Lois Lerner, the woman who has been the center of attention concerning an IRS scandal involving improperly targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, has decided to retire.
At an American Bar Association conference on May 10th, Lerner hinted at the illegal actions in response to a planted audience question. In her response, Lerner stated that targeting by the IRS was “absolutely incorrect,” “insensitive,” and “inappropriate,” and that “the IRS would like to apologize for that.”
Since that date, Congress has been investigating into the allegations of the IRS targeting conservative groups. Lerner was the head of the branch of the IRS dealing with tax-exemption claims. In 2010, her branch of the IRS began targeting groups with keywords in their names, such as "tea party" and "patriot". Once noted, these groups would face extra scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status. This extra investigation would drastically delay these applications, hindering the work of such groups.
Less than 2 weeks after admitting to the targeting at an ABA conference, Lerner refused to answer any questions at a Congressional hearing, citing the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination. However, Lerner cited the right incorrectly. (Which comes as a surprise considering she is a trained lawyer, something which came to light when she admitted that she was an IRS agent who was "not good at math.") Before invoking the Fifth Amendment at the hearing, Lerner stated “I have not done anything wrong,” she said at the May 22 hearing. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.” By professing her innocence before pleading the Fifth, Lerner effectively waived all rights to be protected by the Fifth Amendment. Since that moment, committee Republicans have led a campaign to recall Lerner to Washington to answer their questions, and a piece of legislation was introduced to prevent government officials from pleading the Fifth in Congressional hearings - appropriately named the Lerner Rule. (It didn't pass.)
Republicans are not about to let Lerner's retirement put the issue of targeting off the table, however. Despite statements from an IRS investigation committee in which they found Lerner innocent of targeting due to her own political personal bias, Republicans still want Lerner to answer for her actions:
“Lois Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs. We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress," stated House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.
In the meantime, the IRS has been doing much work to repair any damage done and to save their inherently-tarnished reputation. Danny Werfel was appointed as acting commissioner of the IRS by Barack Obama, and the organization has attempted to restructure its management and organization to create a more effective and efficient agency. Fixing its reputation will be critical for the IRS considering they will be the organization responsible for reviewing health-care coverage when the Affordable Care Act goes full-force next year.
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