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Lois Lerner Pleads the Fifth

The head of the tax exempt division of the IRS invoked the Fifth Amendment today in front of a Congressional committee investigating political targeting at the nation’s tax collection agency. Lois Lerner read a prepared statement claiming that she was innocent of wrongdoing before notifying the members of the committee that she would not be answering questions, citing the Fifth Amendment. I’m not a legal expert but I am pretty sure that one can not make a statement declaring innocence and then invoke the Fifth Amendment. Either you are invoking it and not talking to investigators or you aren’t invoking it.

Anyway, Ms. Lerner has become the public face of the IRS scandal since answering a planted question at a gathering of lawyers in which she “apologized” for the targeting of conservative political groups applying for tax exempt status. There is something a little ironic about a government official who essentially oversaw the violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens suddenly citing the Constitution as a defense for her refusal to answer questions from Congress.

Ms. Lerner has a history of using her power within the federal government to harass conservative political groups. The Weekly Standard points out that during her tenure at the Federal Election Commission she made life a bureaucratic nightmare for the Christian Coalition:

Lerner was appointed head of the FEC’s enforcement division in 1986 and stayed in that position until 2001. In the late 1990s, the FEC launched an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. The investigation was notable because the FEC alleged that the Christian Coalition was coordinating issue advocacy expenditures with a number of candidates for office. Aside from lacking proof this was happening, it was an open question whether the FEC had the authority to bring these charges.

James Bopp Jr., who was lead counsel for the Christian Coalition at the time, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD the Christian Coalition investigation was egregious and uncalled for. “We felt we were being singled out, because when you handle a case with 81 depositions you have a pretty good argument you’re getting special treatment. Eighty-one depositions! Eighty-one! From Ralph Reed’s former part-time secretary to George H.W. Bush. It was mind blowing,” he said.

The revelation of her behavior at the FEC comes as Obama media allies at the Daily Beast attempt to claim that Ms. Lerner is “apolitical.” This figures nicely with the Obama administration’s talking points that the whole IRS mess is nothing more than low-level employees at the IRS, with no political leanings, trying to simply make the tax exemption process more efficient. In recent days liberal pundits posing as journalists were invited to the White House and shockingly took to the papers and airwaves to repeat the administration line of out of control, low-level IRS employees:

But then there’s the offense that everyone agrees did occur: A number of IRS employees developed criteria that was politically biased both in appearance and in effect. They were reined in once by their superiors, and then they changed the criteria again, and had to be reined in a second time. Their actions called the fairness of the agency into question and kicked off a national scandal. Even if their intent was pure, they showed bad judgment, more than a bit of incompetence, and perhaps even a touch of insubordination. That is reason enough to fire people, even if the process is difficult.

That’s from Obama spokesperson Washington Post blogger and Journolister Ezra Klein.

Look for the Obama administration to continue to deflect blame and muddy the waters on the IRS scandal while using their media allies to run interference.  It’s their go-to play.

Categories: Budget and Finance, Elections, Must Read, Opinion, Policy, Politics, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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