By Sam Rolley - April 24, 2014
House Oversight Committee, citing newly-released emails between the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice, is broadening its investigation into the government’s targeting of tax-exempt conservative groups.
According to Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the emails provide reason to believe that Attorney General Eric Holder’s DOJ was well-aware of, and possibly involved in, the targeting.
The emails were released by Judicial Watch last week, and indicate that embattled IRS official Lois Lerner had been in contact with Richard Pilger, who heads up the DOJ’s Elections Crimes division.
In a May 8 email to Nikole C. Flax, former chief of staff to former-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller, Lerner wrote:
I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs. I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS …
Lerner, who was heading up the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division at the time, was referencing suggestions Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) made during a Senate hearing on campaign finance last April.
Issa and his colleagues, in a letter to Holder this week, say that the emails indicate that Justice was looking for ways to prosecute tax-exempt conservative groups for activity that is legal.
“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,” the letter says. “This information certainly undermines the sincerity of Ms. Lerner’s apology, but it calls into question your reaction that targeting was ‘outrageous’ and ‘unacceptable.’”