Introduction by Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal: Today we are here at the Cato Institute with Representative Darrell Issa from California [and chairman, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee]. He talked to us about the most recent developments in the IRS scandal and Operation Chokepoint, and shared his views on whether these alleged scandals coming out of Washington have a common thread.
Harkness: How close do you think we are to actually getting to the bottom of who did what in the IRS targeting of conservatives, and how do you think we’re going to get there?
Chairman Issa: Well, you know, an interesting question that gets asked is, ‘Are we close to the bottom?’ The bottom turns out to be here in Washington. [Former IRS official] Lois Lerner and people directly related to her clearly have been shown to abuse conservatives for their views. Now, the question is, ‘Can we get to the top?’
So far, Lois Lerner is as high as we’ve been able to substantiate, but we do certainly understand that the IRS commissioners knew or should have known about her activities and … trips to the White House. That’s a big part of where we’re… We may never get those answers, but it certainly looks like Lois Lerner didn’t act alone.
Harkness: And if we don’t get access to the emails, are we able to get the answers and solve the mystery of what actually happened?
Issa: Richard Nixon once mused that if he had simply taken the tapes onto the South Lawn [of the White House] and burned them, he’d have served out his entire presidency – and he’s right. And I think that’s what we’re seeing here, is that, by giving us little or no documents, doing it late, highly redacting them, doing everything they can to slow down the process, and in some cases, [having] a cavalier attitude about producing them at all, they [Obama administration officials] are in fact trying to outlast us and keep us from ever getting to the bottom.
Certainly, at this point, I think that this investigation is going to likely stretch into the next Congress based on the pace with which we’re getting any kind of discovery.
Harkness: And why do you think it’s so important that Americans eventually learn what happened?
Issa: Well, I was here today at Cato because of a recognition that there are abuses by government in their regulatory powers, and no entity has more power to regulate your life or to, in fact, destroy your life, than the IRS. The power of the IRS to audit you, to go after you, to ultimately make your life miserable, is one that we have to make sure is safeguarded from political influence.
And, in this case, Lois Lerner clearly was targeting conservative groups for what they believe. And if we allow that to continue–it doesn’t matter whether it’s conservative or progressive groups in the future–every president will have a tool that should never be available.
Harkness: So, you’ve also [spearheaded] the Fast and Furious investigation, and now you’re trying to bring Operation Chokepoint to the attention of the American public. Is there a common thread in these scandals you think Americans should be aware of?
Issa: There’s a common thread, in that the bureaucratic state will do things that when brought to light, they will either deny or try to obfuscate–but, in fact, that in the light of day, should never happen. [The Justice Department program] Fast and Furious was inherently wrong to let guns traffic into Mexico to kill people on both sides of the border, and it shouldn’t have happened. But it seemed like a good idea to bureaucrats behind closed doors, including the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. The IRS felt and tried to defend that they did nothing wrong.
Lois Lerner famously said, ‘I broke no laws, I broke no regulations.’ But she did something very wrong and has to be held accountable. And the Federal Trade Commission has huge power to go after entities who haven’t broken any laws but who they believe are engaging in unfair trade practices. That is a very broad mandate and we have to make sure that they don’t use it inappropriately, which they have been.
- Steve Weyrich co-produced this video.