May 07 2014
Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, on May 10, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service admitted to inappropriately targeting conservative groups for “extra scrutiny” in connection with their applications for tax-exempt status. President Obama denounced this behavior as “outrageous” and “unacceptable” and stated that the IRS “as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re ... applying the laws in a nonpartisan way.” He pledged that the Administration would “find out exactly what happened” and would make sure wrongdoers were “held fully accountable.”
In testimony before my committee on May 15, 2013, Attorney General Holder testified that DOJ would conduct a “dispassionate” investigation into the IRS’s admitted targeting of conservative groups. The Attorney General promised me and the Members of the Judiciary Committee that “this will not be about parties…this will not be about ideological persuasions…[and] anyone who has broken the law will be held accountable.”
Unfortunately, that appears to be where the Administration’s commitment to pursuing this investigation ended. We have all seen the testimony from conservative groups stating that they had yet to be interviewed by DOJ investigators more than a year after the allegations came to light. Additionally, the Administration has sought to undermine whatever investigation the DOJ was conducting at every opportunity.
Earlier this year, unnamed DOJ officials leaked information to the Wall Street Journal suggesting that the Department does not plan to file criminal charges over the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. When asked who leaked this information to the media and if the Department plans to prosecute the leaker once identified, Attorney General Holder admitted that he has not looked into this leak.
Additionally, on Super Bowl Sunday, President Obama stated that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in connection with the IRS targeting.
Finally, as we all know, the Department of Justice appointed Barbara Bosserman, an attorney in the notoriously politicized Civil Rights Division, to head the investigation. Ms. Bosserman has donated more than $6,000 to President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
The relevant regulations require the Attorney General to appoint a Special Counsel when he determines three circumstances exist: (1) that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted; (2) that investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and (3) that under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.
It should be noted that these regulations require the Attorney General to exercise subjective discretion. However, there should be little doubt to any neutral observer that the requirements for appointing a special counsel have been satisfied.
First, as shown in the Ways and Means Committee’s referral letter to DOJ, there are serious allegations that IRS officials, including former Director of Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner, violated federal law by targeting conservative groups and by releasing confidential tax information to the media. We also know that troubling information continues to come to light about this matter – including that the Department of Justice considered prosecuting conservative nonprofit groups for engaging in political activity that is legal under Federal law.
Second, it is clear that a conflict of interest exists between DOJ investigators and this Administration. As a legal matter, determining whether a conflict of interest exists requires a determination of whether external interests—one’s own or those of other clients or third persons—are likely to impact the exercise of independent professional judgment. In addition to Ms. Bosserman’s clear conflict of interest, this Administration’s statements and actions have repeatedly served to undermine the DOJ investigation and have created an indisputable conflict of interest.
Third, it is equally clear that appointing an outside Special Counsel to investigate this matter would be in the public interest. The American people are very concerned that their government has targeted individual American citizens for harassment solely on the basis of their political beliefs.
The American people deserve to know who ordered the targeting, when the targeting was ordered, and why. For many Americans, the IRS is the primary way they interact with the federal government. To now have the IRS acting as a politicized organization that persecutes citizens for their political beliefs shakes the core of American democracy. Under the circumstances, this Administration cannot credibly investigate this matter. It is time for the Attorney General to appoint an independent, professional Special Counsel to get to the bottom of this.
I reserve the balance of my time.