SMIDGEN REPORT UPDATE: E-mails Reveal IRS Attempts at Damage Control

Shulman, Lerner and Wolin take their seats to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status from by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington

The documents show Lerner’s efforts to persuade Treasury auditors that there was no institutional bias at the IRS, the agency’s attempts to head off a damaging investigation with a pre-emptive apology, and Lerner’s pep talk to her staff after the apology.

WASHINGTON — Gregory Korte reports: The day that former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner publicly apologized for using “inappropriate criteria” to delay tax exemptions for Tea Party groups, she told her colleagues that they were being “beaten up by the press for all the wrong reasons.”O-SMDGE-CONDENSED

It was only going to get worse, she told them in an e-mail, and there was no way around it other than to “ride it through.”

Then she left for a week’s vacation in Canada.

That e-mail comes in 1,706 pages of newly released documents that shed light on the damage control happening at the IRS — and at the watchdog agency investigating it — as the scandal blew up last year.

Lerner has emerged as the central figure in the IRS’ handling of tax-exemption applications by conservative groups before the 2012 election. The Exempt Organizations office she headed subjected groups with names such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots” to more scrutiny and longer wait times than similar liberal advocacy groups, according to congressional Republicans.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released the documents Friday along with a report finding that mismanagement, and not political bias, was responsible for the targeting.

The documents show Lerner’s efforts to persuade Treasury auditors that there was no institutional bias at the IRS, the agency’s attempts to head off a damaging investigation with a pre-emptive apology, and Lerner’s pep talk to her staff after the apology.

Lerner has refused to testify about her role in the targeting, and the House has voted to hold her in contempt of Congress. The e-mails give an account of what she might say if she were to testify.

In an e-mail to Treasury inspectors four months before they released their report last year, Lerner blamed “front-line staff people using less-than-stellar judgment.”

“I am willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially, which may have resulted in front-line staff doing things that appeared to be politically motivated, but I am not on board that anything that occurred here shows that the IRS was politically motivated in the actions taken,” Lerner wrote….

As the audit progressed, it became clear that it would paint the IRS in a bad light…(read more)

USA Today

Follow @gregorykorte on Twitter.


2 Comments on “SMIDGEN REPORT UPDATE: E-mails Reveal IRS Attempts at Damage Control”


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