IRS official Lois Lerner used her power to ensure Right-leaning groups were targeted for extra scrutiny by the agency, then gave misleading information during a probe of the matter by the Treasury Department's inspector general, according to a criminal referral approved Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The panel said its investigation also found evidence Lerner used her personal email to conduct official business, which could have resulted in the disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.
“This investigation has uncovered serious, unprecedented actions taken by Lois Lerner that deprived conservative groups of their rights under the Constitution," Chairman Dave Camp said. "Today's action highlights specific wrongdoing for the Department of Justice to pursue. DOJ has a responsibility to act, and Lois Lerner must be held accountable.”
But it's unlikely that Attorney General Eric Holder will act on the committee's request. The Justice Department is conducting its own investigation -- under the supervision of a career attorney who contributed thousands of dollars to President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns. What's more likely is the Justice probe will conclude as the IRS' own administrative review board reportedly did: That Lerner showed no political bias or engaged in willful misconduct.
And congressional Democrats are claiming she is being targeted by Republicans for political purposes.
Judge for yourself. Here are the highlights of the committee's findings:
- Lerner actively sought to deny tax-exempt status to Crossroads GPS, a political nonprofit founded by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. Emails and testimony provided to the committee show she took an active role in the case. On Jan. 4, 2013, after being informed that Crossroads GPS was not selected for an audit, Lerner demanded to know why not. "You should know that we are working on a denial of the application [for tax-exempt status], which may solve the problem because we probably will say it isn't exempt. Please make sure all moves regarding the org are coordinated up here before we do anything," she wrote in an email to Nanette Downing, director of the IRS' exempt organizations examinations unit in Dallas.
– Lerner colluded with activist groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, which were seeking a denial of Crossroads GPS' tax-exempt status, while ignoring similar concerns they raised about Left-leaning groups such as Priorities USA. One of her meetings with activists occurred on Jan. 4, 2013 — the same day she demanded to know why Crossroads GPS was not selected for an audit.
- Lerner blamed the targeting of conservative groups on IRS employees in Cincinnati, when evidence showed that much of it occurred at her direction.
- Lerner, upon hearing of the creation of Organizing for Action, Obama's outside political group, remarked "Oh -- maybe I can get the D.C. office job!" The committee said this was a sign of her extreme bias that led to the targeting of conservative groups.