Rep. Issa Accuses FBI of Blocking IRS Scandal Investigation


December 2, 2013; Washington Times

Frustrated with the slow pace of investigating the IRS, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has threatened the FBI with “compulsory means” if it does not voluntarily brief the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa, who chairs the committee, has set a December 16th deadline for the FBI to respond.

It's been almost seven months since Lois Lerner first admitted that the IRS had singled out applications for tax exemption from conservative nonprofit groups for special scrutiny. There are at least five concurrent investigations of the IRS in progress:

  1. the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA);
  2. the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee;
  3. the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight;
  4. the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and
  5. the IRS’s own internal investigation.

There is always a risk that investigations into political scandals will be slowed down (or hastened) by politicians believing they or their party will benefit. In this case, Issa’s concern centers on access to FBI Assistant Director Valerie Parlave, who is heading the FBI’s investigative team. Issa’s committee investigators had requested an update and documents on the FBI investigation, but had been refused because the investigation was ongoing. They had been offered the chance to meet with Parlave, but that offer was rescinded by the FBI after the idea had been “run past” unnamed Justice Department officials. One FBI official denied there was pressure from the Justice Department to deny the request, but another “wouldn’t say one way or the other,” according to the story.

Given the history of disclosures from the Republican staffs of the investigating committees, the FBI may have concerns about keeping its discoveries to date from being made public too soon. However, the involvement of Justice Department officials in the decision by the FBI to not share its progress with Issa’s committee also raises uncomfortable questions. Issa’s threat may prompt cooperation from the FBI, but there is no sign as yet that the various investigations into the IRS and its treatment of some nonprofit organizations are reaching an end.—Michael Wyland



Michael Wyland

Michael L. Wyland, CSL, has more than thirty years of experience in corporate and government public policy, management, and administration. An expert on nonprofit governance and public policy issues, he has been featured and quoted extensively in media including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, Washington Post, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and The Nonprofit Quarterly. He currently serves as an editorial advisory board member and contributor to The Nonprofit Quarterly, with more than 100 articles published since 2012. Michael is a partner in the consulting firm of Sumption & Wyland. Founded in 1990, the firm provides board governance consulting, public speaking and training, and executive coaching to nonprofit organizations. Sumption & Wyland has assisted more than 200 nonprofits with strategic planning services from pre-retreat research to staff-level implementation assistance and effectiveness monitoring. Speaking topics include board-CEO partnerships, nonprofit executive transition issues, and overviews of the nonprofit sector of the US economy. Michael was born in Washington, DC and raised in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Prior to co-founding Sumption & Wyland, Michael managed the computer operations for an independent oil & gas investor in Dallas, Texas and served as a staff assistant to a U.S. Representative. During his college years, he spent one summer working at the US Department of Labor and one summer working at the US Department of Justice. His past volunteer service includes various leadership positions at the local, state, and national level with the Young Republicans. He has been the secretary and president of a condominium homeowners association and the treasurer of a professional association serving computing professionals. He served as a Trustee and Vice President of Sertoma Foundation, and has been elected president of his local Sertoma club twice. In 2014, Michael was elected Chair of the South Dakota Commission for National and Community Service (Serve SD), on which he has served since its founding in 2011. He is currently working as a senior advisor to establish a national charity dedicated to the elimination of prejudice, expanding the scope and reach of the 120-year old Pi Lamba Phi fraternal organization. Michael's writing for NPQ often addresses healthcare policy and governance, scandals involving nonprofits, and the governance and policy implications of nonprofit stories in the news. He was widely quoted and cited for his work analyzing the governance issues related to the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State/Second Mile scandal in 2011. More recently, he has written more than 30 pieces for NPQ relating to the IRS scandal. In addition, he presented a paper at the national 2014 ARNOVA Conference about the IRS scandal and its implications for regulation of political activity by nonprofit organizations. Michael lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife, Margaret Sumption, and their dog. They have one adult son. In his leisure time, he likes to read histories and biographies, play golf, cook, and be a companion to his wife.