A Different World

IRS scandal: Lois Lerner speaks to Politico. Now she must speak before Congress.

Published Sept. 22, 2014 on the blog

Lois Lerner breaks her silence, talks to Politico. That means it’s time for her to talk to Congress, too.

I believe there is an over-abundance of evidence that the IRS scandal is a non-scandal, that the IRS should have scrutinized political groups pretending to be social welfare outfits, that liberal groups were scrutinized, too, and that this non-scandal has has prompted the IRS to back off needed enforcement of tax cheats - one of the primary reasons we have such a hard time ridding ourselves of the national deficit.

But if former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has become the face of the non-scandal, can sit down with Politico.com and talk about the case (or somewhat any way), she should plop herself down in front of Congress and talk, too. And I'm saying that knowing that much of those hearings have been a sham.

From the Politico piece:

As head of the division where it all began, Lerner certainly bears some of the blame for the selective scrutiny of tea party applications, and numerous emails understandably raise eyebrows.

Emails released by Congress suggest Lerner knew about the tea party groups being flagged in 2010 and put a stop to the inappropriate “be on the lookout” criteria right when she learned about it in summer 2011. But she didn’t follow up to ensure agents stopped using politically charged words. They actually went right back to the practice.

She also seemed well aware that these groups had been waiting for years to get an answer from the IRS. As early as mid-2011, she asked IRS lawyers how to get the applications wrapped up.

Yet it’s also clear that she wasn’t the only one who made missteps — she’s just the only name leading headlines.

For example, it was advisers in the IRS chief counsel’s office who requested that agents seek more information on conservative groups’ 2010 campaign activity, even after the organizations were waiting for exempt status for more than a year, according to Democratic congressional reports.

There were also multiple managers on these cases, and former IRS staffers told POLITICO that the IRS commissioners probably knew what was going on because they were always appraised of “hot-button issues.”

Still, none of her former IRS colleagues thought Lerner was working for the White House or biased.

Rather, in general, they say she lost control of her division — and that the GOP is taking advantage of it.

“You could take her out of there and just stand in a different person, and no matter who it is, we would have the same result,” said Karen Gries, a tax lawyer who worked with Lerner. “I don’t believe this is reflective of Lois the individual or Lois the professional.”