Lois Lerner, anyone remember her? She’s still on the IRS payroll. Oh, and does anyone recall she claimed the targeting of the Tea Party and other conservative groups was the work of a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati? Yeah, about that so-called phony scandal:
Congress’s investigation into the IRS targeting of conservatives has been continuing out of the Syria headlines, and it’s turning up news. Emails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee between former Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and her staff raise doubts about IRS claims that the targeting wasn’t politically motivated and that low-level employees in Cincinnati masterminded the operation.
In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is “very dangerous,” and is something “Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on.” Ms. Lerner adds, “Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”
That’s a different tune than the IRS sang in May when former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said the agency’s overzealous enforcement was the work of two “rogue” employees in Cincinnati. When the story broke, Ms. Lerner suggested that her office had been unaware of the pattern of targeting until she read about it in the newspaper. “So it was pretty much we started seeing information in the press that raised questions for us, and we went back and took a look,” she said in May.
Gee, we wonder where she would have gotten the idea the Tea Party was very dangerous nearly three years ago.
The internal IG timeline shows a unit in the agency was looking at Tea Party and “patriot” groups dating back to early 2010. But it shows that list of criteria drastically expanding by the time a June 2011 briefing was held. It then included groups focused on government spending, government debt, taxes, and education on ways to “make America a better place to live.” It even flagged groups whose file included criticism of “how the country is being run.”
The emails also put the targeting in the context of the media and Congressional drumbeat over the impact of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections. On July 10, 2012 then Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Ms. Lerner a National Public Radio story on how outside money was making it hard for Democrats to hold their Senate majority.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had complained to the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees, rather than 501(c)(4)s, which are tax-exempt social welfare groups that do not have to disclose their donors.
“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Ms. Lerner wrote back later that morning.
That response suggests Ms. Lerner’s political leanings, and it also raises questions about Ms. Lerner’s intentions in a separate email exchange she had when an FEC investigator inquired about the status of the conservative group the American Future Fund. The FEC and IRS don’t have the authority to share that information under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. But the bigger question is why did they want to? After the FEC inquiry, the American Future Fund also got a questionnaire from the IRS.
It’s past time to drag Lerner back for questioning, without allowing her to plead the Fifth. It’s more than evident she’s a partisan political hack.