WASHINGTON – A House committee report claims Lois Lerner, who oversaw the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status, lied to Congress about her involvement in the targeting scandal.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report Tuesday concluding that Lerner “created unprecedented roadblocks for Tea Party organizations” and “worked surreptitiously to advance new Obama administration regulations that curtail the activities of existing 501(c)(4) organizations.”
In 2011, Lerner directed the manager of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Technical Unit to subject Tea Party cases to a “multi-tier review” system. She also stated in an email to her staff that the IRS Cincinnati office “should probably not have these cases.”
In one email, Lerner referred to the Tea Party cases as “very dangerous” and suggested the Chief Counsel’s office should be involved in the review process.
In another email, Lerner forwarded an article to Nanette Downing, director of exempt-organization examinations, from the liberal news site Mother Jones about how “dark money” was being used to influence the political process.
The report accuses Lerner of seeking to “convey her agreement with this sentiment publicly” and engaging “in a wholly inappropriate effort to circumvent federal prohibitions in order to publicize her efforts to crack down on a particular Tea Party applicant.”
Lerner expressed concern that the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections ruling would hurt Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2012. In response to an article sent to her by a colleague about Senate Democrats’ complaint to the FEC that political-oriented nonprofits were violating election law, Lerner writes: “Perhaps the [Federal Election Commission] will save the day.”
“The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns,” Lerner said at an event sponsored by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy in October 2010. “And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The [FEC] can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.”
The report states that Lerner made false statements to committee staff on various occasions.
During a February 2012 briefing, Lerner told committee staff that the criteria for evaluating tax-exempt applications had not changed. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), however, Lerner directed in June 2011 that the criteria used to identify applications be changed.