So, Lois Lerner still won't talk about her role in the illegal targeting and harassment by the IRS of conservative and Tea Party groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax exemptions. Lerner appeared for a second time Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and claimed her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. It isn't hard to figure out why Lerner's lips are sealed.
First, she knows the House of Representatives can cite her for contempt of Congress, but Attorney General Eric Holder would decide whether she is prosecuted on that charge. Lerner need not worry since President Obama has already told the world there wasn't “a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS actions, and Holder allowed a major Obama campaign contributor to have a role in Department of Justice's faux investigation of the scandal.
The second and far more revealing reason Lerner is being what the Mafia calls “a good soldier” is seen in the questions posed to her by Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the oversight panel. For example, Issa noted that Lerner told a Duke University group in October 2010 that “everyone is up in arms” over the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and that “the Federal Election Commission can't do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.” Lerner refused to answer Issa's request that she explain who was the “they” to which she referred or how they made clear their desire that the IRS “fix the problem.”
Similarly, Issa asked about her statement in a September 2010 email to subordinates in which she directed them to begin “a c4 project” and warned them that “we need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project.” Lerner refused to explain why she was worried that the project could be viewed as political. Then Issa asked her about a February 2011 email in which she said “Tea Party Matter very dangerous.” Lerner refused to say either what the Tea Party “matter” was or why she viewed it as “dangerous.”
Finally, Issa told Lerner that another IRS executive had told the oversight panel that she had ordered that Tea Party applications be subjected to a “multi-level review.” She refused to explain why she singled out Tea Party applications for such reviews.
These simple questions – each based on indisputable facts – establish that somebody outside of the IRS told her they wanted the tax agency to “fix” something involving groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax status, that she directed subordinates to begin a (c)(4) project she feared could be seen as “political,” that she viewed Tea Party groups as “dangerous,” and that she ordered that such groups be subjected to “multi-level review.” Those are the four essential points of the IRS scandal: Who ordered the tax agency to get involved, who in the tax agency responded, who they targeted and what actions they took. She cannot answer these questions because, as she herself has claimed, that would be incriminating. Lerner and others must hope Issa doesn’t already have the answers.