The Washington Post

Does Lois Lerner have a problem with conservatives?


House Republicans this week released e-mails showing that Lois Lerner used the term “__hole” to describe extreme right wingers on the talk-show circuit.

Does that mean the former IRS official has beef with conservatives in general? A few select e-mails are not enough to answer that question for certain, but it’s fair to say she’s not very fond of the blowhard variety.

The e-mails in question show an undisclosed individual complaining to Lerner about “the whacko wing of the GOP,” adding that “right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”

Former IRS official Lois Lerner. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Lerner responded: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many __holes.” She followed up with another message saying: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists [sic]. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

Those aren’t the words of an apolitical person. But career federal employees are allowed to have political views. The problem starts when they abuse their authority or otherwise act unethically because of those views.

Sure, Lerner was a registered Democrat. And she also expressed an interest in working for a nonprofit advocacy group founded by President Obama’s allies, saying in a January 2013 e-mail to another IRS official: “Oh — maybe I can get the DC office job.”

But all of that evidence is circumstantial. None of it proves conclusively that Lerner directed a campaign specifically to target conservative nonprofit groups and hinder them, as Republicans have suggested.

Keep in mind that the IRS’s controversial targeting efforts netted both left- and right-leaning groups, although mostly conservatives.

It’s also worth noting that a self-described “conservative Republican” manager told GOP investigators that he elevated the first tea party case to Washington for additional analysis. An inspector general’s timeline of the targeting actions listed an event on that same date, Feb. 25, 2010, as the genesis of the inappropriate IRS behavior.

At the end of the day, Republicans hoping to prove that Lerner led efforts to silence conservatives will need direct evidence. They don’t have that yet, so it’s no surprise that they’re frustrated with the IRS saying recently that it lost years worth of Lerner’s e-mails.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · July 31, 2014

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