suggested that the IRS investigate whether any 501(c)(4) organizations were “improperly engaged in political campaign activity.”)
Starting in October 2012, Cummings’ staff sent a series of letters to True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht, requesting information identical to IRS demands made earlier in the year. Further emails to IRS employees show Cummings’ staff requesting True the Vote’s tax returns as well as asking for IRS employees to “look for material” on True the Vote. And the IRS employees responded nearly instantaneously (which is curious, given the fact that the IRS sat on applications by conservative groups for years).
And, unfortunately for True the Vote, the IRS wasn’t its only concern. As Englebrecht testified before the House Oversight Committee in February:
Shortly after filing IRS forms to establish 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations, an assortment of federal entities including law enforcement agencies and a Congressman from Maryland, Elijah Cummings came knocking at my door. 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 no profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street Patriots. Since that filing in 2010, my private business, my nonprofit organizations, and family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit and inquiry by federal agencies.
It seems that, with each passing day, the picture of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups becomes clearer. Englebrecht has already filed an ethics complaint against Cummings and this latest revelation further demonstrates a coordinated effort by the government to harass and intimidate conservative groups such as True the Vote.