One might expect that the extra scrutiny applied to conservative political groups by the IRS would have ended after the practice got exposed three months ago. At least according to a recent deposition from the House Ways and Means Committee investigation into the scandal, IRS agents still are being directed to automatically apply extra scrutiny to applications mentioning the Tea Party, even if no other political activity is indicated in the application:
Q: “If you saw – I am asking this currently, if today a Tea Party case, a group – a case from a Tea Party group came in to your desk, you received the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case? Is that something you would do?”
A:” At this point I would sent it to secondary screening, political advocacy.”
Q: “So, you would treat a Tea Party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application. Is that right?”
A: “Based on my current manager’s direction, uh-huh.”
The interview took place on August 1st, almost three months after the tax-exempt unit’s chief Lois Lerner abruptly apologized for the practice as a strategy to defuse the impact of a report from the Inspector General at Treasury. An apology would indicate that the practice has ended, no? As CNS News’ Craig Bannister reminds us, that’s what Barack Obama himself promised nearly three months ago to the day:
I’ll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again by holding the responsible parties accountable, by putting in place new checks and new safeguards, and going forward, by making sure that the law is applied as it should be — in a fair and impartial way. And we’re going to have to make sure that the laws are clear so that we can have confidence that they are enforced in a fair and impartial way, and that there’s not too much ambiguity surrounding these laws.
Instead, the orders continue for heightened scrutiny. In Obama’s defense, there’s not too much ambiguity about what that means.
The admission prompted a demand from Rep. Dave Camp, chair of Ways and Means, and Rep. Charles Boustany, chair of the Oversight subcommittee, to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel for an explanation. They also demand a report on corrective action by no later than Friday:
The transcript illustrates that there is a remarkable similarity between the instructions given to screeners in 2010 and the direction IRS employees are currently receiving regarding the processing of applications bearing the name Tea Party. …
This revelation demonstrates a clear failure of the corrective action you promised. We wrote to demand that you immediately issue instructions to all IRS employees that applications for exempt status shall not be subjected to higher scrutiny based on organization name or substantive beliefs and provide notice that any such targeting will be subject to discipline and referral to TIGTA for investigation.
Clearly, assurances aren’t going to stop this effort. Subpoenas and a special prosecutor might be the only solutions — or at least the only way to get the IRS nervous enough to stop its targeting.
Update: The House Oversight Committee (the full committtee, not the Ways and Means subcommittee) has found a private e-mail account belonging to Lois Lerner through which official duties may have been conducted. The committee issued this press release a few minutes ago:
Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter to IRS official Lois Lerner seeking e-mails related to her official duties, in her non-government e-mail account.
“Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official duties from your official IRS e-mail account to an msn.com e-mail account labeled ‘Lois Home,’” the letter sent to Lerner states. “This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business.”
“[T]he use of non-official e-mail accounts to conduct official business implicates federal records requirements,” Issa and Jordan continue. “It also creates difficulties in fulfilling the IRS’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation requests. Your use of non-official e-mail account also frustrates congressional oversight obligations.”
The letter requests all documents and communications housed in Lerner’s msn.com account or any other non-official account that reference her official IRS duties by August 27, 2013. You can read the complete letter here.
This puts another gloss on Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment. It will be interesting to see if Oversight has found something significant already regarding targeting. That might tend to give Lerner less leverage in immunity negotiations.
Update: I changed “official” to “agent” in the headline, as I think that gives a more accurate representation of the transcript.