Last week, while the world’s eyes were fixed upon the Obama administration’s fumbled response to the Syria crisis, new documents emerged in the allegedly “phony” IRS scandal.
These documents – emails from Lois Lerner, then Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS – were short, but highly damaging to the IRS’s persistent (and pernicious) spin.
The first email, a February 1, 2011, message to – among others – Obama donor and fellow IRS executive Holly Paz, proclaims: “Tea Party matter very dangerous. This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue over whether Citizen’s United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax exempt rules . . . Cincy should probably NOT have these cases – Holly please see what they have please [sic].”
The next key email, sent on July 10, 2012 (just as the 2012 election season was truly heating up) came in response to an article forwarded to Lerner noting Democratic complaints that anonymous donors could be influencing Senate races.
Lois Lerner’s emails are proving our case: the IRS is partisan, it’s corrupt and its leaders don’t tell the truth.
Lerner’s immediate response? “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.”
Save the day from what? Democratic losses? Constitutionally-protected free speech?
Though short, these emails tell us three key things:
First, Lois Lerner unquestionably misled the public when she stated in her initial, May 10, 2013, apology for IRS targeting that the scandal centered around “our line people in Cincinnati.” In reality, this was and is a Washington scandal, with senior IRS officials at the epicenter.
Reading her May statement now, one is struck by the extent to which she blames the scandal entirely on Cincinnati personnel, repeatedly distancing herself from the decisions, except as a problem-solver. Those responsible were “they,” while those who allegedly fixed the problem were “we.”
Second, key leaders at the IRS are highly partisan. Lerner’s May statement contains this howler: “They didn’t do this because of any political bias. They did this because they were working together.”
I guess that statement brings new meaning to the Democrats’ admonition that government is “simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together,” but it is, ultimately, false.
We already knew that Holly Paz, then the director of the Office of Ruling and Agreements, was a substantial donor to the Obama campaign, but now we know that Democratic complaints were of specific concern to Lois Lerner – of enough concern that she was hoping that the Federal Election Commission would “save the day.”
But of course, she didn’t need the FEC to save the day for the Democrats. The IRS was saving the day quite effectively on its own.
At the ACLJ, we represent 41 conservative groups in 22 states – many of them 2012 battleground states – that faced considerable delays and harassment from the IRS. Their activities were hampered, their fundraising crippled, and their attention diverted by intrusive and improper IRS questions.
Or, put another way, as we stated in our Amended Complaint, the IRS “substantially and materially interfered with Plaintiffs’ abilities to engage in effective advocacy and other expressive activities.”
Third, it’s deeply discouraging to read the extent of Lerner’s hostility to the First Amendment. The Citizen’s United ruling, which she so obviously disdained, significantly expanded free speech rights and further protected political speech from government control – an evident nightmare for a partisan bureaucrat like Lerner.
The IRS, arguably the nation’s most intrusive arm of government, should not be taking positions against free speech. At worst it should be agnostic, and ideally its employees should remember their fundamental obligation: to protect the Constitution of the United States.
From the beginning of this scandal, we at the ACLJ have been acutely aware of the IRS’s partisan bias. We provided evidence of this bias more than a year before Lerner’s false “apology” on May 10. Yet the mainstream media and many political leaders yawned.
No one should be yawning now. Lois Lerner’s emails are proving our case. The IRS is partisan, it’s corrupt, and its leaders don’t tell the truth.
And if the media or the Obama administration won’t hold the IRS accountable, we will.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).