Lawmakers on the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGRC) have drawn up charges to impeach Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen.
Beginning in 2010, employees of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations division, supervised by former Division Director Lois Lerner, violated agency policies by singling out organizations for enhanced audits based on a group’s name or policy positions, intending to impede conservative organizations’ ability to receive tax-exempt donations in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
Cover-Ups and Accountability
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who serves on OGRC, says Koskinen impeded justice by helping to hide Lerner’s illegal activities.
“There were 422 backup tapes that were destroyed while [Koskinen] was commissioner, containing potentially 24,000 e-mails,” Jordan said. “So he didn’t preserve all the documents. He didn’t produce all the documents, because if you’ve destroyed the tapes and 24,000 e-mails, there’s no way to know that you’ve given all the documents that we need to get to the truth and fully investigate this.
“For all these reasons, we think someone should be held accountable, and the commissioner was presiding over the agency when all this took place,” Jordan said.
‘Most Fundamental Right’
Jordan says Americans’ constitutional rights were violated by the IRS, which he says became a runaway agency with excessive power over people’s lives.
“Think of what the IRS did,” said Jordan. “They went after American citizens’ most fundamental right: your right under the First Amendment to speak and to speak in a political fashion,” Jordan said. “That’s what they targeted. That’s why I’ve been pushing as hard as I can for so long, because it doesn’t get any more basic than this.
Letting Lerner Loose
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow with The Heritage Foundation, says the Obama administration erred when it decided to let Lerner off the hook.
“Criminal prosecution can only be done by the U.S. Department of Justice,” von Spakovsky said. “They’ve decided not to do that. I actually think that’s a mistake. That decision was clearly a political decision. It was not a decision based on the evidence.”
Impeachment is a valid tool for removing abusive public officials, von Spakovsky says.
“I think there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Lois Lerner, but Congress cannot prosecute in the courts,” said von Spakovsky. “Only the executive branch can do that. The one tool they were given by the Constitution is to impeach [and potentially] remove bad public officials in the executive branch.”
Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.