House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said that after months of discussions with the Internal Revenue Service on producing documents pertaining to the committee’s investigation of the IRS scrutiny of political groups and subsequent issuance of 501(c)(4) rulemaking, the IRS will turn over emails and documents from the former head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, Lois Lerner, to him.
“The IRS has decided to finally make Lois Lerner’s documents and emails available to the Committee. This is a significant step forward and will help us complete our investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,” Camp said in a statement last Friday. “From the few Lerner documents we have received, we know that Washington, D.C., orchestrated the targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status, surveillance of existing tax-exempt groups and formed the proposed 501(c)(4) rules designed to push conservative groups out of the public forum. The remaining documents are key to determining the level of wrong doing and deception committed by this agency.”
In February, Camp wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warning that if the IRS did not comply with the repeated requests for all Lerner documents, he would be forced to consider subpoenaing the information (see Congress Prods IRS to Provide Documents on Tax-Exempt Determinations).
According to Camp’s office, the Ways and Means Committee investigation has found that before February 2010, the IRS was processing and approving Tea Party cases within three months without the intervention of Washington, D.C. Tea Party cases were flagged due to “media attention” in February 2010, not as a result of confusion as to how to interpret 501(c)(4) law, his office said. The IRS targeted not only right-leaning applicants, but also right-leaning groups that were already operating as 501(c)(4)s.
At Washington, D.C.’s direction, dozens of groups operating as 501(c)(4)s were flagged for IRS surveillance, including monitoring of the groups’ activities, Web sites and other publicly available information. Of these groups, 83 percent were right-leaning, and of the groups the IRS selected for audit, 100 percent were right-leaning, according to Republicans on the committee.
According to interviews with IRS employees, as early as 2011, work started on new 501(c)(4) regulations that would remove conservative groups from the public square. A June 2012 email between Treasury officials and then-IRS Director of Tax Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner revealed that these potential regulations were being discussed “off-plan,” meaning that the plans for the regulations were not to be published on the public schedule.
Last week, Lerner asserted her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to respond to questions from a different House committee after invoking those same rights in an earlier hearing last year (see Boehner Calls for Contempt after IRS Official Won't Testify).
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, has pointed out that hundreds of thousands of pages of documents have already been turned over by the IRS in the investigation. “Yesterday the IRS commissioner confirmed that $8 million have been spent directly on those investigations, as over 255 people have spent more than 79,000 hours doing nothing but responding to congressional investigations,” he said in a statement on the House floor on Feb. 26. “An additional $6 million to $8 million have been spent to add capacity to information technology systems to process securely the 500,000 pages of documents Congress has received. And what have we learned? That both progressive and conservative groups were inappropriately screened out by name and not by activity. And that no one was involved outside of the IRS and that there was no political motivation involved.”