Congressman accuses IRS of obstruction, warns of consequences

IRS

By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Republican congressman spearheading a House probe into alleged Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative political groups accused the head of the IRS on Tuesday of obstructing his panel’s investigation.

California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, warned acting IRS chief Daniel Werfel that if “the IRS continues to hinder the committee’s investigation in any manner, the committee will be forced to consider use of compulsory process.”

Issa did not elaborate on exactly what steps his panel’s Republican majority may be prepared to take.

“Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa stressed in a letter co-signed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

“Despite your promise to cooperate fully with congressional investigations, the actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the committee’s oversight efforts,” Issa said.

“The systematic manner in which the IRS has attempted to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the committee’s investigation raises serious concerns about your commitment to full and unfettered congressional oversight,” Issa wrote.

CNN reached out to the IRS, but did not receive any response.

Among other things, Issa claimed the IRS has handed over only 12,000 of the 64 million pages of documents initially identified as potentially relevant to the investigation into the alleged unfair targeting of conservative outfits seeking tax-exempt status.

Issa complained that documents produced by the IRS “contain excessive redactions that go well beyond those necessary to protect confidential taxpayer information.”

Issa also asserted that a senior IRS official — Cindy Thomas — had been “affirmatively prevented” from providing congressional investigators with relevant documents in her possession.

Additionally, the chairman blasted the IRS for allegedly trying to “carefully orchestrate the public release” of information contained in a 30-day review of the matter back in June — before providing the information to the committee.

Issa and other Republicans have insisted for months that after President Barack Obama was first elected, the IRS started unfairly targeting conservative outfits seeking tax-exempt status.

Democrats, however, argue the IRS improperly scrutinized groups on both the left and right as part of a clumsy attempt to administer vague election-related tax laws.

The controversy has been the subject of numerous congressional hearings. House GOP leaders have indicated they intend to keep publicly pressing on the issue this week, voting on a proposal to prevent the IRS from implementing or enforcing any provisions in the president’s health care reform law.

Top House Republicans have also suggested their members highlight the matter during the upcoming August congressional recess.