Republicans filed official papers to begin impeachment proceedings against current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over the agency’s targeting of Tea Party-affiliated groups. The resolution filed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday accuses Koskinen of lying to Congress about agency emails that were found to be missing. It was filed four days after the Justice Department found no criminal behavior in the IRS’ scrutiny of the tax statuses of conservative political groups.
Conservative lawmakers, especially those affiliated with the Tea Party movement, have pursued the IRS for more than two years, when the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that IRS employees were singling out certain groups seeking tax-exempt status by searching for terms like “tea party” and “patriots.” Lois Lerner, director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations department, was suspended and eventually retired. The specific allegation is that he misled Congress when he said last year that he had turned over all of Lerner’s emails when he knew that thousands of them were missing and that backup copies had been destroyed.
The impeachment resolution accuses Koskinen of having “engaged in a pattern of deception that demonstrates his unfitness to serve as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.” Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking Democrat on Chaffetz’s committee, called the resolution “ridiculous,” saying it demonstrated “nothing but the Republican obsession with diving into investigative rabbit holes that waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
The IRS released a brief, unsigned statement: “The IRS vigorously disputes the allegations in the resolution. We have fully cooperated with all of the investigations.” Hours before the impeachment resolution was introduced, Mr. Koskinen told a Senate hearing that he has taken steps to try to clean up the mess left by the targeting scandal.
The chain of command all the way down has changed. There are new people that have gone through, and we’ve pursued appropriate disciplinary review as needed.”
He also acknowledged that his agency is still holding up a “handful” of tea party groups’ applications for nonprofit status, including one that has been waiting for nearly six years, The Washington Times reported this week. Koskinen also said he hopes to have rules to limit political activities of nonprofit organizations in place before the general election next year, raising the specter of another major fight over the tax agency and political targeting.
The Obama administration said part of the problem was that the rules were too confusing, leaving the nonprofit groups and IRS auditors uncertain about what activity was allowed.