Paul L. Caron
Dean


Saturday, May 30, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 751

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  One More Chance for Justice at the IRS, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Paul Ryan on Thursday sent his first official letter to Loretta Lynch, the new U.S. attorney general. With luck, Ms. Lynch will take a few moments out of her international soccer crackdown to give it a glance.

Signed by every Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which Mr. Ryan heads, the letter is a forceful request that Ms. Lynch channel just a smidgen of her famed prosecutorial skill into the largest abuse of government power in decades: the IRS targeting scandal. It’s now been two full years since a little-known IRS bureaucrat named Lois Lerner admitted that her agency systematically collected the names of conservative groups, harassed them, and denied their right to participate in elections. It’s been two full years since the Justice Department opened an investigation. And it’s been two full years of crickets.

While Ms. Lynch was this week orchestrating a dramatic dawn raid and the arrest of seven international soccer officials, the IRS’s offices continued to operate as if nothing ever happened. Two years ago, in the days following the targeting revelations, the administration sacked Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller only because it had to. Ms. Lerner, who had led the exempt organizations division, was allowed to retire with full pension benefits. Holly Paz, her effective deputy, was put on administrative leave. Everyone else is still at their desks. Not a single official—there or gone—has faced prosecution.

The Ryan letter asks Ms. Lynch to finally answer his committee’s 2014 referral of Ms. Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. That referral has been largely lost to time and other headlines. Most of the focus last year was on the House’s decision to issue a contempt citation against Ms. Lerner, for improperly asserting her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer its questions about her time at the IRS. In March of this year, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen, who has since resigned, informed Speaker John Boehner that he was refusing to bring that contempt citation before a grand jury.

That’s a pity. Note, though, that the citation dealt only with Ms. Lerner’s after-the-fact behavior in front of Congress. Investigators have also compiled compelling evidence that she may have broken the law while overseeing the targeting of conservative groups. Nearly a month before Mr. Boehner sent out the citation, the Ways and Means Committee (then under Rep. Dave Camp) sent a letter to Justice making the case that Ms. Lerner should be criminally prosecuted for her time at the IRS. The Justice Department has never responded to that letter. ...

Ms. Lynch’s response will be enormously telling about her view of her job. Well before the IRS scandal broke, former Attorney General Eric Holder had already built a reputation as one of the most partisan and political holders of the office in history. It was never really a surprise that Justice assigned the IRS probe to a staff attorney who was a Obama donor, or that the FBI early on leaked that it didn’t intend any prosecutions, or that Mr. Holder ignored calls for a special prosecutor. The likelihood that he’d act dropped further as evidence came out that his own Justice attorneys were implicated in Ms. Lerner’s targeting.

Meanwhile, today’s IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, has been unable to acknowledge that someone at his agency might have engaged in intentional wrongdoing. This attitude, combined with Justice’s inaction, creates the scary potential of an IRS targeting repeat. When nobody in a position of authority or with police power is willing to even question whether some in the IRS might be bad actors, there is no guard whatsoever against a Lerner 2.0.

One of Ms. Lynch’s specialties in her previous post as U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York was political corruption. She knows that government officials can and do break the law. If she ignores or skirts the Ryan letter, the country will see that it has another Obama partisan sitting in the attorney general seat. If she acts, she might instead restore some public faith in two of the nation’s least respected institutions: the Justice Department and the IRS. It doesn’t seem such a hard choice.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/05/the-irs-16.html

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