Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee released a detailed report that outlines how former top Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner lied to Congress regarding her involvement in the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said the 141-page report “offers detailed evidence about steps she took to crack down on organizations that exercised their constitutional rights to free political speech.”
The report was released just after Lerner pulled an about-face regarding cooperating with the House investigation, and as Issa weighs whether or not the committee should vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify after her lawyer emailed claiming that she would.
Republicans also claim Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she decided to read a statement offering a defense and claiming her innocence at the first hearing last year.
The report, however, does not include any of the Lerner emails the IRS recently promised to turn over to the House Ways and Means Committee, but according to Chairman Issa, Oversight had enough material to demonstrate that Lerner “misled Congress about targeting and her own conduct.”
Last week, the House hearing was a shameful spectacle. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the committee, screamed at the hearing after he was not permitted to make a statement in defense of the IRS, Lerner and the administration. He, now, accused Issa of turning Lerner into a political target. He is expected to release a statement shortly in response to the report.
Key findings in the report:
— Lerner, in emails to other IRS officials, wrote about ways to highlight the agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party applicants, despite secrecy laws, by provoking groups to challenge IRS rulings in a court case.
— She called for a Washington, D.C.-based, “multi-tier review” for Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status. “A D.C. IRS employee said this level of scrutiny had no precedent,” the report notes.
— Lerner references “the fabulously rich and hugely influential” Koch brothers, who are GOP donors, in asserting that the agency needed to cautiously conduct a “project” scrutinizing groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax exempt status. The code references the tax exempt category conservative and Tea Party groups were requesting from the IRS.
— Lerner broke IRS rules by using her personal email account to handle protected taxpayer information.
— Lerner expressed concern that the Supreme Court ruling leading to the increase of 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups would hurt Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2012. The IRS was expected to fix the problem, Lerner wrote.
“The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns,” Lerner wrote. “And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.”