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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

House Releases Report on Lois Lerner's Role in the IRS Scandal

Lerner-ReportThe House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform this morning released a 141-page staff report, Lois Lerner's Involement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations:

  • Tea Party “itching for a Constitutional challenge:” Lerner and her colleagues, after being under public pressure from President Obama and other Democrats, engaged in an e-mail exchange about how they could showcase their scrutiny of a Tea Party applicant for public disclosure, despite rules protecting the secrecy of unapproved applications.  The conversation turned to the possibility of a court case – if a Tea Party applicant would challenge the IRS ruling.  On this, Ms. Lerner opined, Tea Party groups would litigate because they are “itching for a Constitutional challenge.” – p. 41
  • Lerner discusses political scrutiny that isn’t “per se political:” In one e-mail exchange that began with a discussion of an article noting, “organizations woven by the fabulously rich and hugely influential Koch brothers,” Lerner told colleagues, “we do need a c4 project next year.”  While she initially says, “my object is not to look for political activity,” later in the exchange she acknowledges that it will examine political activity. “We need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project.  More a c4 project that will look at levels of lobbying and pol. Activity along with exempt activity.” – p. 17
  • Lerner broke IRS rules by mishandling taxpayer information:  While Lerner told Congress under oath, “I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations,” e-mails show Lerner handled protected 6103 taxpayer information in her nonofficial e-mail account. In a November 2013 letter from Daniel Werfel, Werfel notes, “We do not permit IRS officials to send taxpayer information to their personal email addresses. An IRS employee should not send taxpayer information to his or her personal email address in any form, including redacted.” – p. 33
  • Lerner planned to retire in October all along: While House Democrats have pushed that Lerner was forced out by the IRS as a result of the TIGTA report; new e-mails indicate that Lerner had planned an October retirement long before TIGTA released its report.  Her paid leave amounted to a paid vacation preceding her retirement – it does not appear that the IRS penalized her in any way for her conduct. – p.  40-41
  • Despite knowing about improper scrutiny, Lerner had IRS blame victims: An IRS document bearing Lerner’s signature shows that in March 2012, despite knowing about improper scrutiny at that time, Lerner reviewed and signed off on a response to Congress that blamed applicants for heightened scrutiny.  “[T]he IRS contacts the organization and solicits additional information when the organization does not provide sufficient information in response to the questions on the Form 1024 or if issues are raised by the application …. The revenue agent uses sound reasoning based on tax law training and his or her experience to review the application and identify the additional information needed to make a proper determination of the organization’s exempt status.” – p. 36
  • Concern Citizens United hurting Democrats:  Lerner believed the Executive Branch needed to take steps to undermine the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  A senior advisor to Lerner e-mailed her an article about allegations that unknown conservative donors were influencing U.S. Senate races.  The article explained how outside money was making it increasingly difficult for Democrats to remain in the majority in the Senate.  Lerner replied:  “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.” – p. 21
  • Citizens United created pressure for IRS to “fix the problem”:  According to Lerner: “The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns.  And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it.  The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.” – p. 20
  • “Multi-Tier Review”:  Lerner personally directed that Tea Party cases go through a “multi-tier review.” An IRS employee testified that Lerner “sent [him an] e-mail saying that when these cases need to go through multi-tier review and they will eventually have to go to [Judy Kindell, Lerner’s senior technical advisor] and the Chief Counsel’s office.”  A D.C. IRS employee said this level of scrutiny had no precedent. – p. 24-25
  • Head of the IRS Cincinnati office’s testimony refutes Lois Lerner and President Obama’s O’Reilly interview assertion that this was all about a “local office”: “[Y]es, there were mistakes made by folks in Cincinnati as well [as] D.C. but the D.C. office is the one who delayed the processing of the cases.” – p. 44

Press and blogosphere coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/house-releases-.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

Great job on keeping up with this. One wonders when and if Lerner will have to face justice.

Posted by: DrJohn | Mar 11, 2014 10:27:34 AM

Scandalous and improper behavior, and undermines the IRS role as neutral tax collector, turning it into the paid goons of the state party.

Of course, the GOP will do nothing. Want to bet?

Posted by: Dantes | Mar 11, 2014 11:20:57 AM

Can a person give a full interview to DOJ on a subject matter while asserting Fifth Amendment rights before Congress? That surprises me, but I don't practice this area.

Posted by: not a criminal defense lawyer | Mar 11, 2014 12:13:10 PM

Excellent work.

Posted by: Prospector | Mar 11, 2014 12:54:49 PM

Well, we know for damn sure the Department of Justice won't do a thing...

Posted by: LordJiggy | Mar 11, 2014 4:56:42 PM

Now try to imagine if Bush had done this.

"WORSE THAN NIXON" -- NYT

"ABUSE OF POWER, DISSIDENTS TARGETED" -- WaPo

"[HEADSPLODE]" -- MSNBC

Posted by: TallDave | Mar 12, 2014 8:26:10 AM

So 501(c)(4)'s are allowed to do unlimited political work and lobbying?

Posted by: Andre L. Smith | Mar 12, 2014 8:53:49 AM