The Justice Department informed Congress on Friday that it will not file criminal charges in the IRS' mishandling of applications for tax exemption by conservative tea party groups.
"Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment, and institutional inertia, leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political affairs," the letter said. "But poor management is not a crime."
Revelations by the IRS inspector general that a Cincinnati-based unit of the IRS was targeting groups that applied for tax-exempt status for burdensome reviews based on their use of such words as "tea party" or "patriots" caused a furor. Republicans demanded that the unit's director, Lois Lerner, and the others be investigated.
Assistant Atty. Gen. Peter J. Kadzik, who is in charge of congressional relations, told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that "we are closing our investigation and will not seek any criminal charges."
He said the nearly two-year investigation by Justice and the FBI included more than 100 witness interviews and more than a million pages of IRS documents
"Not a single IRS employee reported any allegation, concern or suspicion that the handling of tax-exempt applications – or any other IRS function – was motivated by political bias, discriminatory intent, or corruption," Kadzik said.
He said Justice had specifically absolved Lerner, who resigned over the allegations, of criminal liability, and found in fact that she was the first official to recognize the problem and to try and correct it.
He said Justice had examined the loss of relevant emails and other IRS documents due to what the IRS described as technical problems, but found no intent to obstruct justice.
Goodlatte said in a statement Friday that the Justice Department's decision was "disturbing. The American people should be concerned that this kind of politicization continues to go unchecked by this administration and a Justice Department charged with pursuing wrongdoing."