The temperature soared Wednesday at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when its chairman accused the panel’s leading Democrat member of prompting the Internal Revenue Service to target a conservative group applying for tax exempt status.
Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., claimed that records the committee obtained included emails from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and the IRS regarding True The Vote’s non-profit status application, according to the Washington Examiner.
True The Vote is a conservative organization founded to eliminate voter fraud, and is based in Texas — not Cummings’ Maryland district.
“The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff,” a statement from the Oversight panel reads.
The Examiner reported:
According to Issa, Cummings and his staff sought “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” from True the Vote.
Five days after the Cummings inquiry, the IRS sent True the Vote an email requesting “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “… the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed … following the training they receive by you.”
At a February committee hearing, Cummings claimed that any notion that he or his staff had put True The Vote “on the radar screen” of the IRS was “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”
This new information, in the form of letters and emails from 2012 to 2013, suggests coordination between Cummings’ office and the IRS. There was even a direct funneling of information from IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to Cummings’ staff at the congressman’s request. This prompted Issa and other GOP committee members to ask Cummings for an explanation.
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise,” the letter to Cummings states, according to Townhall. “As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
Cummings responded Wednesday calling his inquiries appropriate and the chairman’s accusations “a desperate attempt to shift the focus on tomorrow’s contempt vote away from the serious Constitutional deficiencies in these proceedings.”
The House Oversight Committee plans a vote Thursday on whether to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress, prompting its minority members to accuse Issa of McCarthyism.
“We oppose Chairman Issa’s efforts to recreate the Oversight Committee in Joe McCarthy’s image, and we reject his attempts to drag us back to that shameful era in which Congress tried to strip away the constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the most dishonorable kind of partisan politics,” the statement read according to Politico.