June 30 2014
Next Move in the IRS Investigation: A Special Prosecutor?
Patrice J. Lee
One voice crying out in the wilderness can be ignored. Two voices hardly raise attention. When multiple voices on polar ends of the philosophical spectrum agree, it’s time to listen.
Last week, the editorial board of the left-leaning Minneapolis Star-Tribune penned an extensive explanation of why the Obama Administration should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the lost emails of embattled former IRS chief, Lois Lerner.
The Star-Tribune joins a growing chorus of voices from the press who aren’t willing to ignore the IRS’s stonewalling of congressional investigations into their targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, especially following the incredulous story that a computer ate the emails of embattled IRS chief Lois Lerner. San Diego’s Union-Tribune called on Republicans and Democrats to “demand action” from the Administration. The conservative Chicago Tribune urged Attorney General Eric holder to appoint a special prosecutor and the Dallas Morning News identified a special prosecutor as the last straw in this investigation.
Here is what the Star-Tribune editors had to say:
The old caution against ascribing to malice what can be explained by incompetence is worth keeping in mind when evaluating a high-profile blunder in either the private or public sector, such as the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
But the latest twist in the long-running controversy — the eye-rollingly convenient loss of IRS e-mails — moves the needle from ineptitude and toward the other, more troubling end of the spectrum.
... Congressional Republicans including Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen, along with some Democrats, have called for a special prosecutor to investigate how the IRS handled petitions from conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
That’s a necessary step, and the request should be expediently heeded by the Obama administration. Although there are two investigations underway in the Republican-controlled House, a nonpartisan review by an investigator with bipartisan respect and technological expertise is sorely needed. The public needs reassurance that the nation’s tax-collection agency is run with integrity and that anyone who may have abused its formidable authority has been held accountable.
A special prosecutor could compel stronger cooperation from the IRS, consult technology experts and bring charges if necessary. Appointing one is a necessary and reasonable step to ensure that the American people learn the truth.
The evasiveness and torpedoing of investigative efforts by Congress is tiring – and perhaps that’s the intent; ignore the issue until it goes away. That is a losing strategy and will only erode the confidence and trust of the American public in the President and those who charged to lead. According to a new poll, more than three-quarters of Americans believe the IRS deliberately destroyed Lerner’s emails and those aren’t just Republicans. Sixty-three percent of Democrats believe that the IRS is lying when it says those emails were accidentally destroyed and are unrecoverable.
The electorate is smarter than the Administration gives us credit for and more tech savvy. This is not 1994 when email was still a new phenomenon and people surfed the information superhighway. In 2014 Americans know that nothing posted or shared online ever disappears. It insults our intelligence for a government agency to pretend otherwise.
Over 13 months ago following the revelations of the IRS misconduct President Obama said, "It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives. ... I'll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again by holding the responsible parties accountable. ..."
Where have his ire and passion to hold responsible those parties found accountable disappeared to? The President has sat by idly as Lerner and IRS agents have done everything to stonewall and bypass congressional investigations. Now, they claim to have lost emails from Lerner to other agencies.
If there was not a “smidgen” of wrongdoing by the IRS or anyone else in his administration President Obama should be quick to discover the evidence that proves his claim right.