Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) won’t get his wish to have a special prosecutor probe allegations that conservative groups were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department told him in a letter.
Conservatives have cried foul for nearly a year after news broke that the IRS scrutinized groups applying for tax exempt status based on political ties. Liberal groups were also subject to scrutiny, but conservatives claim they were targeted more harshly.
Cruz in January complained that an investigation by a lead attorney from the Civil Rights Division would be biased against conservatives and asked that a special prosecutor be appointed instead of a prosecutor from the “the most politically charged division at DOJ.”
The Justice Department denied his demand.
In a March 10 letter made public yesterday, the Justice Department said the investigation is being handled by career prosecutors and law enforcement consistent with department policy.
“The Department remains committed to integrity and fairness in all of its law enforcement efforts, without regard to politics,” the letter signed by Peter J. Kadzik, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, said.
Special counsel can be appointed if a Justice Department investigation would present a conflict of interest, but those appointments have only been made in exceptional circumstances, the department told Cruz.
“This authority has rarely been exercised,” the letter said.
Dozens of House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to appointment a special counsel, and Cruz complained that the leader of the Justice Department’s investigation, trial attorney Barbara Bosserman, was a donor to President Barack Obama.
“This, on its face, is a significant conflict of interest,” Cruz wrote in the Jan. 22 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
In his letter Cruz notes that Attorney General Janet Reno under President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Elliot Richardson under Richard Nixon both appointed special prosecutors and asked Holder to select someone whose “integrity was beyond reproach.”
While the IRS also looked into liberal-leaning groups, conservatives have used the scandal to attack the Obama administration and are outraged that no charges have been filed for alleged political targeting.
Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS division on exempt organizations, has recently invoked the Fifth Amendment when questioned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, further angering conservatives who want answers.
“The widespread perception of partisan bias, of manifest conflict of interest, besmirches the reputation of the Department of Justice,” Cruz wrote.
In response, the department said its employees must keep politics out of all decisions regarding investigations and criminal charges.
“Any other approach would be inconsistent with the fundamental principles to which this Department is dedicated,” the March 10 letter said.