Did Lois Lerner Even Understand the Laws She Was Enforcing?

Posted: Jun 26, 2014 10:26 AM

Her emails "disappeared" in a hard drive crash that occurred ten days after the very first Congressional inquiry into anti-conservative targeting was lodged. Her bosses lied about the scheme's existence for two years. She lied about planting the question that allowed her agency to get out in front of a forthcoming Inspector General report proving those denials were false. She lied by blaming the wrongful abuse on rogue employees in a local IRS branch, knowing full well that she was personally involved in directing it from Washington. (The president repeated this long-discredited claim earlier this year). She's refused to testify before Congress as her attorney seeks immunity from criminal prosecution. And last evening, we discovered that the woman and the center of the IRS scandal casually recommended siccing her agency's examination squad onto a sitting United States Senator -- who happened to be the ranking member of the committee that oversees the IRS. Lois Lerner's greatest hits. Katie wrote up the Grassley revelation yesterday, and the story went viral for all the obvious reasons. Andy Levy is right about the most interesting part of that 2012 email exchange:

The "other official" -- a tax law attorney -- politely backhands her knee-jerk suggestion that Grassley and/or the host organization be scrutinized for potentially "inappropriate" actions…that hadn't even occurred yet. Remember, Lerner had accidentally received Grassley's invitation to the event. She read it, jumped to the conclusion that something was amiss, and looped in the lawyers. This all confirms the portrait of the Lois Lerner we've learned about over the last year or so: A hardcore, officious bureaucrat. It seems she was an ignorant and reflexive one at that. Allahpundit also noticed why her initial (very short) email recommending a further examination was so inappropriate:

(a) There was no reason yet to think Grassley had accepted the invitation. She wanted to “examine” the guy on the mere possibility that he would. And (b) per her e-mail exchange with her deputy on this, she seems … not to understand the law at all. It falls to the deputy to explain to her that it’s not illegal for event organizers to pay for his wife so long as he reports the income on his 1040. In other words, not only did she assume without knowing that Grassley and his wife would attend, she assumed without knowing that they’d end up lying about it on their next tax return.

Quite a few problematic conclusions packed into a two-line email. Politico quotes a former IRS tax expert who has this to say about what the email thread revealed:

Former ex-IRS tax-exempt chief Marcus Owens said the email chain shows Lerner knew very little about tax law, as there would have been nothing wrong with Grassley and his wife attending such an event, so long as the income was reported. “It is nothing that rises to the level of referral for examination,” Owens said.

Lerner was only the head of the agency's tax exempt organizations division, charged with enforcing the very laws she evidently didn't understand. Either that or she was well aware of the governing statutes, but couldn't resist taking a shot at creating some headaches for a Republican Senator. Lest there's any doubt where her sympathies lie (see, for instance, her email "joking" about joining OFA), just watch the video below. I'd read this transcript before, but hadn't seen the video until it started floating around Twitter yesterday. This is Lerner speaking at Duke University in 2010:

She clearly abhors the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which significantly weakened certain campaign finance laws. She notes how "everyone" is "up in arms" about it -- coincidentally, Democrats were kicking up a huge fuss about "secret money" at the time -- and laments the fact that the FEC couldn't do anything about it, glumly stating that "the IRS' laws are not set up to fix the problem." She goes on, recounting that "everyone" (read: liberals) was "screaming at us 'fix it now, before the election -- can't you see how much these people (read: conservatives) are spending?'" She finishes by saying that she wouldn't be able to nail anyone until she reviews their tax forms the following year. As an aside, Republicans were vastly outspent by Democrats in the 2010 election cycle, to say nothing of this. In any case, the video's implications are clear: The IRS was under intense political pressure to do Democrats' bidding in the midst of a difficult election year, and Ms. Lerner wished she could oblige. As it turns out, she and others were abusing their agency's formidable powers to do everything they could to through various channels. Recapping: The IRS targeted and harassed conservative groups for two years and tried to cover it up. Related emails have mysteriously gone missing "by accident", which the public doesn't believe. Lerner's pleading the Fifth, which we can assume means she won't be addressing her Grassley adventure either. And the IRS has agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution to a conservative group for illegally leaking their confidential tax information and donor list to a rival liberal organization. Does the president care to extend and revise his remarks?