Bob Goodlatte: Seeking an independent IRS investigation

bob-goodlatte-afp2On May 10, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service admitted to inappropriately targeting conservative groups for “extra scrutiny” in connection with their applications for tax-exempt status. President Obama denounced this behavior as “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” He pledged that the Administration would “find out exactly what happened” and would make sure wrongdoers were “held fully accountable.” In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee just days later, Attorney General Eric Holder promised that “this will not be about parties…this will not be about ideological persuasions…[and] anyone who has broken the law will be held accountable.”

Unfortunately, that appears to be where the Administration’s commitment to pursuing this investigation ended. Conservative groups have stated that they have yet to be interviewed by Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators more than a year after the allegations came to light. Additionally, the Administration has sought to undermine the investigation at every opportunity. attorney general Holder even appointed a loyal donor of President Obama’s campaign to spearhead the investigation of the IRS’s political targeting scandal.

These actions make a mockery of our justice system and show the lack of desire to get to the bottom of this scandal. There’s a clear conflict of interest in the current sham of an investigation. Further investigation is necessary due to the possible criminal activity by Lois Lerner, whom I recently voted to hold in Contempt of Congress, and the ongoing disclosure of internal communications showing potentially unlawful conduct by Executive Branch personnel. In a continued effort to seek accountability, the House of Representatives recently approved a resolution calling on Attorney General Holder to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the IRS’s targeting. The resolution passed the House by a vote of 250-168, including the support of 26 Democrats.

Under current law, the attorney general is required to appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that the criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted. Specifically, the attorney general is required to appoint a Special Counsel when the investigation or prosecution would present a conflict of interest for the Department, and when under the circumstances it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter. In this case, a Special Counsel is needed so that Americans can be confident of the process and the conclusions reached by the investigators.

The American people and the groups who were targeted deserve to know who ordered the targeting, when the targeting was ordered, and why. For many Americans, the IRS is the primary way they interact with the federal government. To have the IRS acting as a politicized organization that persecutes citizens for their political beliefs shakes the core of our democracy. Under the circumstances, this Administration cannot credibly investigate this matter. It is time for the attorney general to appoint an independent, professional Special Counsel to get to the bottom of this.

Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth District in Congress.

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