Maybe if President Barack Obama and other administration officials knew what the House Ways and Means Committee knows about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, they wouldn’t say there was “not a smidgen of corruption,” or that it’s a “phony scandal,” committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said.
“The president hasn’t had the benefit of the investigation that the Ways and Means Committee has had and that’s why I thought it was important for this administration and the Department of Justice to get the information that we had,” Camp told TheBlaze Thursday.
One day after the House Ways and Means Committee issued a referral to the Justice Department of actions taken by former IRS official Lois Lerner to target conservative groups, the House Oversight and Government voted to hold her in contempt of Congress after invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.
“We’ve given them some thorough documentation that I would hope they would take seriously and look at carefully, but it’s ultimately going to be their decision whether they prosecute or not,” Camp said. “But I think there is enough there that it warranted forwarding to them the information that we had. I didn’t think that was something we could sit on.”
In May, a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report confirmed improper targeting of Tea Party and conservative organizations by the IRS tax exempt organizations unit run by Lerner.
The Internal Revenue Service targeting scandal has been an assault on both the constitutional right to free speech and to due process, congressional Republicans said Thursday.
“Never was it expected that a candidate, a president or his administration would use a neutral instrument like the tax collection agency to further political ends,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said at a Capitol Hill news conference sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. “That’s what’s going on right now. As you know, the House has taken action.”
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this if we’re going to restore the trust that is owed to the American people on the part of this government,” Cantor added.
In a letter to Holder, the Ways and Means Committee said Lerner committed crimes that could carry a maximum of 11 years in prison. The committee said it is likely that Lerner used her position as chief of the tax-exempt unit to show bias by only targeting conservative groups; impeded the inspector general’s investigation into the matter, and either risked exposing or actually disclosed confidential taxpayer information in violation of the Internal Revenue Code.
Speaking during the news conference, Camp said it was a clear-cut situation of “denying people their constitutional rights of due process.”
“What we found so far has led me, and the committee has now concluded that and referred to the Department of Justice, the evidence that we’ve uncovered that we believe there is reason to believe that Lois Lerner committed crimes,” Camp said. “It was really the violation of constitutional rights, the potential release of taxpayer information and really the denying people the ability to express their constitutional rights, these things were all things we felt needed to be looked at.”
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said as a former journalist, he holds the First Amendment in high esteem.
“What is going on is a deliberate abuse of federal enforcement powers for purely political purposes,” Roberts said. “It’s part of a larger pattern of this administration to use the IRS to shut down its critics and its opponents and to change the outcome of elections.”
“This is an attack on the First Amendment rights of our citizens just because they dare to differ from this administration and the president,” Roberts continued. “I can’t think of anything more reprehensible and certainly I’m not going to stand idly by while the administration tries to dodge and weave it’s way out of this.”