For the fourth time in two years, I am testifying before a congressional panel investigating the unlawful and unconstitutional targeting scheme by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The necessity of repeated trips to Capitol Hill on behalf of my clients to bring national attention to this matter is reflective of the Obama administration’s incredible unwillingness to get to the bottom of this scandal.
Rather than seek justice for my clients while holding those responsible accountable, this administration has engaged in a strategy of stalling. They are trying to run out the clock.
Today in testimony before the Oversight subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, I am telling lawmakers that the hearing is another vital step toward obtaining the truth as we learn what happened, hold responsible officials accountable, and take steps to ensure this abuse will never be repeated.
This hearing comes as new revelations surface about this scandal – including a stunning finding by a congressional watchdog that confirms what we have suspected all along: The IRS continues to deceive the public about the extent of its misconduct and maintains that deception to this day.
In fact, the more we learn -- the more evidence we uncover -- the clearer it becomes that this scandal continues to grow and continues to threaten Americans even today.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that Americans are still vulnerable to IRS audits. As the GAO put it: “Unfortunately, the IRS has not taken sufficient steps to prevent targeting Americans based on their personal beliefs.”
Even the current IRS leadership fails to take this matter seriously. No one has been fired. No one has been prosecuted. There is no accountability.
Part of the problem is the fact that we’ve created another branch of government -- the federal bureaucracy. And with the IRS, we see a burgeoning bureaucracy that has no accountability – where mass-scale incompetence and systematic corruption flourish with virtually no threat to employees. The system in place makes it extraordinarily difficult to fire the worst workers.
There’s no excuse or defense for turning the full power of the IRS or any other government agency on American citizens for the sole purpose of punishing them in order to remove them as a political threat. But that’s exactly what the Obama administration did.
This administration and its officials, once and for all, must be held accountable.
That’s why it is so important for Congress to continue – and to intensify – its investigation. The ACLJ has long supported congressional oversight of IRS mistreatment of conservative organizations, and our clients’ concerns were thoroughly validated by the IRS’ admissions of wrongdoing. Comprehensive investigations were needed (and still are) to discover all the relevant facts and to hold responsible officials accountable.
But as we know, getting to the truth, isn’t (and won’t be) easy. Especially in this administration.
Consider the fact that President Obama continues to assert that there’s no IRS scandal at all. Just last week, in an interview, the president “explained that accusations that [the IRS was] specifically targeting conservative organizations was false and that IRS employees were simply implementing laws passed by Congress ‘poorly and stupidly.’”
He further stated that the “real scandal around the IRS is that they have been so poorly funded that they cannot go after these folks who are deliberately avoiding tax payments.”
To be clear, the problem is not that the IRS doesn’t have enough money.
The real problem is that we have an IRS that is corrupt and out-of-control, and an administration that ignores the Constitution by implementing an unprecedented and well-orchestrated scheme to unlawfully target groups because of their conservative political beliefs – including dozens of organizations that we represent in federal court.
Americans have been outraged for quite some time, and it is time for a complete investigation. We need to know what happened. We need accountability. Those responsible for this scandal must be brought to justice.
Only transparency and accountability to the Congress and the American public will root out corruption in the IRS.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.