Is This How IRS Cover-up Works?

by John Fund

Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he is confident the story behind the IRS’s targeting of tea-party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status will eventually come out. But patience will have to be a virtue. Issa’s staff acknowledged late last month that the IRS had handed over to the committee a little more than 10 percent of the documents the IRS itself has admitted are relevant to the committee’s investigation.

Last night, Issa spoke via Skype to the New York Meeting, a gathering of influential conservatives founded by Mallory Factor. Issa said that while his investigation is incomplete, he has concluded that at least one reform at the IRS is absolutely necessary. “While the IRS formally has only two political appointees — its commissioner and its chief counsel — it’s clear that political people are embedded throughout the agency in  ‘career’ slots,” he said. That can create real credibility and trust issues when the IRS is handling sensitive political matters.

Issa says he is thinking about a bill that would bar anyone from work in an apolitical “career” slot at the IRS for ten years if they come from an explicitly political position.  

As an example, Issa mentioned the case of “Susanne,” a lawyer whom he said had worked for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee until 2008. His reference is to Susanne Sachsman Grooms, who NRO’s Eliana Johnson has reported joined the IRS in the year President Obama was elected. She served the IRS as an adviser to the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement and then as a senior counselor to the chief of criminal investigations.  

As Johnson has reported: “At the time, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement — her boss — was none other than Steven Miller, who held the post of IRS commissioner from November 2012 until his resignation in May after the IRS scandal broke.” Grooms herself left the IRS in 2011 to rejoin House Oversight as its chief Democratic counsel. There she advises ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings on how to handle the IRS scandal, which involves the people she used to work with at the IRS. That’s called a conflict of interest, with bells on it.

Cummings has been very clear where he stands on the IRS scandal. He told CNN last June, just a month after the scandal broke: “Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on to be frank with you . . . . [Acting IRS commissioner] Danny Werfel’s doing a great job. I think we’re in great shape.”

“Great shape?” When the IRS is continuing to slow walk a subpoena on the production of documents it admits are relevant to the investigation? When Chairman Issa has documented what he calls the IRS’s “ongoing obstruction” of his committee’s investigation? And when key IRS witnesses such as Lois Lerner continue to evade testifying? Sounds like what Cummings may have been referring to was the cover-up, and not the investigation.