Oversight Committee Probes Justice Department Role in IRS Targeting
Requests documents and transcribed interview of DOJ official in wake of public revelation that DOJ corresponded with former IRS official Lois Lerner about prosecuting tax exempt status applicants
WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and sixteen Oversight Committee members asked Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder to produce documents and a Justice Department official for a transcribed interview to explain why his agency would consider prosecution of tax-exempt groups already improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Last week, Judicial Watch released IRS documents showing former IRS official Lois Lerner in contact with Justice Department about potential prosecution of tax-exempt groups.
A previously unreleased e-mail related to last week’s FOIA release by Judicial Watch reveals that the Justice Department employee did not reach out to Lerner on his own. Instead, Richard Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Department’s Public Integrity Section, noted via e-mail to Lerner on May 8th 2013, “I have been asked to run something by you.” The e-mail does not indicate who had asked Pilfer to contact Lerner. Additionally, the letter notes that the Department considered prosecuting these groups for actions that are legal for 501(c)(4) nonprofits under federal tax law – that is, engaging in political speech.
The members wrote: “Mr. Pilger’s communications with Ms. Lerner are also striking for their timing. They show that the IRS and the Justice Department were actively considering efforts to target tax-exempt organizations just two days before Ms. Lerner’s public apology for the targeting. This information certainly undermines the sincerity of Ms. Lerner’s apology, but it calls into question your reaction that targeting was ‘outrageous’ and ‘unacceptable.’ These comments ring hollow in light of evidence that your subordinates apparently colluded with the IRS to target nonprofit groups less than a week before.
Read the letter here.