It will be many months — if ever — before Congress gets around to investigating the charges the Internal Revenue Service has conducted politically motivated audits of non-profit organizations deemed unfriendly to the Clinton administration.

What just four months ago was touted as “the most far-reaching probe [by Congress] of the IRS since the days of Richard Nixon” has been quietly put on the back burner by the Joint Committee on Taxation, chaired by Rep Bill Archer, R-TX.

Due to “ongoing legislative demands, the Joint Committee staff will not be able to conduct a complete and thorough investigation and report to you by Sept. 15,” said committee Chief of Staff Kenneth Kies in a July 1 letter to Archer, Vice Chairman Sen. William V. Roth, R-DE, and ranking Democrats Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Rep. Charles Rangel, both of New York.

“I have been required to devote all available Joint Committee staff resources to current budget reconciliation process,” said Kies, who nonetheless is “hopeful” the investigation will be completed by the end of the year.

The highly publicized investigation was announced March 25 by the Joint Committee in response to a flood of allegations from various conservative organizations that the IRS was using its awesome powers against groups who actively oppose various policies of the Clinton administration.

“We are troubled by recent reports alleging politically motivated treatment of certain tax-exempt organizations and individuals by the Internal Revenue Service,” Archer and Roth wrote in a March 24 letter to Kies.

The letter, signed also by Moynihan and Rangel, termed the allegations “very serious” and directed that these be “carefully reviewed as expeditiously as possible.” The letter specifically called for “an analysis of the selection of … tax-exempt organizations for audit for reasons related to their alleged political or lobbying activities.”

It is uncertain what — if anything — was done by way of investigation. Several of the groups targeted for audit, including the National Center for Public Policy Research and Citizens Against Government Waste, have never been contacted by the committee or its staff. Joseph Farah, executive director of the Western Journalism Center and editor of WorldNetDaily, was originally asked by committee staffers if he would be available for questioning in July. He has not been contacted since. Nor have any hearings been scheduled.

“It looks like Congress is dropping the ball, once again,” said Farah. “Here we have blatant examples of the administration manipulating the IRS for political reasons and there is no accountability to the people. What is our country coming to when the ‘budget reconciliation process’ is more important than civil liberties violations and abuses of power of this magnitude?”

Repeated phone calls to the Joint Committee on Taxation and to Kenneth Kies were not returned.

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