In anticipation of the Big Vote to hold former IRS employee Lois Lerner in contempt, the Right Wing Noise Machine is ramping up their rhetoric in the hope that no one will notice their allegations are meritless. If they make really loud threats to arrest Lerner, put pressure on Eric Holder to climb on his dark horse and immediately throw the book at her, maybe we'll all ignore the fact that the IRS was actually doing their job.
Yes, that's right. The IRS was doing exactly what they were supposed to do. Don't let their noise distract you. Some of the famous Lois Lerner emails were quietly dropped into the public information stream inside of a referral from the House Ways & Means Committee to the Justice Department. The allegations they make against her are as follows:
- Lerner used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law. She showed extreme bias and prejudice towards conservative groups. The letter lays out evidence on how Lerner targeted conservative organization Crossroads GPS as well as other right-leaning groups, while turning a blind eye to similarly-organized liberal groups, like Priorities USA.
- Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
- Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.
Oh, the irony of any Republican complaining about use of personal emails. But I digress. Let me tell you what is actually in those emails, or in some cases, what is not in them.
In an act of twisted linkage, Rep. Dave Camp argues that a meeting with Democracy21 representatives concerning the implications of Citizens United as it relates to activity of 501(c)(4) organizations someone reveals bias against conservative groups. In fact, Democracy21 requested the meeting with Lerner and other high-ranking officials in connection with a request for a petition for rulemaking on social welfare organizations and political activity. Lerner is a public official. She had no option but to respond, and she did, appropriately. Because guidance was not solely her responsibility, she organized a meeting with other IRS officials.
But here's the kicker. Lerner wrote an email following that meeting that certainly indicates some bias on the part of other IRS officials, who declined to take a closer look at Crossroads GPS.
...I reviewed the information last night and thought the allegations in the [Democracy21] documents were really damning, so wondered why we hadn't done something with the org. The first complaint came in 2010 and there were additional ones in 2011 and 2012.
I asked Tom Miller whether he recalled seeing referral committee notes on the referrals when he and Judy went down to look at the referrals. He looked them up, and as you can see below, the referral committee unanimously non-selected the case twice. I don't know where we go with this -- as I've told you before -- I don't think your guys get it and the way they look at these cases is going to bite us some day. The organization at issue is Crossroads GPS, which is on the top of the list of c4 spenders in the last two elections.
Lerner goes on to express her concern that the method this committee used to decide whether to look more closely at Crossroads GPS would come under attack somewhere down the road because they declined to scrutinize it closely in the beginning. It wasn't about ideology; it was about whether this was an appropriate use of a 501(c)(4). And let's be honest here -- the reason Crossroads was set up was to challenge conventional wisdom on what these organizations could or could not do.
Any bias present rested with the committee selecting groups for closer scrutiny. Lois Lerner was not a part of those groups. The purpose of using a committee was to prevent this kind of accusation -- in the following exhibit Nanette Dowling explains that committees are in place so that decisions about sensitive cases are not in "any one person's hands."
This is all easily found in the documents. There's nothing sacred or secret about it, but the Noise Machine doesn't care. Their mission is to obscure facts and make people feel like the IRS did something wrong.
Because Tax Day is next Tuesday, after all, so it must be time to strike up the "I hate taxes, the IRS and the federal government band."
Lerner's offhand remark about "getting the DC office job" in relation to a news story about the formation of Organizing for Action has just been completely twisted out of context. Here's the actual email thread. Decide for yourself whether it indicates bias. To me, it's a response to the remark about OFA having a DC office. At any rate, the entire strand is a heads-up about OFA forming as a 501(c)(4) organization and indicated concern that the very same issues that dogged Crossroads GPS would arise with regard to OFA.
Exposing Taxpayer Information
This is the one causing the biggest conservative tizzy. They're convinced that the IRS (Lerner) leaked information about True the Vote -- the brownshirt operation in Texas that exists to suppress minority votes -- to Rep. Clyburn. Yet, they offer absolutely no evidence to support that claim. See his response to their spurious allegations here.
Let's step back a year in time, when True the Vote actively worked with the Groundswell Gang to agitate for voter suppression, and planned to implement an elaborate plan they called "Hydra" to smear and stymie liberal voter registration groups. True the Vote also had been fined already for violating Texas campaign finance laws. Of all the groups under scrutiny, none deserved it more than True the Vote.
Other "evidence" used to claim privacy violations include alleged use of a personal email address to communicate, again without evidence. There was a person included on an email thread with an MSN email address, but Camp & Co offer no evidence it belonged to Lerner. In fact, Lerner used her official IRS address throughout the exchange. The MSN account name is Toby Miles. Camp & Co and assumed that because Miles is also Lerner's husband's last name, there must be some personal connection there. Except there is nothing offered to support that little leap. Miles isn't exactly an unusual name, after all.
Meanwhile, she can't actually refute his allegations without surrendering her protections under the Fifth Amendment. That means Dave Camp and the rest of the Get Lerner brigade can say whatever they want about her, which is exactly the point. Truth doesn't matter. They just need a pincushion, and Lerner is serving that purpose.
The final claim giving conservatives heartburn is the notion that Lerner said the "tea party matter [is] very dangerous." It is, of course, taken out of context.
In case it's too small to read, the text with my emphasis:
1. Tea Party Matter very dangerous. This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue of whether Citizen's United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax-exempt rules. Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one please...Cincy should probably NOT have these cases -- Holly please see exactly what they have please.
Lerner was concerned that if the IRS did not approach these cases carefully, they could wind up in the Supreme Court with yet another court case challenging campaign finance as it relates to nonprofits, which isn't an unreasonable concern, nor is it indicative of any "bias" against the tea party.
Did James O'Keefe give these Congressmen lessons? It seems pretty clear to me the actual evidence points to Lerner being cautious and careful about proceeding in any one direction with regard to these groups. I've uploaded all of the documents. Feel free to browse them and see if you can find evidence of some wrongdoing. I'm pretty confident you'll see what I see -- a group of IRS officials struggling with difficult issues but trying to do the right thing.
There will be lots of fireworks today as the House wraps up their Smear Lois Lerner Week, but it's all heat with no light. And a lot of lies tossed in to make everyone angry while feeding the conservative need to paint themselves as victims. Don't be fooled.