U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today at a hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s annual report to Congress, stressed the need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the growing IRS scandal. Shelby’s comments were made in light of recent news that the IRS claims to have lost Lois Lerner's emails from 2009 through mid-2011, the timeframe during which inappropriate targeting of conservative groups occurred.The full text of Shelby’s exchange with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is below:
SHELBY: Mr. Secretary, I have before me Treasury Order 10105, which breaks down the relationships and supervision of officials in the Department of Treasury. That is, you designate, under the order, the Deputy Secretary is authorized to work on your behalf. It’s got a list of the Undersecretaries. Number 11 is the Commissioner of Revenue. The IRS Commissioner, as I understand it according to your directive here, reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury which reports to you. Is that right?
LEW: That is right. It’s a bit more independent than other subunits, we should be clear.
SHELBY: But not totally independent.
LEW: No, no. I never said it was.
SHELBY: Do you believe that the integrity of the IRS is of the utmost importance to the functioning of this government?
LEW: I have said many times and I believe deeply…
SHELBY: Yes or no.
LEW: …in a function democracy, the integrity of the IRS is critical.
SHELBY: Do you realize, as the Secretary of Treasury, that the IRS’s integrity has been called into question all over America. In other words, what’s been going on at the IRS the last several years, people don’t trust the IRS, they don’t believe that those tapes, those hard drives just disappeared. You know all this. I think you’re an honorable man, I’ve known you a long time.
Isn’t it time? Isn’t it past time for us to get past you 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?
LEW: Senator, I believe that if you look at the amount of investigation that has been done that has produced no evidence of any political interference in this process, if one looks at the record, the record should actually be reassuring. 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.
SHELBY: I think most people would think there’s been a lot of interference by the IRS.
LEW: But there’s no evidence of it.
SHELBY: Not just the disappearance of the tapes, but before when they were stonewalling different designations that should have been approved. The integrity of the IRS is what’s important. And the American people think that’s in question now. 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.