Former IRS official Lois Lerner is in hot water once again, this time for emails which show partisanship may have played a role in how the agency treated Tea Party and conservative groups.
During her testimony in front of Congress Lerner denied claims that the IRS treatment of patriot groups was biased and harsh. The latest emails paint an entirely different picture than her sworn testimony during the hearings.
Lois Lerner’s email to a staffer in February 2011 referred to the Tea Party issue as “very dangerous” and a matter that legal counsel Judy Kindell needed to review. She also noted that the pending requests for non-profit status could be the “vehicle to go to court” in order to address clarity issues on the 2010 campaign finance Supreme Court ruling.
The emails belonging to the former IRS director were unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee. The February Lerner email also said, “Cincy should probably NOT have these cases” – a reference to lower-level employees in Cincinnati.
Another email between Lerner and her then-staffers indicated that the federal employees were becoming concerned about the role “outside money” would play in the upcoming election. On July 10, 2012, adviser Sharon Light sent an email to Lerner about an election-focused NPR story. The story noted how difficult it was becoming for Democrats to maintain their Senate majority due to outside money, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In the same story that was being passed around among IRS staffers, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said that conservative groups should be treated as non-tax exempt political committees. The Crossroads GPS organization was cited as an example. Lerner replied, “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.” She was formerly employed as an administrator at the Federal Election Commission.
During her Congressional testimony in May, Lerner said she learned from media reports that the IRS had targeted conservative groups.
“So it was pretty much we started seeing information in the press that raised questions for us, and we went back and took a look,” she said.
It seems the former IRS director may have been having a serious pants-on-fire moment during the Congressional hearings.
The emails were uncovered by the House Ways and Means Committee.
“There is increasing and overwhelming evidence,” said committee chair and Rep. Dave Camp, “that Lois Lerner and high-level IRS employees in Washington were abusing their power to prevent conservative groups from organizing and carrying out their missions. There are still mountains of documents to go through, but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences.”
After giving a statement in front of the committee, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She is currently on her fourth month of paid leave. Lerner never answered questions concerning why she used her personal email account to conduct IRS official business. Lerner allegedly was using this same email address to correspond with officials at the FEC. FEC Vice Chair Donald F. McGahn told Congress during hearings that he had viewed undisclosed emails between staffers at his agency and IRS employees.
IRS Commissioner Steven Miller claimed that the Tea party targeting was not politically motivated, but merely the actions of several “overeager low-level” staffers in Cincinnati. Lerner has not yet been called back before Congress to offer more testimony.
Republican lawmakers previously told Lerner in a letter, “This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official email account to conduct official business. Additional documents related to the committee’s investigation may exist in these on-official accounts over which you have some control, and the lack of access to this information prevents the committee from fully assessing your actions.”