Even More Conflicts of Interest Within the Justice Department

By Michael Morris | August 26, 2014 | 3:25pm EDT
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, along with a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives, has reiterated its call for the appointment of a special counsel for the Administration’s Justice Department investigation.  But for what reason, you might ask, would the Committee need a special counsel for such an investigation?

It is quite simple, actually. The Committee has just learned of yet another conflict of interest within the Justice Department itself.  Andrew Strelka, an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked under former IRS head, Lois Lerner, in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division at the IRS from 2008 to 2010 and can be linked to the IRS targeting scandal that occurred around that same time.

IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker, in March 2010, sent Strelka an email citing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Strelka was then directed by Shoemaker: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.” Strelka was also informed about the crash of Lois Lerner’s computer hard drive in June 2011.

But wait!  Not only did Strelka work at the IRS when the targeting of conservative groups occurred, he was also privy to internal communications pertaining to the IRS EO Division, as evidenced by an email in which he stated that Lerner’s crashed hard drive was “[p]robably the biggest drama in EO since the new microwave came in.”   It gets more shocking still. Later, Strelka worked for the Justice Department and actually represented the IRS in the civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.

Specifically, Strelka represented the IRS against Z Street in Z Street v. Koskinen, wherein the IRS engaged in viewpoint discrimination by targeting for additional scrutiny 501(c) applicants who viewed Israel in a way that was inconsistent with the viewpoint of the Obama Administration.

What does this all mean?  It means that Strelka, a man that appears to have been directly involved in the specific targeting of conservative groups has, until recently, been working for the very department of government that is charged with eliminating corruption and promoting justice within the United States.

There’s more.  In addition to Strelka’s involvement, another Department employee has held ties with the IRS that may conflict with the Department’s mission to “do justice” with respect to the IRS targeting.

Nicole Siegel, having previously worked for Lois Lerner in the IRS EO Division, is an attorney-advisor in the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs. Siegel worked earlier in her career for an “internet-based political action committee that lets Democratic candidates use their Web site as a portal to collect donations,”  ActBlue, and after joining the Department, maintained close ties with Lerner, even requesting to meet with Lerner to discuss her career in July 2011.

Siegel’s position within the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs provides her a unique ability to exert influence over the Department’s response to congressional oversight of the Department’s interactions with the IRS and Lerner respectively.

Thus, given Siegel’s position of authority and her prior experience with the IRS and a partisan campaign organization, it is no stretch to suggest that the appearance of a conflict exists with the Department’s “willingness” to be cooperative with Congress.

All in all, it seems clear that one need not be versed in every finite aspect of the law to see how much of a problem these facts truly are. For when the arbiter of justice is the same as the entity who originally orchestrated the wrong against you, it is clear that justice does not abound.

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