Is Lois Lerner Striking An IRS Testimony Deal With Congressional Investigators?

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former Director of Exempt Organizations

Nothing had been set in stone as of late Wednesday, but it looks as though Lois Lerner, the Washington, D.C.-based Internal Revenue Service official who retired this week in disgrace over the Tea Party discrimination scandal, is attempting through her lawyers to negotiate an immunity deal with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as it pursues its investigation into the scandal’s origins.

Even though Lerner retired Monday after learning an internal review board was poised to recommend she be fired for negligence, she remains under subpoena from the Oversight Committee. Lerner, the former head of the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, had earlier attempted to invoke her Constitutional right not to incriminate herself before a committee hearing, even as she maintained she had nothing to hide.

A bevy of internal emails, released earlier this month by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), reveal some of Lerner’s 2011 communications with other officials over what to do about Tea Party groups seeking tax exemptions.

You may not have seen or heard about the emails; it’s been 62 days since any of the Big Three TV news networks ran an IRS scandal story. But the fresh batch of Lerner communications completely contradicts her ardent assertions, shortly after the scandal broke, that rogue IRS employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office had taken it upon themselves to bog down the nonprofit exemptions process for the conservative groups.

From a Sept. 12 story in The Daily Caller:

“Tea Party Matter very dangerous… Counsel and Judy Kindell [Lerner’s technical adviser] need to be in on this one… Cincy should probably NOT have these cases,” Lerner said in a February 2011 email, despite the fact that IRS officials initially claimed that the agency’s Cincinnati office was solely responsible for the improper targeting of tea party and conservative groups.

“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in an email, responding to a complaint the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The IRS and FEC reportedly collaborated on conservative targeting.

“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, but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences,” Camp said.

Representative Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member on the Ways and Means Committee, has interpreted Lerner’s involvement as bungling but benign. Levin told Tax Analysts Lerner appeared to have been “incompetent in her management of the IRS tax-exempt division and unprofessional in her conduct” and that Republicans’ efforts to selectively leak only a few incriminating emails out of tens of thousands of documents represent a partisan witch hunt.

Why, then, would Lerner (or her wealthy Barack Obama-supporting husband) be paying very good money to top-flight attorneys to strike an immunity deal? Immunity has been on Lerner’s mind from the beginning; she made it clear at the time of her May testimony that Congress could easily hear everything she had to say by simply granting her request to go free, come what may.

No one with a conduit to the public has come forward to divulge Lerner’s present motives for seeking the deal. But it appears Lerner is either:

A) Possessed of a grimly wicked sense of humor; a disgraced and fed-up bureaucrat about to punk the indefatigably dedicated Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the Oversight
committee, with a whole bunch of garbage testimony that will make a farce of the entire investigation and leave Issa embarrassed and bewildered.Or…

B) One very frightened ex-loyalist who realizes she’s become a fall guy; a jilted liberal who’d love to salvage her reputation and deliver Congressional Republicans the magic smoking gun they’ve been seeking that would tie the scandal directly to the Obama Administration.

If Issa strikes a deal, you can bet he’s got his money on the latter. Here are nine reasons why he’s probably right.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.