Paul L. Caron
Dean


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 737

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  How Congress Botched the IRS Probe, by Cleta Mitchell (Foley & Lardner, Washington, D.C.):

Two years ago this week, a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Information confirmed what hundreds of tea party, conservative, pro-life and pro-Israel organizations had long known: The Internal Revenue Service had stopped processing their applications for exempt status and subjected them to onerous, intrusive and discriminatory practices because of their political views.

Since the report, additional congressional investigations have revealed a lot about IRS dysfunction—and worse. But they’ve also revealed Congress’s inability to exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities of this and other executive agencies. ...

Lying to Congress is a felony. But the Obama Justice Department has not lifted a finger to prosecute anyone responsible for the IRS scandal, including top brass who repeatedly gave false testimony to Congress.

Neither has Congress done much about being lied to by the IRS. Mr. Issa’s oversight committee first subpoenaed Lois Lerner’s emails in August 2013, then issued another subpoena in February 2014. The committee conducted a hearing on the subject in March 2014, during which Mr. Koskinen testified that, finally, the IRS would produce the Lerner emails. However, as he testified in June 2014, the agency didn’t even begin to look for her emails until February 2014. Why didn’t the House seek to enforce its first subpoena when the IRS failed to respond in the fall of 2013?

Congressional oversight has devolved into a series of show hearings after which nothing happens. No one gets fired for lying. No changes are made in the functioning of the agencies. No programs are defunded. Congress issues subpoenas that are ignored, contempt citations that aren't enforced, criminal referrals that go into Justice Department wastebaskets.

If it is to function as a coequal branch of government, Congress should establish—either through the rules of each House, or by legislation, that it has standing to independently enforce a congressional subpoena through the federal courts. Congress also should use its purse strings to change specific behavior in federal agencies. Rather than across-the-board reductions, Congress should zero out specific departments and programs as agency misconduct is uncovered. It is the only way to stop the executive branch from running roughshod over the American people.

This will be a difficult challenge as long as partisans in both houses of Congress see their role as political gatekeepers who must protect executive agencies when a president of their own party is in the White House. Congressional Democrats have done all in their power to thwart the IRS investigation, arguing with Republicans at hearings and engaging behind-the-scenes with the IRS to undermine the inquiry.

Yet it is a challenge that cannot be shirked. Congress needs to relearn how to flex serious legislative muscle to guard against future executive abuses like those from the IRS.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/05/the-irs-10.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

It is ironic that lying to the feds is a crime, when they lie to us constantly.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | May 16, 2015 6:46:02 AM

"Yet it is a challenge that cannot be shirked."

Today's entry gives the lie to that.

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock | May 16, 2015 8:42:00 AM

from politics to policy, like changing to a flat rate 15% income tax

Posted by: John Norton | May 16, 2015 10:39:47 AM

"Congress issues subpoenas that are ignored, contempt citations that aren't enforced, criminal referrals that go into Justice Department wastebaskets."

Yes, I wouldn't blame that on congress though when it takes a corrupt DOJ that participated in the persecution of dissidents to enforce contempt charges.

Posted by: wodun | May 16, 2015 10:43:28 AM