Congressman Lamar Smith Demands Nationwide Investigation of IRS

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, I questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the Justice Department’s investigation into allegations that IRS employees intentionally targeted conservative organizations, including Tea Party-affiliated groups, for additional scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status.

Specifically, I asked if the Department’s investigation would be limited to the Ohio allegations or if it would be a nationwide investigation that examines allegations of unfair targeting of conservative groups across the nation. In response to my question, Attorney General Holder confirmed that the investigation would be nationwide and not simply limited to the actions of individuals in Ohio.

I also asked about what recourse a targeted group might have against the IRS for the possible violation of their First Amendment rights. Specifically, whether groups might be able to recoup any finances lost while responding to the unfair scrutiny of IRS employees.

The alleged actions by government employees to target conservative organizations are dangerous, unconstitutional and possibly criminal. Targeting organizations for their political views threatens our democracy and violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. And IRS employees who singled out conservative organizations for additional scrutiny may well have violated criminal laws.

I will hold the Attorney General to his word that the Justice Department will conduct a nationwide investigation that follows the facts wherever they lead. If federal employees are found to have violated the law, the Justice Department must prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And the federal government should also be held responsible for reimbursing conservative organizations for any additional expenses they incurred in responding to the unfair scrutiny of the IRS.

In May 2012, I wrote to the IRS about allegations that the San Antonio Tea Party had been subject to delays and burdensome information requests in connection with their applications for tax-exempt status. A copy of the letter is attached.

More information about yesterday's hearing, including the webcast, is available at the House Judiciary Committee website.

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