The U.S. House of Representatives voted this evening to hold former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena to provide testimony regarding the agency’s targeting of conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.
“The constitutional right to free speech is the lifeblood of our democracy, and it is the responsibility of our government to ensure that right is protected,” said Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
“When the public trust is broken through unlawful actions, the American people expect the wrongdoers to be held accountable. Ms. Lerner’s testimony is vital to Congress’s investigation; her unwillingness to cooperate has impeded our ability to get the public the answers it deserves.”
In 2013, it was discovered that for nearly two years the IRS had deliberately acted to target conservative-leaning organizations seeking tax-exempt status by delaying or interfering with applications and processing. Lerner served as Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS during that period.
On May 22, 2013, Lerner appeared at an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing where she made a voluntary opening statement denying any wrongdoing, but refused to answer any questions. It was later determined that Lerner’s statement constituted a waiver of her Fifth Amendment privilege, compelling her to publicly testify before Congress.
Based on the coordinated investigation of the Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means Committees, it is clear Ms. Lerner has firsthand knowledge of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. More importantly, the investigation has concluded that Ms. Lerner was personally involved in aspects of the targeting, including ordering Tea Party applications to proceed through an unprecedented multi-tier review process.
The House will vote tomorrow, Thursday, May 8, on a resolution (H.Res.565) calling on Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.
Upton is a cosponsor of the Taxpayer Nondiscrimination and Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1950), which seeks to prevent biased, politically-motivated discrimination by increasing the maximum penalty for IRS employee misconduct against taxpayers.