Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today requesting that special counsel be appointed in the investigation of IRS targeting of conservative groups because the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform felt there are too many conflicts of interest with the Justice Department’s investigation.
In the letter, the Congressmen noted past conflicts of interest the Committee had previously identified, yet said that despite identifying these no special counsel had been appointed. One of these was an attorney with a leading role in the investigation who had contributed to Barack Obama’s political campaigns.
The letter cited new findings which the Committee feels will add to the conflict of interest and therefore the letter reiterated the request for appointing special counsel in the investigation.
The Committee has learned that Andrew Strelka, currently an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked from 2008 to 2010 at the IRS in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division, formerly headed by Lois Lerner. Emails show that Strelka was directly involved in the IRS targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants.
In March 2010, Strelka received an e-mail from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker directing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Shoemaker directed Strelka: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.” Strelka also received an e-mail in June 2011 about the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive. Until recently, Strelka represented the IRS in civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.
The Chairmen also expressed concern in their letter that Nicole Siegel , current employee of the Office of Legislative Affairs, which is charged with the Department’s response to congressional oversight of the Department’s interactions with Lerner and the IRS, appeared to have maintained a close relationship with Lerner and previously worked for a political action committee to assist political fundraising for Democratic candidates.
“This new information about additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department shows that almost every facet of the Department with an interest in the IRS targeting investigation is compromised,” the Chairmen wrote in the letter. “From the Civil Rights Division to the Public Integrity Section and the FBI, from the Tax Division to the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Justice Department has serious and wide-ranging conflicts of interest in its handling of the IRS targeting matter. With these startling revelations, we reiterate the bipartisan calls for the appointment of an independent special counsel. In addition, to better examine the actions and experiences of Andrew Strelka and Nicole Siegel at the IRS and the Justice Department, and for other relevant matters, we request that you make Mr. Strelka and Ms. Siegel available for transcribed interviews with Committee staff.”