Jun 25 2014

AL.com: Sen. Richard Shelby calls for special prosecutor to investigate growing IRS email scandal

Sen. Richard Shelby is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the growing scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service's claims it lost years of emails related to targeting of conservative groups.

Shelby, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the comments today during a Financial Stability Oversight Council hearing with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The Treasury Department oversees the operations of the IRS.

In questioning Lew, Shelby, R-AL, said the integrity of the IRS has been impugned and "people don't trust" claims that years of emails and other documents have just been lost.

"Isn't it time? Isn't it past time for us to get past (Treasury Department) looking at it internally, even by an Inspector General, and get a special prosecutor to restore the integrity of the IRS? Whatever the costs? Wherever it leads?" Shelby asked.

Lew said extensive investigations have shown no undue influence was exercised related to the emails or the processing of applications for non-profit status.

"Obviously, there's a desire to keep asking questions. I understand that. But I don't think it's because the questions haven't been thoroughly examined by committee after committee, by Congress independently looking at all of the evidence, interviewing people, going through millions of pages of documents, with no evidence of political interference and at some point the process has to recognize that," Lew said.

"I think most people would think there's been a lot of interference by the IRS," Shelby replied.

"But there's no evidence of it," Lew responded.

IRS officials have claimed more than three years of emails from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processed applications from organizations seeking tax-exempt status, were lost. The IRS acknowledged last year some of the applications from conservative groups were improperly scrutinized.

Lawmakers have blasted IRS claims a computer crash resulted in the lost data. Shelby said the situation has caused Americans to doubt the integrity of the IRS and merited the attention of a special prosecutor.

"How do you restore it? I believe you get to the bottom of this. I don't believe Treasury, the Inspector General, and others can do this. We need outside, special prosecutors to do it. Because it's important, not only to this administration but to the functioning of government, period," Shelby said.