Chaffetz: Cummings' Staff May Have 'Stepped Over the Line' in Seeking Conservative Group's Tax Info
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) joined fellow members of the House Oversight Committee in holding former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
He told Gretchen Carlson on The Real Story that hopefully the House and Justice Department will uphold the decision.
The committee claims that documents show Lerner actively corresponded with liberal campaign finance groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center.
Chaffetz said it is “pretty clear” that Lerner was vying for a job.
“There’s so much evidence out there that just demand answers,” he said.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) demanded an explanation as to why Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings’ staff and the IRS asked for nearly identical taxpayer information about the conservative group, True the Vote.
New IRS emails released by the House Oversight Committee show staff working for Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings communicated with the IRS multiple times between 2012 and 2013 about voter fraud prevention group True the Vote. True the Vote was targeted by the IRS after applying for tax exempt status more than two years ago. Further, information shows the IRS and Cummings' staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht about her organization, indicating coordination and improper sharing of confidential taxpayer information.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, along with five Subcommittee Chairmen are demanding Cummings provide an explanation for the staff inquiries to the IRS about True the Vote and for his denial that his staff ever contacted the IRS about the group.
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise,” the letter to Cummings states. “As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
The first contact between the IRS and Cummings' staffers about True the Vote happened in August 2012. In January 2013, staff asked for more information from the IRS about the group. Former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner went out of her way to try and get information to Cummings' office.The information Cummings received was not shared with Majority Members on the Committee.
On January 28, three days after staffers requested more information, Lerner wrote an email to her deputy Holly Paz, who has since been put on administrative leave, asking, “Did we find anything?” Paz responded immediately by saying information had not been found yet, to which Lerner replied, “Thanks, check tomorrow please.”
Chaffetz supported Issa’s efforts to find out if Cummings and his staff overstepped boundaries.
“We’re dealing with some very personal information. And if you’re trying to seek that and extract that from somebody, perhaps maybe you stepped over the line,” he said.