Gerlach says hearing needed on lost IRS e-mails

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Washington, Jun 17 | comments

Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) on Tuesday called on the House Ways and Means Committee to convene a hearing on the astonishing claim by the Internal Revenue Service that the tax enforcement agency somehow lost more than two years worth of e-mails between former IRS official Lois Lerner and other executive branch agencies and outside groups.

The Ways and Means Committee has been working for more than a year to obtain details and key documents related to an admission by the IRS that conservative groups faced harsher scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status. Before retiring last year, Lois Lerner led the IRS department that systematically singled out organizations affiliated with the Tea Party and conservative groups.

Last week, the IRS notified Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp that a computer crash had wiped out all e-mails from January 2009 through April 2011 between Lerner and outside agencies or groups, such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, and Congressional Democrats.

Gerlach, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, said the IRS’ claim that it lost Lerner's e-mails warrants a hearing and an immediate forensic audit by the IRS Inspector General to determine the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance of correspondence between Lerner and others at the height of the conservative targeting period.

"If IRS leaders are going to give our Committee an excuse for not turning over records that is on par with 'my dog ate my homework,' then subpoenas need to be issued to the IRS technology team so they can explain what happened under oath," Gerlach said. "Taxpayers who have dealt with IRS auditors know the agency has a zero-tolerance policy for sloppy record keeping and wouldn’t accept it as an excuse for failing to comply with IRS demands.  Now, IRS leaders and the Obama Administration just shrug their shoulders and claim critical evidence about who orchestrated the scheme to target conservative groups simply vanished. That’s just unacceptable. And it’s just another example of how this Administration goes to great lengths to keep the public in the dark and thwart any attempt by Congress to exercise reasonable oversight of the executive branch.”

The House voted in April to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, delivering a statement denying any wrongdoing in the targeting scandal and then refusing to answer any questions under oath.

Attempts to obtain e-mails and other documents related to the terrorist attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 have been met with fierce resistance from the Obama Administration as well, Gerlach noted.

In fact, it took a court order 18 months after the Benghazi killings to obtain 41 documents related to the attack, including an e-mail from senior White House adviser Ben Rhodes discussing how to divert blame away from President Obama and mislead Americans by claiming an Internet video sparked the violence.

Prior to Benghazi and the IRS scandal, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for refusing to comply with multiple subpoenas requesting documents related to a covert Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Department gun-running operation in Mexico. 

As part of the botched sting known as “Operation Fast & Furious,” federal law enforcement officials supplied weapons to Mexican drug cartels. One of the guns was used in the murder of two U.S. Border Patrol agents. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been trying for more than three years to get the answers the victims’ families and the public deserve.

A U.S. District Court ruling is still pending on whether Attorney General Holder can legally withhold documents related to his false claim under oath in February 2011 that the Justice Department did not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.

“This Administration has shown time and time again utter disdain for Congressional oversight and has fallen miles short of the President’s promise of having the most transparent White House in history,” Gerlach said.

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