An audit from the IRS inspector general found that the agency had singled out tax-exemption applicants for extra scrutiny based on their names and political ideology.
Lerner, who is on a leave while Congress investigates her role in the controversial actions, first acknowledged that the agency had targeted Tea Party groups by answering a planted question at a legal conference in May. Administration officials quickly suggested that the actions were not politically motivated and that the issue was confined to the Cincinnati IRS office that handles tax-exemption applications.
But congressional investigations have shown that officials in Washington — including the IRS general counsel’s office and Carter Hull, a legal adviser from that division — helped develop the controversial procedures.
Democratic lawmakers have released evidence, including IRS training materials and interviews with agency employees, that show the IRS targeted groups from both sides of the political spectrum. They contend that the problems identified in the IG report resulted from poor oversight and confusion over how much political activity is acceptable for so-called “social welfare” groups.
In a July 2012 e-mail, Lerner reacted to an NPR article about Democrats fighting to maintain their Senate majority and asking the Federal Election Commission to crack down on outside-money groups that supported Republican causes.
“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in a one-line reply to a colleague who forwarded the article. It is unclear whether Lerner was referring to preserving the Democratic majority or the potential crackdown on groups not playing by the rules.
Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, said none of the revelations from Camp constitute evidence of wrongdoing.
“The e-mails released today do not demonstrate any ‘abuse of power,'” Taylor said. “They only show that Ms. Lerner and her colleagues took steps to carefully process applications that presented complex and sensitive issues, and that her office already had taken steps to address the matters in the [inspector general’s] report.”
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