Latest update: May 16th, 2013
The chairman and the ranking committee member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee released a letter the committee sent today, May 14, to Steve Miller, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. That letter informs Miller that the committee has greatly expanded the scope of its investigation into alleged misdeeds by the IRS.
Among other information that congress is now seeking is information about the IRS’s special scrutiny of organizations whose mission involve Israel.
Last week The Jewish Press connected the admitted increased scrutiny of certain conservative organizations by the IRS, and the alleged targeting by the agency of Z STREET, a pro-Israel organization. That activity gave rise to a lawsuit filed against the IRS in 2010. (This reporter is the president of the organization that brought that lawsuit.)
Congressmen Dave Camp (R-MI) and Sander Levin (D-MI) signed a 3 page, single space, 13 point letter today, making clear that congress was greatly displeased with the lack of candor and responsiveness the IRS has displayed towards their committee’s now-nearly two year long investigation of the agency.
In addition to seeking information about the IRS dealing with organization’s whose mission deals with Israel, the Ways and Means Committee is also seeking information about any other kinds of organizations the IRS chose to scrutinize based upon those organization’s political views.
The tone of the letter makes clear that Acting Commissioner Miller is in for a grueling hearing this Friday. The congressmen use euphemisms, but what they are accusing the IRS of doing was lying to the Committee, repeatedly – either by commission or omission – about actions it has now admitted taking. Now they want to know, essentially, who decided that the committee would be told lies, and how far up the chain of command did the lying go, in addition to the underlying inappropriate conduct.
Congress is also demanding to know what information about the now-admitted, and perhaps additional to be admitted misdeeds was shared with the Treasury Department and with the White House, and when that information was shared.
One of the most jarring paragraphs in any letter sent to a government agency by a congressional committee is found in the May 14 letter from Congressmen Camp and Levin:
The IRS, through its officials, is legally and ethically bound to tell the truth to Congress and the American people. In this situation, the IRS had a continuing obligation to update and correct information provided to Congress if it was later determined to be incomplete or inaccurate. Why did your agency fail to be completely forthcoming with the Committee in its responses to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and in testimony before the Committee regarding the IRS’s practice of targeting conservative groups?
It is also clear that the Ways and Means Committee will be holding additional hearings into alleged widespread misdeeds. The new material congress seeks must be supplied to the Ways and Means Committee by May 21, a week from today.
Perhaps the only thing that is not yet clear is who made the decisions to employ the vast power of the IRS to engage in inappropriate, bullying activity of particular groups of Americans, and how and who made the decisions to cover up that activity. It appears congress intends to find out the answers to those questions.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer for the IRS.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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