Is this the end of the IRS abuse scandal, or a prelude to another tactic? Today the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released its report on Lois Lerner’s involvement in the IRS abuse scandal.
We’ll have an extensive look at the report on the PJ front page.
The report includes many emails to and from Lerner within the IRS. These emails capture Lerner passing media stories about Democratic efforts to undermine the Citizens United decision. They show Lerner’s evident agreement with Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who publicly called for the IRS to go after conservative-oriented groups. The report also details Lerner’s use of unofficial email to conduct official business. This practice has shown up in the Obama administration before, as former EPA chief Lisa Jackson even used a pseudonym and an unofficial email account to conduct official business. The Committee report notes that in Lerner’s case, her use of unofficial email complicates its efforts to obtain all of her communications regarding the abuse of conservative-oriented groups.
The report concludes that Lerner’s left-leaning politics were well known since her time at the Federal Election Commission, and that she was keenly aware of Democratic partisan arguments for undermining Citizens United. One email even shows Lerner hoping that the FEC steps in and “saves the day,” undoing Citizens United.
The report describes both Lerner’s motive for abusing conservative groups, and her methods for doing so — subjecting them to extra scrutiny, and slow-dragging them through an invasive process that hindered their ability to function. The report specifically finds that Lerner used three methods:
1) Scrutiny of new applicants for tax-exempt status (which began as Tea Party targeting);
2) Plans to scrutinize organizations, like those supported by the “Koch Brothers,” that
were already acting as 501(c)(4) organizations; and
3) “[O]ff plan” efforts to write new rules cracking down on political activity to replace
those that had been in place since 1959.
The report also finds that Lerner engaged in acts of cover-up, and made false statements to Congress.
But the report does not answer an important question: Whether Lerner acted on her own initiative, or was working in concert with others higher up within either the IRS or the Obama White House. Democrats including Sen. Baucus, White House counsel Bob Bauer and even President Barack Obama had publicly called for Citizens United to be overturned. They set the tone that Lerner followed. But did they o anyone else in a position of power do more than that?
Presumably, Lerner has answered that question in her secret testimony to the Department of Justice. But she has twice refused to testify openly before Congress.
Is the Committee’s report the end of its investigation, or does it tee up the Committee to find Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify?