REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Justice Department’s choice of one of President Obama’s campaign donors to investigate improper targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service throws the fairness and independence of that probe into question, a Heritage Foundation legal analyst testified today before a House subcommittee.

That designated investigator, Barbara Kay Bosserman of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, has every right to contribute to political campaigns, Hans von Spakovsky testified, but department regulations require that its lawyers avoid even “an appearance of a conflict of interest likely to affect the public perception of the integrity” of a probe or prosecution.

Von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at Heritage and manager of its Election Law Reform Initiative, is a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. In testimony before a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee looking into the integrity of Justice’s IRS probe, he said:

“Bosserman’s considerable campaign contributions certainly raises the appearance of a possible conflict of interest in terms of the public’s perception of her ability to make unbiased, objective decisions in an investigation that could prove very embarrassing to the president she supports – a president who has already signaled through his public statements what he thinks the outcome of the investigation ought to be.”

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly on Super Bowl Sunday, Obama said there isn’t “even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.

Campaign finance records show that Bosserman contributed $5,600 to Obama’s presidential campaigns as well as $500 to the president’s 2012 Victory Fund, von Spakovsky said.

Von Spakovksy also questioned why Attorney General Eric Holder would choose a trial lawyer from Justice’s “most politicized division” of the Civil Rights Division to investigate the IRS targeting scandal rather than someone from the public integrity section of the Criminal Division – as is normally the case.

The Heritage legal expert concluded:

“The involvement of the Civil Rights Division and the appearance of possible bias by one of the supervising, if not lead, lawyers in this investigation is a very serious issue. When combined with the refusal of the Justice Department and the FBI to provide even basic information about the status of the investigation, as well as the seemingly unjustifiable delays in talking to key witnesses in the conservative organizations targeted by the IRS, it raises substantial questions about whether or not a serious, objective, unbiased investigation is being conducted.”

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.