IRS Must Be Held Accountableby Senator Dan Coats on June 24, 2014
Hoosiers frequently tell me that they are frustrated by the way Washington exempts itself from the same requirements our government puts on hard-working citizens.
As a result, a huge trust deficit exists between the American people and Washington. One of the latest scandals that reinforces this lack of trust is the ongoing investigation into the Internal Revenue Service.
It has been said that no agency in Washington is less forgiving than the IRS. If you are audited, the burden of proof is on you. You must provide the records to back up your financial situation. You are guilty until you prove your innocence.
However, the IRS itself continues to stonewall Congress and operate with a remarkable lack of transparency. In 2010, when the IRS targeted conservative groups – including at least one in Indiana – for extra scrutiny based on their political leanings, the agency displayed a stunning abuse of power and complete disregard for our Constitution.
The IRS should be apolitical, not a partisan watchdog. Neither those who make the law nor those who enforce the law are above the law. But nearly a year since this scandalous abuse of the law became public, we still do not have the answers on why this targeting occurred. As each day passes, it becomes less likely that the truth will ever come out.
Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit and the official at the center of the ongoing congressional investigation, refuses to testify before Congress. In recent testimony before Congress, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen claimed that the hard drive belonging to Lerner crashed in 2011. According to Koskinen, tens of thousands of her emails dating to 2009 were destroyed and permanently lost.
To claim that two years of emails, which the IRS is required by law to archive, were completely and inadvertently lost is laughable on its face. Even though we live in a day and age where virtually nothing ever disappears from the Internet, the IRS wants us to believe that these emails are lost for good
When this scandal first surfaced, President Obama promised to work “hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed.” Instead, the Obama Justice Department has refused to require Lois Lerner to testify and refuses to press for answers.
Given this continued stonewalling, we need an independent special prosecutor with subpoena power to get to the bottom of this situation. Appointing an independent investigator would allow access to federal computer records and determine whether these missing emails can be found on the government IT network.
One of the founding principles that sets the United States apart from other nations, that makes us exceptional, is the First Amendment to the Constitution. Under the First Amendment, Americans have the right to organize around the issues and values they believe in and they have the right to disagree with their government. This liberty is part of what energizes and fuels our democracy.
When a so-called independent agency of the federal government attacks average American citizens for expressing their beliefs, a fundamental trust is broken.
This trust must be restored. We owe it to American taxpayers to reveal the full truth of what happened at the IRS and to repair the damage of this agency’s reckless actions.