Former IRS exempt organizations division Director Lois Lerner now has the dubious distinction of having had two major congressional committees tell the Department of Justice that she may have broken multiple federal civil and criminal statutes, as well as the internal policies and procedures of her agency. There will be much else to be said in coming months about the federal tax agency illegally targeting conservative and Tea Party nonprofits for harassment and politically motivated interference during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns. At this point, however, three facts stand out.
First, it ought to be clear by now to any reasonable person reviewing the evidence made public Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee and previously by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that Lerner actively directed the targeting of these groups solely on the basis of their political views. As Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a letter yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder, “Lerner willfully used her authority to subject specific organizations to adverse treatment in defiance of IRS controls. Lerner directed subordinates to subject specific right-leaning groups to increased scrutiny and audits, and even the denial of exempt status.” Camp's panel found “no evidence she directed reviews of similarly situated left-leaning groups.”
|Lerner directed subordinates to subject specific right-leaning groups to increased scrutiny and audits, and even the denial of exempt status.|
Second, Lerner has steadfastly refused to talk to Congress about it, but she has been talking to many others, including federal law enforcement officials, for several years about her role in the IRS scandal. What she has said demonstrates that Lerner has sought to cover up what she did by, in Camp's words, “knowingly misleading” investigators for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. To cite just one of multiple examples now on the public record, she told TIGTA she first learned of the targeting “when I was briefed on these cases on June 29, 2011.” In fact, Lerner was told at least as early as April 28, 2010, when she received an email from a subordinate concerning 13 Tea Party cases. “This half-truth appears calculated to obscure her knowledge that Tea Party' cases were being treated differently, in part, at her direction and far earlier than she acknowledged,” Camp told Holder.
Third, in the course of her conduct, Lerner repeatedly flouted one of the most fundamental rules of the IRS, namely, that tax returns are never to be circulated outside the agency in a manner that compromises their confidentiality. For example, Lerner sent an email “containing confidential return information of taxpayers” to her personal email, according to Camp. Using that personal email address, she re-sent the information, along with her comments, back to her official email address and to other individuals the following day. That action violated IRS policy, and, Camp noted, “Lerner may have violated a criminal statute” punishable by five years in prison if her personal email’s security was compromised.
The bitter irony here, of course, is that Holder will decide whether to pursue a case against Lerner. Don’t hold your breath.