Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen voted to send U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder a letter that seeks a criminal investigation of actions by former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, whom Republicans accuse of improperly scrutinizing tax exemption requests from conservative organizations.
“Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of this decision, has refused to testify before Congress and explain the actions of her department,” Paulsen said in a statement released Wednesday. “The Department of Justice needs to hold Ms. Lerner accountable and show that using a government position to push a political agenda will not be tolerated.”
The House Ways and Means Committee's fourteen-page letter to Holder suggests Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, used her post to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law. It says she specifically targeted Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS group for IRS examination.
Leaders of two Minnesota groups – the Rochester Tea Party Patriots and Minnesota Majority – believe the IRS targeted them for extra scrutiny.
The letter also claims Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions. Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan released a statement that accused Lerner of "shamefully" attempting to blame the "mistreatment on low-level employees.”
In a post on his blog last year, Paulsen called the IRS actions “simply un-American.”
Voting along party lines, the Ways and Means Committee decided Wednesday to send the letter to Holder.
The top Democrat on the committee, Sander Levin of Michigan, said the Justice Department is already investigating the IRS's actions.
“Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee have decided that they do not want to be left behind in the Republican campaign to declare this a scandal and keep it going until November,” Levin said in a statement.