By Ken Berry
The high-profile committee investigating the Tea Party scandal engulfing the IRS is continuing its efforts to find a "smoking gun." But Treasury officials aren't moving as fast as some Republicans would like. Now Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is back on the warpath.
On November 8, Issa issued subpoenas directing Treasury Department Secretary Jack Lew to release documents and communication records relating to the Tea Party scandal, especially those involving non-Treasury sources.
"Secretary Lew is responsible for providing all pertinent documents Treasury has in its possession, both within and outside the IRS", said Issa. "The committee is aware of responsive documents in Treasury's possession that have not been produced to the committee."
The House oversight committee is at the forefront of the government probes into alleged wrongdoings at the IRS' Exempt Organization (EO) division. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were targeted for extra scrutiny by EO personnel. The IRS has admitted transgressions, but it's not clear how far up the ladder, or how far sideways, the blame goes.
The chairman's frustration with the slow pace of proceedings is starting to boil over. The committee has requested related information several times since the investigation began back in June. Although the Treasury Department has produced more than 1,000 pages of documents, the committee is still looking for more dirt. According to Issa, the Treasury hasn't provided sufficient information about its internal communications.
The latest move was prompted by letter sent on October 24 from the Treasury Department to Issa concerning its inability to meet the October 2 deadline the committee chairman had imposed for supplying documents. "As we explained to your staff on that date and thereafter, because of the government shutdown, we were not able to meet that deadline", wrote Alastair Fitzpayne, assistant Treasury secretary for legislative affairs. "Nonetheless, Treasury is committed to cooperating with this committee, along with the three other congressional committees conducting investigations regarding this matter."
Fitzpayne also asserted that IRS had already complied with numerous requests. "Since my June 27 letter, the IRS has provided regular rolling productions of documents specifically requested by congressional committees, including over 400,000 unredacted pages of documents to those committees authorized to receive taxpayer-confidential information", he wrote.
The November 8 subpoenas issued by Issa seek all documents and communication records of officials discussing IRS procedures for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status, briefings delivered by Treasury Department officials, and communications between specific employees. The next move is up to the Treasury Department.