On April 10 a House Committee Will Decide If Ex-IRS Official Flouted Congress

IRS official Lois Lerner IRS official Lois Lerner Carolyn Kaster/AP

After weeks of intra-committee tensions and consultations with big legal guns, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel announced on Thursday that April 10 is the day his committee will consider a resolution holding former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.

The former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division considered at the center of the controversy over inappropriate handling of applications from conservative nonprofits has twice invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the House Oversight committee.

“Documents and testimony point to Lois Lerner as a senior IRS official responsible for conduct that deprived Americans of their rights to free speech and equal protection under our laws,” said Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “Americans expect accountability and want Congress to do all it can to gather relevant evidence about what occurred and who was responsible so that this never happens again. Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding.”

The contempt process, under which Lerner, if found guilty by a jury, could be fined up to $100,000 and serve prison time of up to a year, would be triggered if the full House voted to approve the resolution.

Committee Democrats objected to Issa’s handling of negotiations with Lerner and her attorney based on committee rules. That prompted Issa to seek an opinion from the House general counsel saying that procedures had been properly followed and that lawmakers could vote on a resolution of contempt.

Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., over the past few weeks assembled legal opinions from 25 prominent experts who argued that Issa compromised any House contempt action against Lerner when he rushed to adjourn the committee’s March 5 hearing while Cummings was trying to speak.

On Thursday, Cummings said, “It is unfortunate that Chairman Issa leaked news of his contempt vote before he even told his own committee members, but frankly that is how he has conducted this entire investigation -- promoting partisanship and leaking information rather than seeking facts and reform. Our committee could have had Ms. Lerner’s testimony, but the chairman rejected her attorney’s request for a simple one-week delay while he was out of town. That was a shame because so many of our members -- Republicans and Democrats -- wanted to hear from her.”

Issa “has demonstrated over and over again that he simply does not want to hear from anyone who disagrees with him or has information that does not fit his political narrative -- including witnesses, independent legal experts and committee members like myself,” Cummings stated.

Lerner’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.