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The IRS Continues to Trample on Americans’ First Amendment Rights

by Elizabeth Dolan / /

The IRS is under heavy fire from Capitol Hill once again, but the barrage might best be described as a defensive measure to protect taxpayers. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and 20 members of the Committee recently called for the resignation of  IRS Commissioner John Koskinen following a series of missteps, delays, and quite possibly deceit.

The problems began in 2013 when the IRS admitted to selectively targeting for additional review the tax-exempt status applications of certain organizations based on their political beliefs. Lois Lerner was the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, and was thus in charge of the division that engaged in this behavior. In order to obtain the truth behind what would constitute an illegal activity, the Inspector General, the Department of Justice and three congressional committees opened investigations into the IRS. Despite being a key witness in the investigations, Lois Lerner refused to testify -- leaving Americans without real answers.

President Obama accurately deemed the selective targeting as inexcusable, and promised to take the steps necessary to finally hold the IRS accountable. After the old leadership was fired, John Koskinen was selected to fill the position of Commissioner; unfortunately, it seems he has not cooperated with congressional attempts to get answers about Lois Lerner’s missing documents. He originally promised to provide all of Lerner’s emails, only to follow with backtracked claims that the files could not be recovered due to the physical destruction of her hard drive. Despite explicit non-destruction orders, the IRS conveniently erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails under Koskinen’s leadership.

If, indeed, Mr. Koskinen has violated his basic fiduciary duties  he should be held accountable. At the very least, he has lost the trust of many key leaders in Congress, while further eroding Americans’ already very low level of confidence in the integrity of the tax system. Thus far, investigations suggest he was made aware of the problematic gap in Lois Lerner’s emails, yet did not inform Congress for months. Koskinen also appears to have provided an inaccurate testimony to Congress when stating that he had “confirmed” the unrecoverable status of the destroyed tapes. Finally, Mr. Koskinen has not acted on Obama’s May 2013 commitment to put in place new, preventative safeguards in order to hinder any future behavior of this kind.  A recent GAO report found that the IRS continues to lack the necessary ability to prevent the biased, selective treatment of nonprofit groups based on their political views.

It’s clear that under Koskinen’s leadership, the IRS hasn’t taken appropriate measures to safeguard our First Amendment freedoms against bureaucratic harassment. That’s why House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz  has taken a bold stand against further abuse in calling on President Obama to remove Koskinen from his post. The Chairman issued the following statement yesterday in conjunction with a press conference:

Mr. Koskinen should no longer be the IRS Commissioner. We have asked the President to remove Mr. Koskinen from office.

Mr. Koskinen failed in his duty to preserve and produce documentation to this Committee. The IRS failed to comply with a congressional subpoena. The IRS further failed by making false statements to Congress. We will pursue all constitutional remedies at our disposal, including potential contempt proceedings or perhaps impeachment of Commissioner Koskinen.

Having trouble following the ins-and-outs of this growing scandal? Check out the video below from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for more information: