House Votes to Hold Former IRS Official Lois Lerner in Contempt
Passage of legislation in the United States House of Representatives to hold former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress is important towards holding the Executive Branch accountable for its actions, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) said today.
“Every year ordinary Americans play by the rules when paying taxes and interacting with the IRS, and if we step out of line there are consequences. We should demand the same accountability from those serving in the IRS,” Rep. Roby said. “Lois Lerner was trusted with immense responsibility to ensure the rule of law, and instead it appears she used her position of authority to project a political agenda. Even now she continues to stonewall Members of Congress who are simply seeking the truth."
In May 2012, it was revealed that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups applying for the normal tax-exempt status. It was further revealed that the IRS focused increased scrutiny on groups that “criticized how the country is being run” and expressed an interest in public awareness “on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” The Wetumpka Tea Party, based in Rep. Roby’s district, was one of the groups targeted.
Numerous emails from Lerner, who was director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, indicated that she was using her position to target groups based on their political beliefs. Lerner elected to exercise her right to avoid self incrimination under the Fifth Amendment at a Congressional hearing last year, though many believe she had previously waived that right.
Rep. Roby said the decision to hold Lerner in contempt was regrettable but necessary.
“I wish it hadn’t come to this. I wish Ms. Lerner had been forthcoming from the beginning about why her agency targeted groups and individuals because of their political beliefs. By dodging questions and obstructing the truth, Ms. Lerner has left us no choice but to publicly condemn her behavior and hasten the Justice Department to act."
The House today also passed a resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal.
“The Justice Department had a chance to prove it was truly committed to accountability by swiftly and aggressively investigating this issue, and prosecuting those who were responsible. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. It is that lack of accountability that has allowed Lois Lerner to think that she can 'plead the Fifth' to Congress without consequence. Today’s vote showed that isn’t the case."
"Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the Executive Branch and to seek the truth on behalf of the American people. That is a responsibility I take very seriously.”
The contempt resolution will be referred to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. From there, the matter will likely go before a judge to rule on the matter. Only five government officials have ever been found in contempt by the full House of Representatives.