Ex-IRS of­fi­cial Lerner is sent to face jus­tice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Nearly a year to the day af­ter she re­vealed the IRS gave in­ap­pro­pri­ate scru­tiny to some groups ap­ply­ing for tax-ex­empt sta­tus, the House voted Wed­nes­day to de­clare Lois G. Lerner in con­tempt of Congress for block­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, send­ing her case to the le­gal sys­tem.

Six Democrats joined Repub­li­cans in vot­ing for the ci­ta­tion, un­der­scor­ing the deep po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions over the way Repub­li­cans have han­dled their probe into her ac­tiv­i­ties.

But min­utes later, more than two dozen Democrats joined Repub­li­cans to vote on a res­o­lu­tion ask­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment to name a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to look into the ques­tion of IRS tar­get­ing more broadly. That vote un­der­scored the po­lit­i­cal dan­ger some Democrats be­lieve they face back home from the IRS scan­dal.

The re­quest for a pros­e­cu­tor is non­bind­ing and is likely to be dis­missed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has de­nied any po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion in the tax agency’s mis­steps and ar­gues that the Repub­li­can probes are off base.

Repub­li­cans, though, said the votes sent a sig­nal that the IRS is not above the law and that Ms. Lerner in par­tic­u­lar must be made to an­swer for her role in the tar­get­ing.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple are owed a govern­ment they can trust, not a govern­ment that they fear,” said House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can. “The only way to re­build this trust is to in­ves­ti­gate ex­actly how these abuses oc­curred and to en­sure they never hap­pen again.”

Wil­liam W. Tay­lor III, Ms. Lerner’s at­tor­ney, said the vote was part of a Repub­li­can effort “to keep the base­less IRS ‘con­spir­acy’ alive through the midterm elec­tions.”

“Ms. Lerner has not com­mit­ted con­tempt of Congress. She did not waive her Fifth Amend­ment rights by pro­claim­ing her in­no­cence,” he said. “We pro­vided our le­gal anal­y­sis to the com­mit­tee and the House, and we re­ceived no re­sponse. It is un­for­tu­nate that the ma­jor­ity party in the House has put pol­i­tics be­fore a cit­i­zen’s con­sti­tu­tional rights.”

The vote on find­ing Ms. Lerner in con­tempt of Congress was 231-187. The vote on ask­ing for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor was 250-168.

Ms. Lerner was head of the IRS divi­sion re­spon­si­ble for ap­prov­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for tax-ex­empt sta­tus at the time that em­ploy­ees were sub­ject­ing tea party and other con­ser­va­tive groups’ ap­pli­ca­tions to im­proper scru­tiny, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal au­dit.


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