Rep. Issa Slams Lois Lerner in IRS Targeting Probe Report

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 09:33 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Rep. Darrell Issa issued a report Tuesday slamming Lois Lerner for her role in the IRS' campaign to target conservative groups for heightened scrutiny, saying the former IRS official "led efforts to scrutinize conservative groups while working to maintain a veneer of objective enforcement."

In the 141-page report, the California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also accused her of obstructing the committee's investigation and misleading Congress, The Washington Post reports.

The panel is currently considering whether to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about the IRS' screening methods, after she pleaded the Fifth Amendment for a second time last week.

William Taylor, Lerner's attorney, denied Tuesday that his client targeted the groups.

"As we have said, the majority has no interest in the facts," Taylor said. "The facts interfere with keeping the conspiracy theory alive through the election cycle. It would be interesting to know who with any knowledge of the facts says Ms. Lerner did these things. There is not such a person," he said, according to the Post.

The report contains emails that appear to confirm that Lerner and top agency officials were focused on preventing the possible abuse of tax-exempt status in the wake of the "Citizens United" ruling, but according to the Post, do not show any explicit directions to focus on conservative organizations.

Issa said Lerner made "false and misleading statements" to the panel by denying in February 2012 that the IRS changed its screening criteria and by saying the agency's review methods did not exceed its usual standards, the Post reports.

An inspector general's audit in May said the IRS had wrongly targeted nonprofit groups but that no evidence was found of political motivation, according to the Post.

The audit also found that Lerner ordered her division to change the screening criteria in June 2011 because they focused too much on groups' policy positions, and also that the agency overreached in seeking donor information from nonprofit groups, the Post reported.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who last week clashed with Issa at a hearing when the chairman prematurely adjourned it, criticized the conclusions of the report.

"While there is certainly evidence of mismanagement at the IRS, this partisan Republican staff report identifies absolutely no evidence to support the central Republican allegations in this investigation — that the White House directed this activity or that it was politically motivated," Cummings said, according to the Post.

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