A top House Republican on Tuesday released a scathing report on Lois Lerner’s involvement in the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of advocacy groups, accusing the former IRS official of trying to crack down on conservative nonprofit organizations that have grown increasingly influential in recent elections.
The report, released by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said Lerner “led efforts to scrutinize conservative groups while working to maintain a veneer of objective enforcement.” It also accuses her of obstructing the oversight committee’s investigation and misleading Congress about the IRS’s efforts as well as her own conduct.
E-mails in the report show that Lerner discussed launching a project to ensure that nonprofit advocacy groups complied with tax law, but they provide no evidence of explicit directions to focus on conservative organizations.
An inspector general’s audit released in May concluded that the IRS had inappropriately targeted nonprofits groups for extra scrutiny based on their policy positions. However, it found no evidence of political motivation behind the efforts, instead blaming them on mismanagement and a lack of clear directions for how to handle tax-exemption applications.
Among other key conclusions from the Republican report, the analysis says former acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel never interviewed Lerner during an internal review that turned up no proof of intentional wrongdoing or political motivations behind the agency’s targeting efforts.
The report also reveals e-mails showing that Lerner received confidential taxpayer information on a non-IRS computer system and personal e-mail account. “Her willingness to handle this information on a non-official e-mail account highlights her disregard for confidential taxpayer information,” the report said.
Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, denied Tuesday that his client plotted against conservative groups. “As we have said, the majority has no interest in the facts,” he 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.”
Last week, Lerner refused for a second time to testify about her involvement in the IRS’s targeting efforts before the oversight committee, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against possible self-incrimination.
A frustrated Issa adjourned the hearing without input from Democrats on the panel, prompting shouts and objections from the ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Issa cut off Cummings’s microphone during the exchange but later issued an apology for that action.
Cummings criticized the Republican report in a statement on Tuesday, saying: “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.”
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