The Obama administration has found the face of the IRS scandal, and her name is Lois Lerner. Everything that Lerner has done makes her not simply a scapegoat but a real antagonist in the scandal.
Lerner is doing everything possible to point the finger at herself for the scandal that has the majority of the country outraged. In the past week, she has gone from whistleblower to person of interest to targeted suspect. The IRS scandal itself can’t be closed until the self-serving whistle blower Lois Lerner is held accountable for her actions.
Until Thursday, Lerner was the Director of the IRS Tax Exempt Organization, responsible for overseeing the tax exempt application process that was targeting conservative organizations. I say 'until' because she has now been placed on paid administrative leave.
Lerner was asked to resign by the newly appointed acting IRS commissioner, Daniel Werfel. She refused and therefore has been placed on paid administrative leave. This final move, a paid leave of absence after pleading the Fifth, ensures that she will be the face of this investigation from now until eternity.
Lerner was the person who blew the lid off this scandal by delivering a public apology days before the IRS inspector general was scheduled to deliver a report detailing her organization’s practice of using keyword shortcuts such as “tea party” and “patriot” to screen out for additional scrutiny organizations applying for 501(c)4 tax-exempt status.
It was subsequently uncovered that the entire event was staged by Lerner. She planted the question with an audience member which allowed her to give a self -serving response. Celia Roady, a partner in the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, released a statement saying that Lerner sent her the question in advance of the May 10 meeting.
“On May 9, I received a call from Lois Lerner, who told me that she wanted to address an issue after her prepared remarks at the ABA Tax Section’s Exempt Organizations Committee Meeting, and asked if I would pose a question to her after her remarks. I agreed to do so, and she then gave me the question that I asked at the meeting the next day” explained Roady in the statement released by her firm.
At that point, Lerner went from whistleblower to person of interest. Along with other IRS officials, she was asked to appear in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rather than answering any questions, Lerner gave her opening statement and then invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.
Chairmen Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) dismissed Lerner, but is now considering recalling her. “I am looking into the possibility of re-calling her and insisting she answer questions in light of a waiver. For that reason, and with your understanding and indulgence, this hearing stands in recess, not adjourned,” he announced.
There is some question as to whether Lerner forfeited her rights when she gave her opening statement. Issa opined, “At this point, I believe you have not asserted your rights, but have effectively waived your rights.”
By invoking her Fifth Amendment rights, Lerner made herself a targeted suspect in the minds of many who want to hold someone accountable for the questionable practice.
Lerner has failed the Washington Post Pinocchio Test. WaPo explained that her “misstatements and weaselly wording when the revelations about the IRS’s activities first came to light on May 10” warranted the maximum score of four Pinocchios.
The Obama administration has tried to close the loop on the issue of accountability. They fired Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency's tax exempt and government entities division, who would be Lerner’s direct report on the org chart, has accepted retirement.
Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, the official in charge of the IRS during the time of the scandal, did not take the Fifth during his appearance in front of Congress, but he didn’t accept any responsibility either. “I don’t know generally what you’re talking about. “I don’t accept the responsibility for every single action of every single employee of the IRS,” testified Shulman.
In other words, he is not providing any cover for Lerner either.