IRS obfuscating the truth about targeting

Matthew Clark Associate Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice
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A week ago, President Obama demanded the IRS cooperate with Congress as it investigates the agency’s intentional targeting of conservative groups. He assured the American people, “[W]e will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role. And our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed.”

Apparently the IRS didn’t get the memo. It nonchalantly continues to treat this as an unfortunate incidence of poor management and not what it is — a coordinated effort by the Obama administration’s IRS to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens.

After three congressional hearings on the burgeoning IRS scandal, we have learned nothing from the IRS.

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified Wednesday that while he regrets that the inappropriate targeting occurred on his watch, he didn’t know anything about it. Then he admitted that when he did find out, he didn’t do anything about it. He didn’t ask further questions, he didn’t call for investigations, and he didn’t order disciplinary action.

Worst of all, he didn’t stop it.

In congressional testimony last week, former acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller referred to the IRS targeting as “horrible customer service.” He couldn’t remember the name of the person he was told was responsible. He may have been told he sent the wrong person for “counseling,” and he took no further action. He couldn’t remember when he knew, what he knew, or what he did about the targeting. He didn’t stop it.

Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations — the one person we know has a lot of answers to the critical questions about how this happened and who did it — pleaded the Fifth Amendment. After orchestrating a planted question and a media rollout strategy to get ahead of the IG report, she went silent. After overseeing a division of the IRS that trampled the constitutional rights of countless patriotic Americans, she clung to her constitutional rights.

She chose to try to protect her good name, while refusing to answer questions about how the good names of numerous conservatives were sullied. She testified, “I have done nothing wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.” Yet she refused to answer any questions about these unsupported assertions of fact. She too didn’t stop the targeting.

The lack of forthcoming answers from the IRS shouldn’t be shocking. The example starts at the top. President Obama still hasn’t said when he learned about the targeting. He’s also choosing to evade the tough questions.

It’s time for the obstruction and obfuscation of the truth to end. It’s time for the IRS to come clean.

This is a demand that crosses partisan boundaries. Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing, “If this committee is prevented by obstruction or by refusal to answer the questions that we need to get to the bottom of this … there will be hell to pay …”

We haven’t gotten any answers from the IRS. And the more we learn, the worse it gets. The IG testified that his office has initiated 143 “unauthorized disclosure” investigations “and counting” of the IRS for 2012 alone.

The questions are piling up, and the longer President Obama’s IRS refuses to provide answers, the worse it is going to get.

As The Daily Caller reported, the White House’s latest assertion that the targeting of conservative groups ended in May 2012 is just plain false. At the ACLJ, we have represented 27 of these targeted groups. Since May 2012, 18 of our clients have received no less than 26 targeted inquiry letters. The latest letter was received on May 6, 2013, just four days before the IRS admitted its unlawful targeting.

As of today, 10 of our clients still have yet to be removed from the targeted inquiry process. We are preparing to file a lawsuit next week to defend the constitutional rights of numerous conservative groups against this IRS abuse. The IRS may try to stonewall Congress, but they won’t have that liberty in court.

Matthew Clark is associate counsel for government affairs and media advocacy with the American Center for Law and Justice.