GOP: Obama donor leading IRS criminal probe

Two top House Republicans are charging that the Obama administration has undermined its criminal investigation into the IRS by choosing a donor to the president to lead the probe.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder take the lead attorney, Barbara Bosserman, off the case.

Bosserman has donated close to $7,000 to President Obama and Democratic causes in recent years, Issa and Jordan say, raising serious questions about whether she can impartially investigate the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups.

"By selecting a significant donor to President Obama to lead an investigation into the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups, the Department has created a startling conflict of interest," Issa and Jordan wrote to Holder in a letter dated Wednesday.

"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," Issa and Jordan add. "At the very least, Ms. Bosserman's involvement is highly inappropriate and has compromised the Administration's investigation of the IRS."

A Justice Department spokeswoman suggested that Issa and Jordan wouldn't get their way, noting that removing Bosserman from the case could "violate the equal opportunity policy and the law."

“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 the spokeswoman, Dena Iverson.  

A Justice official added that the department does not evaluate an official's contributions or political affiliation before making assignments, and that just because a lawyer makes a donation doesn't mean he or she can't fulfill duties assigned.

Issa and Jordan had previously accused the FBI of stonewalling their investigation into the IRS targeting, and threatened to subpoena if the FBI did not become more cooperative.

The two Republicans say — despite the lack of help from the government — that they found out about Bosserman’s involvement in the IRS investigation during interviews with current and former agency employees. Bosserman, a lawyer in Justice's civil rights division, gave $3,600 to Obama in 2008 alone, according to Federal Election Commission records cited by the two Republicans.

In their letter, Issa and Jordan add that Holder also needs to take “steps to remedy the damage created by Ms. Bosserman’s leadership of and participation in the investigation.”

Besides the criminal probe, lawmakers in both chambers are continuing to investigate the IRS, which acknowledged last year that it inappropriately singled out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The new IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, told reporters this week that one of his major priorities was to restore taxpayer trust in the agency in the wake of the controversy. Koskinen also said that he hopes the agency has given investigators most of the documents they need for their inquiry.

Obama and Holder both said they were outraged by the IRS controversy after a Treasury inspector general outlined the targeting in May.

But Democrats and Republicans quickly started sparring over the investigation into the targeting, and White House officials soon became more dismissive of the IRS targeting. The investigations have also been overshadowed for months by other events on Capitol Hill and in Washington.

Top Republicans continue to stress that the IRS treated conservative and Tea Party groups more harshly than other applicants for 501(c)(4) status.

But Democrats say that the IRS singled out some liberal groups as well. They also insist that — despite some GOP suggestions to the contrary — there is no evidence that the IRS targeting was politically motivated, or involved any officials outside the agency.

 

—This post was last updated at 12:22 p.m.