COMMENTARY | Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, thought he had a promise by Loris Lerner, the former IRS official at the heart of the tea party harassment scandal, to finally testify.
Somehow, however, the deal had fallen through and thus the kabuki dance continued from last year in which Issa asked questions and Lerner refused to answer, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. The end of the hearing featured the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, erupting in rage at the “one sided” nature of the investigation, which is to say its laser like focus. Cummings is doing the equivalent of demanding during the Watergate hearings that the select committee investigate Democrats as well as the Nixon Administration.
It looks like Issa has two options. First, he can charge Lerner with contempt, on the theory that she accidentally waived her Fifth Amendment rights by protesting her innocence before clamming up. Of course he would have to rely on Eric Holder’s Justice Department to actually enforce the contempt citation. Good luck with that.
Or, Issa could grant Lerner immunity to force her to testify and reveal which higher ups at the White House directed her to harass tea party and conservative groups in their applications for non-profit status. This may be to swallow bitter gall and wormwood, but it might be necessary to follow the story up the food chain and find out, at last, how the campaign to silence President Obama’s opposition by weaponizing the IRS really started.
Of all of the scandals swirling about the Obama administration, the IRS harassment of tea party and conservative groups galls the most. It strikes at the very heart of democracy, using the might and majesty of the most feared government agency to suppress dissent and free speech in order to reelect a most dysfunctional and increasingly unpopular president. In the end, people need to go to jail over the matter. More importantly the power of the IRS to make the lives of ordinary people must be curbed by reforming the tax code. The power to tax being the power to destroy has been abused once too often and needs eliminating for all time.