Bill Keller: Bring in Ken Starr to Oversee IRS Probe

Image: Bill Keller: Bring in Ken Starr to Oversee IRS Probe Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr holds a copy of his report while testifying on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 1998 before the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:44 AM

By Melanie Batley

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President Barack Obama should take-up Republican calls for a special prosecutor to investigate IRS targeting of conservative groups, former New York Times editor Bill Keller said.

Keller even suggested Kenneth Starr, whose dogged investigation of Bill Clinton, could be called in to spearhead an independent investigation with "bipartisan credibility."

"Republicans are howling for President Obama to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups. The president should call their bluff," Keller wrote in his blog on the Times website.

Starr, now 66, was solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush. After his Clinton investigations he was appointed dean of the Pepperdine University law school and now is president of Baylor.

Keller outlines three reasons Obama should appoint special counsel in his column, "Bring Back Ken Starr."

"First, it would demonstrate that the president understands that, in the cascade of controversies that have knocked his second term off course, the IRS case is the one that matters most," he wrote, arguing that restoring confidence in the tax agency is vital because for many Americans the agency is synonymous with their views of the entire federal government.

The second reason to bring in a special prosecutor, he said, is that it may be the only way to get answers that the public will trust. Lastly, it could help the administration reclaim its public agenda on the budget, reforming the immigration system, and processing government and judicial appointments.

"The government has serious business to conduct, and the scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction," he wrote. "Handing off the IRS problem to a special counsel and putting congressional hearings on hold would allow everyone, including journalists, to turn their attention to all that unfinished business."

Another possibility for special counsel is Patrick Fitzgerald, who oversaw the Valerie Plame affair and successfully prosecuted two Illinois governors, Keller wrote.

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