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Tags: Lois Lerner | IRS | emails | scandal | judicial watch | tea party | patriot

Judicial Watch Emails: Lerner Feared IRS Targeting Might 'Raise Questions'

By    |   Thursday, 09 April 2015 10:40 PM EDT

Judicial Watch released more emails in the IRS targeting scandal Thursday, with these showing that former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner feared that the information used to single out tea party groups and other opponents of President Barack Obama for special scrutiny "might raise questions."

"We understand why the criteria might raise questions," Lerner told Troy Paterson, the audit manager for the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in an email dated Jan. 31, 2013.

Paterson's investigators had questioned Lerner's agents in Cincinnati about the targeting for a report the inspector general released that spring.

The agents placed groups with words like "tea party and "patriot" in their names on a "be on the lookout" — or BOLO — list for additional screening of its applications for tax-exempt status. The 501(c)(4) status allows groups to keep their donors private.

"I'm not sure how [the TIGTA] investigators are looking at [whether] we were politically motivated, or what they are looking for with regard to targeting," Lerner told Paterson.

"They didn't seem to understand the difference between IRS acting in a politically motivated manner and front-line staff people using less than stellar judgment," she added.

"I am willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially, which may have resulted in front-line staff doing things that appeared to be politically motivated."

However, she said, "I am not on board that anything that occurred here shows that the IRS was politically motivated in the actions taken."

The email was among 1,157 pages of documents Judicial Watch released after obtaining them through its continuing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS.

The January 2013 email trail marks Lerner's most extended public comments about the debacle, which began in 2010 and continued through the 2012 presidential election.

The inspector general had disclosed the targeting in a report it released in May 2013. Lerner revealed that week what the agency had done in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association conference.

Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division that singled out the organizations, retired in September 2013 over the debacle. The Justice Department said last month that she would not be charged for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about it.

In May 2014, the House of Representatives voted to hold Lerner in contempt for twice refusing to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"These new emails show that the IRS scandal is not over," Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch's president, said Thursday. "These documents point to document gaps caused by the refusal of the Obama IRS to search for Lois Lerner’s emails.

"The incredible email from Lois Lerner admitting (and denying) culpability by her and the IRS in the scandal further undermines President Obama’s lie that the IRS scandal was entirely the fault of 'bonehead decisions in local offices.'"

The latest documents also included an email from May 1, 2013, showing that Lerner had met with top staffers of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee over the political activities of nonprofit groups.

Two top senators, Republican John McCain of Arizona and then-Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, had questioned whether the groups' actions were not being curbed in response to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. The ruling overturned bans on corporate contributions to political causes.

Details of the meeting were redacted in the email obtained by Judicial Watch, but McCain and Levin did acknowledge that they were pressuring Lerner to pull back on some of these groups once the targeting scandal became public.

Other emails disclosed that:
  • On Feb. 5, 2013, Lerner knew the inspector general had concerns about the political nature of the IRS targeting, telling colleagues that it "seems like we may very well be in disagreement [with TIGTA] big time. That means we will need to start drafting our arguments."
  • On Feb. 16, 2012, Lerner asked Holly Paz, the agency's rulings and agreements director, whether managers could "put together some training points to help" IRS staffers "understand the potential pitfalls" of revealing too much information on targeted groups to Congress. "We are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners, and political parties," Lerner said. "Our filed folks are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public — or at least be seen by Congress."
  • On June 14, 2011, Lerner told IRS spokesman Grant Williams that "my computer crashed yesterday and my BlackBerry doesn't work in my office."
Three years later, in June 2014, IRS officials told Judicial Watch, as well as the federal court judge hearing the group's FOIA case, that Lerner's email had crashed and that she might have lost all her emails.

The June 2011 document was included in emails submitted in 2014 to the Senate Finance Committee in its IRS investigation.

In November, however, the Treasury's inspector general told Congress that as many as 30,000 of Lerner's emails might have been found.

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Judicial Watch released more emails in the IRS targeting scandal Thursday, with these showing that the information used to single out tea party groups and other opponents of President Obama for special scrutiny might raise questions.
Lois Lerner, IRS, emails, scandal, judicial watch, tea party, patriot, tax-exempt groups
Thursday, 09 April 2015 10:40 PM
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