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Ways and Means Committee Refers Lois Lerner to Department of Justice for Criminal Prosecution

April 09, 2014

Washington, DC – Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) announced that the Committee, acting under its authority granted in Sec. 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, voted out a criminal referral letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Eric Holder regarding actions taken by IRS employee Lois Lerner.  Chairman Camp, in sending the letter on behalf of the Committee, urged Holder to take a serious review of the evidence uncovered through the Committee’s investigation to determine whether Lerner violated criminal statutes.

The Committee uncovered three specific acts undertaken by Lerner that may have violated one or more criminal statutes documented in the letter:

  • Lerner used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  She showed extreme bias and prejudice towards conservative groups.  The letter lays out evidence on how Lerner targeted conservative organization Crossroads GPS as well as other right-leaning groups, while turning a blind eye to similarly-organized liberal groups, like Priorities USA.
  • Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
  • Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.

If convicted of these crimes, Lerner could face up to 11 years in prison.

Upon releasing the letter, Chairman Camp stated, “This investigation has uncovered serious, unprecedented actions taken by Lois Lerner that deprived conservative groups of their rights under the Constitution.  Almost a year ago we learned that the IRS subjected certain groups to extra scrutiny because of their political beliefs.  At the time, Lois Lerner shamefully attempted to blame the mistreatment on low-level employees in Cincinnati.  The investigation to date has demonstrated that the targeting did not happen until IRS headquarters in D.C. intervened.  Today’s action highlights specific wrongdoing for the Department of Justice to pursue.  DOJ has a responsibility to act, and Lois Lerner must be held accountable.  It is also important that the American people know what really occurred at the IRS, so this powerful agency cannot target American taxpayers ever again.”

The Internal Revenue Code explicitly provides a procedure for the House Ways and Means Committee to release taxpayer information to the House under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code.  The letter to DOJ was marked up by the Committee in closed executive session.  Upon approval of the letter, it was then made public to the House.

The letter to DOJ can be read here.

Timeline of Lois Lerner’s Targeting of Conservatives

January 21, 2010:
Citizen’s United Ruling
:  Supreme Court issues ruling in Citizens United case, which would lead to an active campaign by Democrats against conservative groups – a campaign Lerner was well aware of and reacted to.

January 27, 2010: 
President Obama Goes on the Attack
:  In his State of the Union address, President Obama states: “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.  I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

March-April 2010: 
IRS Targeting Begins
:  According to TIGTA, the IRS’s Determinations Unit “began searching for other requests for exemption involving the Tea Party, Patriots, 9/12 and IRC § 501(c)(4) applications involving political sounding names, e.g., ‘We the People’ or
‘Take Back the Country.'”

September 26, 2010:
White House Steps Up Attacks
:  David Axelrod, then-senior advisor to President Obama, referred to Crossroads GPS and similar groups as “front groups for special interests. These are front groups for foreign-controlled companies, which would have been banned under the bill that we put through Congress, and they don’t want the American people to know, and the American people ought to be alert to that.”

October 12, 2010:
Democrat Leaders Join Attack
:  Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin urges the IRS to investigate the tax status of Crossroads GPS and “other orgs” – though no other organizations were named.  

October 19, 2010:
Lerner on Alert
:  Speaking to students at Duke University, Lois Lerner states that 501(c)(4) organizations were spending money on campaign activity in the wake of the Citizens United decision and claimed, “[E]verybody is screaming at us, ‘fix it now before the election….”

February 2011:
Lerner Calls Conservatives “Dangerous,” Start to Take Control
:  Lois Lerner sends email to IRS employees “Tea Party Matter very dangerous ….Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”

March 24, 2011:
Democrats Step Up Attacks
:  DCCC launches website to “expose donors of Crossroads GPS.”

June 3, 2011:     
Congressional Inquiries Begin
: Chairman Camp sends letter to Commissioner Shulman inquiring about IRS targeting of taxpayers who donated money to conservative groups, as well as information regarding audits of 501(c)(4) organizations.

June 19, 2012:
White House Continues to Attack
:  President Obama’s lawyer demands that Crossroads GPS disclose its donors, saying in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission that the group is plainly a “political committee” subject to federal reporting requirements.

February 1, 2012:
Democrats Continue to Attack
:  National Public Radio reports that Senate Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), want to investigate groups such as Crossroads GPS.

July 10, 2012:   
Lerner’s Mindset Revealed
:  Lois Lerner, in response to a story sent to her regarding the complaint to the FEC against Crossroads GPS replies “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.”

July 17, 2012:    
Lerner Starts to Prepare Cover Story
: Lerner sent an email to Holly Paz and Nikole Flax offering comments on a talking point that referred to an “uptick in political advocacy cases,” drafted for then-Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steve Miller.  However, Lerner admits that, “I know we don’t have published SOI stats” to support such a claim.” [See letter to DOJ]

July 27, 2012:  
Democrats Attack, Again
:  Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) sends another letter to the IRS regarding Crossroads GPS and others, seeking a probe and status.

December 14, 2012:    
IRS Leaks
:  Crossroads GPS’s application is leaked to ProPublica, though the tax-exempt status of the group had not been determined, a violation of federal law.   

November 2, 2012:  
Lerner Misleads TIGTA
: Lerner sends misleading response to TIGTA investigatory audit questionnaire. [See letter to DOJ]

January 4, 2013: 
Lerner Leaps Into Action
:  Lerner organizes a meeting with Democracy 21 and also with the Office of Chief Counsel and the Office of Tax Policy at the Department of the Treasury for January 4.  This begins a series of specific actions by Lerner that targets only conservative groups. [See letter to DOJ]

January 4, 2013:
Lerner Pressures Review Committee
:  Lerner inquires to the status of Crossroads, and finds that the group had not been selected for audit.  She subsequently sent an email to the Director of Examinations in Dallas, TX, Nanette Downing, demanding to know why the group had not yet been audited.  In her email to Downing, she notes that she wants all moves regarding Crossroads to be coordinated in DC. [See letter to DOJ]

January 24, 2013:    
Lerner Ponders Job for Obama Organization
: In response to a news story about the formation of the President’s Organizing For Action, a 501(c)(4), Lerner remarked to EO Senior Technical Advisor Sharon Light, “Oh—maybe I can get the DC office job!” [See letter to DOJ]

January 31, 2013:    
Lerner Attempts to Influence Independent Appeals Process
:  In an email to the Chief of IRS Appeals, Chris Wagner, Lerner offers unsolicited advice on the independent appeals process notwithstanding a prohibition against such contact. [See letter to DOJ]

May 10, 2013:     
Lerner Misleads Public
:  At an American Bar Association function, Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, publicly apologizes for what she claimed were inappropriate actions by the Cincinnati office of the IRS to subject conservative groups to extra scrutiny.