House Republicans call on DOJ to prosecute IRS agent who headed dept. targeting pro-lifers
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Republicans in Congress are urging the Department of Justice to prosecute the now-retired IRS agent who headed the department that targeted conservative organizations for extra scrutiny, including at least six pro-life and pro-family organizations.
On Thursday, the Oversight Committee in the House formally held former agent Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before the committee. Lerner made a brief statement saying that she had "done nothing wrong" when she appeared before the committee in 2013 before invoking her Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate herself.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, has said that by speaking before invoking her rights, Lerner denied herself the ability to invoke the Fifth Amendment. “We cannot tell the American people that we have done all we can to get the truth in this or other investigations if we offer a pass to a critical witness like Ms. Lerner," said Issa, according to CBS. Issa also says Lerner, who retired from the IRS last fall, should simply testify if she has nothing to hide.
Yesterday, the House Ways & Means Committee, which oversees tax matters, sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking it to prosecute Lerner. The letter details a number of legal violations made by Lerner, according to the committee's Republicans.
In a public statement, Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said that the "investigation has uncovered serious, unprecedented actions taken by Lois Lerner that deprived conservative groups of their rights under the Constitution."
"Almost a year ago we learned that the IRS subjected certain groups to extra scrutiny because of their political beliefs," Camp continued. "At the time, Lois Lerner shamefully attempted to blame the mistreatment on low-level employees in Cincinnati. The investigation to date has demonstrated that the targeting did not happen until IRS headquarters in D.C. intervened."
Camp said that the letter "highlights specific wrongdoing for the Department of Justice to pursue," and declared that the "DOJ has a responsibility to act, and Lois Lerner must be held accountable." Prosecution is also critical for education of the American public on "what really occurred at the IRS," according to Camp.
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In response to the Ways & Means letter, the Department of Justice said that "there is already an active, ongoing investigation into the IRS's handling of applications by tax-exempt organizations. The spokesperson said "it remains a high priority of the Department."
Conservatives in Congress and around the country have criticized the choice of an Obama and Democratic Party donor to oversee the IRS investigation, though DOJ says to take such "non-merit factors" into account "is contrary to department policy and a prohibited personnel practice under federal law."
One of the organizations targeted by the IRS was the Coalition for Life of Iowa. The group was asked about the prayers used outside of Planned Parenthood clinics by its members. The IRS' letter to the Coalition asked for "how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3)." It also asked the group, "Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization."
According to a spokesperson for Ways & Means Committee member Kenny Marchant, R-TX, "the Ways and Means Committee’s referral of Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution sends a clear message that suppression of free speech will not be tolerated."
Marchant was one of the first members of Congress to publicly discuss the targeting in 2012 -- almost a year before it became a public scandal -- and sits on the Ways & Means Committee's Oversight Subcommittee. The spokesperson told LifeSiteNews that "a simple apology and the resignation of a few IRS officials does not make things right. Lerner, and any other person who orchestrated the IRS’s political targeting, must be held fully accountable for their criminal actions."
At least six pro-life organizations, represented by the Thomas More Society, were targeted by the IRS. Dozens of Tea Party and "Patriot" groups were given treatment that varied from extra scrutiny to stonewalling to denial of non-profit status.