The House's chief investigator on Tuesday implicated another top Obama administration figure in the controversy over the administration's probe into criminal wrongdoing at the IRS, saying Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez must answer questions about why an Obama donor was named to lead the investigation into the tax agency's tea-party targeting.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter to Mr. Perez, who was an assistant attorney general until July, that he would have had direct knowledge of the department's investigation into the IRS.
In particular, Mr. Issa said, Mr. Perez should disclose what he knows about Barbara Bosserman, the woman heading the department's investigation, who has come under fire for having donated to President Obama's campaigns and who reportedly visited the White House for a bill-signing ceremony in 2009.
"Your potential role in the administration's IRS investigation is troubling in light of your pattern at [the Department of Justice] of ignoring the rule of law for political benefit," Mr. Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who chairs the panel's subcommittee on economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs, wrote in the letter.
A spokesman for Mr. Perez didn't return messages seeking comment late Tuesday.
Mr. Perez was elevated from the Justice Department to be secretary of the Labor Department in July — becoming the first Cabinet secretary in history to win Senate confirmation without any bipartisan support.
The IRS' internal auditor revealed in a May report that the agency had singled out tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny and had inappropriately held up their applications for tax-exempt status, in some cases delaying them for three years.
Soon after, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. ordered an investigation to see if there was any criminal wrongdoing.
That investigation has been going on in the background, but on Monday The Wall Street Journal reported that administration officials are leaning against filing criminal charges against anyone at the IRS over the targeting.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents more than three dozen tea party groups, said that was shocking because investigators still have to interview any of his clients, who he said were the victims of IRS targeting.
"This proves our greatest concern — the investigation by the Obama administration is nothing but a sham," Mr. Sekulow said.
Last week, FBI Director James Comey told reporters the IRS probe was still active.
"It's an investigation that we're still working, and that's an important one for us," he said.
Mr. Issa and Mr. Jordan said the leaks are particularly egregious given that the administration has stonewalled their attempts to find out more about the investigation.
In their letter to Mr. Perez on Tuesday, the two lawmakers pointed to his own history battling Congress.
The Oversight Committee has been trying to get Mr. Perez to turn over emails he sent from his personal email account while conducting government business — a move that the committee found violated the Federal Records Act.
Mr. Perez is currently ignoring a House subpoena demanding the emails.
In other action Tuesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp introduced a bill to halt the IRS' proposed new rules that would try to put more limits on the types of activity nonprofit groups can engage in.
He said it's "premature" for the administration to issue new rules even before all of the investigations into the current targeting scandal have been completed.
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