The woman who ran the IRS tax-exemption office — which now is accused of improperly targeting conservative groups — presided over a lengthy investigation of the Christian Coalition when she headed the enforcement office at the Federal Election Commission.
According to The Weekly Standard
, some of the same techniques and procedures used by Lois Lerner in the FEC investigation of the coalition in the late 1990s were later used by IRS employees under Lerner to gather information from tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
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The FEC investigation cost the coalition hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend itself against allegations that it was coordinating issue-advocacy expenditures with a number of candidates running for federal offices. The nonprofit group was required to produce large numbers of documents, lists of donors, its legislative agenda, and even details about prayer meetings, the Standard reported this week.
Some conservative groups were asked by the IRS to do the same thing.
James Bopp Jr., lead counsel for the Christian Coalition at the time, told the Standard, "We felt we were being singled out, because when you handle a case with 81 depositions you have a pretty good argument you're getting special treatment. Eighty-one depositions! Eighty-one! From [coalition head] Ralph Reed's former part-time secretary to [former President] George H.W. Bush. It was mind-blowing."
The Christian Coalition ultimately was absolved of any wrongdoing, according to the Standard, because the FEC failed to produce proof to support the allegations.
Lerner was on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where she was called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about her role in the IRS decision to target conservative groups for heightened scrutiny.
However, she refused to answer questions, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, while a Justice Department investigation of the targeting effort proceeds.
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