Carol Platt Liebau

Darryl Issa's committee has released a report on Lois Lerner's involvement in the IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations -- and to no one's surprise (at least for those who have been paying attention -- there is plenty of evidence that she was indeed involved in the scandal.

The report substantiates several damning conclusions:

(1) Lois Lerner was well aware of Senate Democrats' and some administration officials' wishes that the IRS crack down on applications from some tax-exempt organizations engaging in political activity (p. 23). She was concerned lest the IRS's work appear to be "per se political". (p. 9)

(2) Lerner created a lengthier approval process for certain (conservative) groups without informing them that they had been singled out (using inappropriate criteria like " criteria, which were used to including the phrases “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” or “9/12 Project” or“[s]tatements in the case file [that] criticize how the country is being run.” (pp 25-26). She later denied having done so when asked by Congressmen. (p. 5)

(3) "The Chief Counsel’s office also directed Lerner’s staff to request additional information from Tea Party applicants, including information about political activities leading up to the 2010 election. In fact, it appears the IRS never resolved the test applications." (p 30). Note that the Chief Counsel's office was run by William Wilkins -- the president's man at the IRS.

(4) Lerner was complicit in the effort to regulate 501(c)(4) groups "off plan" -- i.e., without any public notice. (p 31)

(5) After Steven Miller testified on Capitol Hill about charitable groups, Lerner expressed relief that the hearing turned out to be "less interesting than it might have." (p. 37)

(6) Lerner and her colleagues unnecessarily delayed the Inspector General's audit of the disparate treatment of different groups. (p. 39-40).

(7) Lerner used a private email to conduct official business, perhaps to thwart congressional oversight efforts (p. 46-47). Of course, she wouldn't be the first in this administration.

Some of this information could, of course, be construed in more or less damaging ways. Sometimes it's appropriate to give people the benefit of the doubt. So why not Lois Lerner? Four reasons spring immediately to mind:
(a) When the scandal broke, rather than simply addressing the questions, she tried to throw her subordinates under the bus. (p. 45). That's not what innocent, responsible bosses do.
(b) When called before Congress, she has taken the Fifth -- twice. Although that cannot be used to determine guilt as a matter of law, the rest of us are entitled to make inferences based on that choice.
(d) She characterized the Tea Party matter as "dangerous" insofar as it might lead to litigation that would result in Citizens United being applied to tax exempt rules. She later disclosed her hope that "the FEC will save the day." And indeed, other emails between the IRS and FEC suggest that they did collude to target conservative groups.
Now close your eyes and say it very fast: Not even a "smidgen of corruption"!
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Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.


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