It may have taken a backseat as other issues and legislative fights have dominated the news in recent weeks, but congressional investigations into the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups haven’t ended, even if President Barack Obama believes it’s a “phony scandal.”
More news has surfaced in the last week about Lois Lerner, the now-suspended IRS official at the center of congressional inquiries. On Monday, the National Review reported that Lerner may have illegally disclosed information about a conservative group to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is a felony.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), is now seeking to obtain e-mails from Lerner’s personal account that relate to her duties at the IRS.
“Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official duties from your official IRS e-mail account to an msn.com e-mail account labeled ‘Lois Home,’” wrote Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) via a statement from the committee (the full letter wasn’t available). “This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business.”
“[T]he use of non-official e-mail accounts to conduct official business implicates federal records requirements,” they added. “It also creates difficulties in fulfilling the IRS’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation requests. Your use of non-official e-mail account also frustrates congressional oversight obligations.”
Use of personal e-mail to conduct official business isn’t fairly common among government employees. But the contents of those messages are usually, if not always, subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FIOA).
Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson found herself in the midst of a scandal because she tried to hide messages relating to government business under a fake name and dummy e-mail account.
President Obama may consider the IRS’s targeting groups waiting to engage in the political debate to be a “phony scandal,” but, thankfully, Americans disagree, according to a recent Fox News poll.
The poll found that 59% of voters believe that the IRS scandal should be taken seriously. Only 33% agree with President Obama’s assertion that a government agency willfully targeting its own citizens is, somehow, a phony scandal.
There are still many questions that need to be answered and there absolutely must be at least some measure of accountability to the officials who have betrayed Americans’ trust. Here’s hoping these congressional investigations bear that out.