By David Martosko In Washington
PUBLISHED: 18:00 EST, 12 September 2013 | UPDATED: 18:18 EST, 12 September 2013
Emails released this week by congressional investigators show that an embattled former IRS manager was directly involved in targeting conservative nonprofit groups for special scrutiny beginning at the height of the 2010 midterm election season.
Lois Lerner, who is still on the IRS payroll despite losing her post as Director of Exempt Organizations, has refused to testify before Congress about her involvement. But the emails, which date from 2011 and were provided to MailOnline by the House Ways and Means Committee, indicate that she knew early on what her agency was doing.
Lerner, the messages show, specifically singled out applications for tax-exempt status from organizations that described themselves as right-wing ‘tea party’ groups, and ordered that the politically sensitive requests should be held in limbo until the IRS could develop a coherent policy to address them.
CRUELLA DE (TAX) BILL? Lois Lerner ‘took the fifth’ before Congress, refusing to testify. But her emails show her level of involvement in the tea party scandal that deeply tarnished the IRS
Grass roots: Tea party groups have continued to wield political power, most recently by advocating against the full implementation of President Obama’s health care overhaul law
Capitol Hill Democrats have countered that groups on both the right and left were targeted, but evidence made public to date suggests that almost all of the affected organizations opposed President Obama and his policies.
The ‘Tea Party Matter [is] very dangerous, Lerner instructed her IRS colleagues in February 2011. ‘This could be the vehicle to go to court,’ she added, on the question of whether a Supreme Court ruling about the status of political donations from corporations might also apply to nonprofit groups. ‘Counsel and Judy Kindell [Lerner’s top advisor] need to be in on this one … Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.’
IRS officials said in the congressional investigation’s early days that a few ‘rogue employees’ in the IRS’s Cincinnati, Ohio office – and not managers like Lerner or her counterparts in Washington, D.C. – made the decisions about which conservative groups’ applications to target.
Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement that ‘there is increasing and overwhelming evidence 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,’ Camp added, ‘but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences.’
Serious messages: Tea party activists have leveled stern warnings to the IRS after the agency targeted their groups for special treatment based on their political philosophies
Conservatives organizations say they hold President Obama responsible for the ‘abuses’ his tax collectors have inflicted on his political opposites
In an email from three months later, Lerner seemed to acknowledge that the IRS had made a mess of its habit of selectively hamstringing groups whose political ideology didn’t mesh with the president’s.
‘It is what it is,’ she wrote. ‘Although the original story isn’t as pretty as we’d like, once we learned this [sic] were off track, we have done what we can to change the process, better educate our staff and move the cases.’
‘So, we will get dinged, but we took steps before the ‘dinging’ to make things better and we have written procedures.’
A year later, IRS higher-ups testified in congressional hearings that the agency hadn’t made special efforts to treat conservative groups differently from others.
A third email shows a stunning intersection of government bureaucracy and partisan politicking in Lerner’s office.
Sharon Light, a senior member of Lerner’s “Technical Adviser’ team, forwarded her a National Public Radio article on July 10, 2012 about the plight of Senate Democrats who found it increasingly difficult to repeat their electoral successes in the wake of court decisions that allowed corporate dollars to flood into statewide elections.
Democrats had complained to the Federal Election Commission that some tax-exempt groups on the political right should be regulated like political committees instead of charities. The issue was whether the identity of their donors should be subject to public disclosure.
‘Perhaps the FEC will save the day,’ Lerner added to the email chain.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and the Senate Conservatives Fund launched a website this year to gather support for abolishing the IRS and shifting the United States to a less complicated tax code
Light was one of six IRS managers who sought career lifeboats at the height of the controversy this summer. She now works for the American Cancer Society.
The latest cache of Lerner’s emails to be made public were first discussed in a Wall Street Journaleditorial.
Lerner insisted during a May 22, 2013 congressional inquiry that she did ‘nothing wrong,’ but then asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and left the hearing. She was later placed on administrative leave, with pay
Rep. Sander Levin, the Ways and Means Committee’s ranking Democrat, told The Washington Times on Thursday that Republicans have failed to uncover a smoking gun that demonstrates any poltical favoritism.
‘Lois Lerner was incompetent in her management of the IRS tax-exempt division and unprofessional in her conduct – reasons why I immediately called for her to be relieved of her duties,’ Levin said, claiming the GOP was engaging in ‘selective leaking’ of documents to the press.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2419512/Lois-Lerner-emails-IRS-official-knew-agency-targeted-conservative-groups.html#ixzz2ekjy6Fso Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Lois Lerner emails from Ways and Means.pdf by MailOnline