House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating bipartisan calls for the appointment of a special counsel for the Administration’s Justice Department investigation of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups after new documents obtained by the Committee showed additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department. Among other examples, a current Justice Department attorney who represented the IRS in litigation relating to the IRS’s targeting of conservatives was in fact previously an IRS employee and was involved in the IRS’s scheme to target conservatives.
The Committee has learned that Andrew Strelka, currently an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked from 2008 to 2010 at the IRS in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division, formerly headed by Lois Lerner. Emails show that Strelka was directly involved in the IRS targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. In March 2010, Strelka received an e-mail from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker directing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Shoemaker directed Strelka: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.” Strelka also received an e-mail in June 2011 about the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive. Until recently, Strelka represented the IRS in civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.
The Chairmen also expressed concern that Nicole Siegel , current employee of the Office of Legislative Affairs, which is charged with the Department’s response to congressional oversight of the Department’s interactions with Lerner and the IRS, appeared to have maintained a close relationship with Lerner and previously worked for a political action committee to assist political fundraising for Democratic candidates.
“This new information about additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department shows that almost every facet of the Department with an interest in the IRS targeting investigation is compromised,” the Chairmen wrote in the letter. “From the Civil Rights Division to the Public Integrity Section and the FBI, from the Tax Division to the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Justice Department has serious and wide-ranging conflicts of interest in its handling of the IRS targeting matter. With these startling revelations, we reiterate the bipartisan calls for the appointment of an independent special counsel. In addition, to better examine the actions and experiences of Andrew Strelka and Nicole Siegel at the IRS and the Justice Department, and for other relevant matters, we request that you make Mr. Strelka and Ms. Siegel available for transcribed interviews with Committee staff.”
In June, the Oversight Committee released a staff report finding that the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section met with Lois Lerner to discuss potential criminal aspects of nonprofit political speech in 2010. The report also found that the IRS sent 21 disks containing 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax-return information – including confidential taxpayer information – to the Federal Bureau of Investigations in advance of the meeting. The Justice Department and the FBI have continued to discuss potential criminal investigations of nonprofits engaged in political speech.
Jordan and Issa requested in January that the Justice Department remove Democratic political donor and Civil Rights Division attorney Barbara Bosserman from leading the DOJ’s ongoing criminal investigation after Federal Election Commission records revealed that Ms. Bosserman donated at least $6,750 to President Obama’s election campaigns and the Democratic National Committee.
The House voted on May 7th to approve House Resolution 565, requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS targeting scandal, on a vote of 250 to 168, with 26 Democrats voting yes.
You can read today’s letter to the Department of Justice here.