Lois Lerner, the IRS official who came under fire for her role in the tea party targeting scandal, has broken her silence, insisting, "I didn't do anything wrong."
In an exclusive two-hour interview with Politico
, the 63-year-old remained defiant about the accusations of wrongdoing by congressional Republicans and alleged culpability in giving heightened scrutiny to conservative groups that were applying for tax-exempt status.
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"Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did."
In the face of accusations that she conducted a partisan witch hunt against conservative groups, Lerner insisted she is "not a political person." Though registered as a Democrat, she pointed out that she has only ever made one political contribution her entire life, which was $25 to a fellow law student who was running for judge.
"What matters is that my political opinions have never affected my work."
Republicans, however, point to emails from Lerner of a partisan nature and also cited her opposition to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, lifting limited on political corporate contributions.
"Loui's ideology is against money in politics, is 'anti-contribution'; that's her bias," Craig Engle, a former executive assistant to a GOP FEC commissioner, who worked with Lerner prosecuting campaign finance violations. "Her ideology inhibited fair administration of the law."
Republicans also point to emails in which Lerner became specifically focused on auditing Crossroads, Karl Rove's political advocacy group, suggesting the group's application for tax exempt status be denied.
Critics also suggest the disappearance of two years worth of emails was suspicious as were her inquiries to colleagues about whether internal IRS instant messages were tracked and could be requested by Congress.
Lerner, who retired before the agency could fire her, revealed that she and her husband have spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on legal bills to defend themselves in the course of investigations by Congress and the FBI and in lawsuits brought on by numerous conservative groups.
Lerner has also been unable to get another job, and even some friends have refused to be in touch out of fear they could be the subject of congressional subpoenas, according to Politico.
She also said that she largely ignores the press about her, while her husband shields her from hate mail and death threats. In a tone of defiance, she told Politico she's "not going to let them ruin my life."
"I probably would have lost my mind if I had read it all, because your reaction when this happens is, 'Wait a minute, let me explain to you what happened." She added, "You don't hear half of what happened because they are picking and choosing."
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