Obama loy­al­ist heads IRS tea party probe

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Jus­tice Depart­ment se­lected an avowed po­lit­i­cal sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Obama to lead the crim­i­nal probe into the IRS tar­get­ing of tea party groups, ac­cord­ing to top Repub­li­cans who said Wed­nes­day that the move has ru­ined the en­tire in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell E. Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, and reg­u­la­tory af­fairs sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Jim Jor­dan, Ohio Repub­li­can, said they have dis­cov­ered that the head of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is Bar­bara Kay Bosser­man, a trial lawyer in the Jus­tice Depart­ment who do­nated more than $6,000 to Mr. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 cam­paigns, as well as sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars to the na­tional Demo­cratic Party.

“The depart­ment has cre­ated a star­tling con­flict of in­ter­est,” Mr. Issa and Mr. Jor­dan said in a let­ter sent Wed­nes­day and re­viewed by The Wash­ing­ton Times. “It is un­be­liev­able that the depart­ment would choose such an in­di­vid­ual to ex­am­ine the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sys­tem­atic tar­get­ing and ha­rass­ment of or­ga­ni­za­tions op­posed to the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies.”

The In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s in­ter­nal au­di­tor re­vealed in May that the agency had been in­ap­pro­pri­ately tar­get­ing and block­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for tax-ex­empt sta­tus from tea party and con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing groups. In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, Mr. Obama promised that the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment would in­ves­ti­gate whether the IRS broke any laws.

Eight months later, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has not pro­duced any pub­lic find­ings, and Mr. Issa says the FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment have stonewalled his ef­forts to find out what’s go­ing on.

Ms. Bosser­man didn’t re­spond to an email seek­ing com­ment.

But the Jus­tice Depart­ment said it isn’t al­lowed to con­sider a ca­reer lawyer’s po­lit­i­cal lean­ings when dol­ing out as­sign­ments and that it would vi­o­late an em­ployee’s con­sti­tu­tional rights if he were pe­nal­ized on the job for mak­ing le­gal po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions.

“It is con­trary to depart­ment pol­icy and a pro­hib­ited per­son­nel prac­tice un­der fed­eral law to con­sider the po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion of ca­reer em­ploy­ees or other non-merit fac­tors in mak­ing per­son­nel de­ci­sions,” said spokes­woman Dena Iver­son.

Ac­cord­ing to cam­paign fi­nance records, Ms. Bosser­man do­nated $400 to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee in 2004 and $250 in 2008. She gave $3,600 to Mr. Obama’s cam­paign in 2008, $2,000 to his cam­paign in 2012, and $500 to the sep­a­rate Obama Vic­tory Fund in 2012.

The tea party scan­dal has faded from the head­lines but the fall­out con­tin­ues. The IRS is try­ing to come to terms with some of the con­ser­va­tive groups it de­layed in ap­prov­ing tax-ex­empt sta­tus.

Mean­while, the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues, ac­cord­ing to an FBI let­ter sent to Mr. Issa late last month. The FBI says it’s be­cause of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion that the agency will not re­lease any of its doc­u­ments to Mr. Issa.

“We would re­quest that the com­mit­tee per­mit the investigators to com­plete their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and consult with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors,” Stephen D. Kelly, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the FBI’s of­fice of con­gres­sional af­fairs, said in a Dec. 31 let­ter to Mr. Issa. “As a re­sult, we can­not pro­vide the doc­u­ments re­quested … while the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ac­tive.”

The FBI didn’t say when it would com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr. Issa and Mr. Jor­dan warned At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. that the FBI’s re­fusal to co­op­er­ate could rise “to the level of crim­i­nal ob­struc­tion” of Congress’ over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The Jus­tice Depart­ment promised to at least brief con­gres­sional investigators on the sta­tus of the FBI probe, but then backed out.

Mr. Kelly’s let­ter didn’t ad­dress the rea­son, but it did re­ply to another re­quest from Mr. Issa seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about the FBI’s con­tacts with King Street Pa­tri­ots, one of the tea party groups that ap­plied for tax-ex­empt sta­tus but was stonewalled.

Cather­ine En­gel­brecht, a chief or­ga­nizer of King Street Pa­tri­ots, said she felt the gov­ern­ment was tar­get­ing her af­ter the FBI made re­peated in­quiries about some­one who at­tended a King Street Pa­tri­ots meet­ing.

In its let­ter to Mr. Issa, the FBI said it con­tacted the King Street Pa­tri­ots af­ter re­ceiv­ing a com­plaint in 2010 that a mem­ber of the group had said he wanted to start a rev­o­lu­tion and had vis­ited a fir­ing range.

Mr. Kelly said FBI agents checked with the group, which said the man at­tended a train­ing ses­sion but was asked to leave. Mr. Kelly said the group pro­vided an ad­dress the man had given, but that ad­dress turned out to be false. When the FBI ul­ti­mately tracked down the man, he “in­di­cated that his re­marks were made in jest.”

“The King Street Pa­tri­ots were ques­tioned con­cern­ing their lim­ited re­la­tion­ship with the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion,” Mr. Kelly said in the FBI let­ter.

But that doesn’t jibe with Ms. En­gel­brecht’s rec­ol­lec­tion, nor with the pa­per record that was re­leased. In a heav­ily redacted copy of one of the FBI’s con­tact re­ports, which Ms. En­gel­brecht ob­tained, the FBI makes no men­tion of the in­di­vid­ual Mr. Kelly said the agency was in­ves­ti­gat­ing. In­stead, the re­port lists the con­tact as part of “com­mu­nity out­reach.”

Ms. En­gel­brecht said the FBI made a half-dozen in­quiries over the course of a year. She said she also fielded in­quiries at her busi­ness from the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives; faced an au­dit by the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion of En­gel­brecht Man­u­fac­tur­ing; and un­der­went an IRS au­dit of her per­sonal tax re­turns.

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