Pleading the fifth is evidence of guilt if you have the bad fortune to work under the Obama administration, but the same folks will defend your right to plead the fifth if you happen to be working under a Republican president. Too bad for Lois Lerner, who was appointed by Bush in 2006 as head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, but is now apparently going to serve as yet another fall guy for the cause.
Lois Lerner, “who let slip at an American Bar Association meeting on Friday that, between 2010 and 2012, conservative nonprofit groups were improperly scrutinized by the IRS”, is the person who drew attention to this “scandal”. She is also the IRS Director of Exempt Organizations.
Lerner gave an opening statement before yet another House Committee Wednesday morning, in a hearing on the allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for political reasons. Ms. Lerner said, before pleading the fifth, “I have not done anything wrong. 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 congressional committee,” Lerner said. “Because I am asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I have done something wrong. I have not.”
Charles Krauthammer told Fox News Tuesday night that it’s not unreasonable to infer that Lois Lerner’s decision to plea the fifth was evidence “that there is a lot [the Obama administration has] got to hide and they are very worried.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Krauthammer was all about pleading the fifth. Citing Bush White House Chief of Staff Scooter Libby’s “memory losses”, Krauthammer definitively declared that invoking the Fifth Amendment was his right, as pointed out by Media Matters.
Republicans are trying to insinuate that Lerner covered up for the Obama administration and that’s why she’s pleading the fifth. They can’t possibly know why she is pleading the fifth; the most logical reason is that given the DOJ opening a criminal investigation into the matter, her attorney advised her to shut it.
But if she has any political persuasion, it would seem to be Republican, based on her appointment by the Bush administration (infamous for politicizing government).
Hysteria is the way of the Right. The Daily Caller made a fool of itself the other day, with Patrick Howley claiming that Lerner’s husband’s law firm had strong Obama connections (read: Marxist, Kenyan Hitler, Nixon, Chicago “connections”): “Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner’s husband’s law firm has strong Obama connections.”
Um, no. But nice try. Walter Olson at Overlawywered broke it down, and it looks like her husband’s law firm gave more to Republicans, with Republican Ted Cruz raking in $16,250 from his lawyers. Olson concluded, “‘Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner’s husband’s law firm has strong Ted Cruz connections’ would have made for too confusing a headline on a Daily Caller lead story.” Yes, we mustn’t let the facts get in the way of the Narrative.
In July of 2012, Open Secrets proclaimed that the IRS might finally engage with politically active nonprofits, and that the IRS “has seemed reluctant to engage in the highly politicized debate.” As the IRS took a step forward toward greater monitoring, “some in Congress” (any guesses?) flipped out on them and they quickly retreated:
On at least one other occasion, the IRS hinted that it was moving to exercise greater oversight — by applying the gift tax to certain donors to social welfare organizations — but it later retreated under fire from some in Congress, saying such actions had “significant legal, administrative and policy implications with respect to which we have little enforcement history.” And this past spring, the agency had to defend itself against allegations that it was conducting a political witch hunt for asking tea party groups — and presumably many others that chose not to make it public — to complete a questionnaire as a part of the application for exempt status.
Oh, filling out a questionnaire after a judge ruled your organization was not a nonprofit but in fact had illegally aided Republicans is now considered “targeting”. Yes, and the media is happy to report True the Vote’s wild sob story as proof, without citing their multiple problems with the law and ethics. Sounds about right for the perennially persecution-seeking paranoids who are quite adept at using the accusation to push back on legitimate attempts at oversight.
(Note: I’m not saying that what the IRS did was legit; we wait for the facts to surface through the muddle of yet another Issa via the Heritage Institute witch hunt. We also observe that it’s big corporate money demanding these witch hunts allegedly about the IRS scrutinizing them. Though by the numbers, it makes logical sense that with conservative groups outspending liberal groups on politics by 34-1, they would be scrutinized more, see how that works? Math.)
Ms. Lerner told Open Secrets last spring that the IRS is “aware of the current public interest in the issue,” and will work with other offices in the IRS and at Treasury “to identify tax issues that should be addressed through regulations and other guidance.”
Oh. I don’t think Republicans are going to allow any regulations over their “nonprofits”. Why would they? They have the most access to dark money, by the numbers. That is why Republicans have worked hard to understaff and underfund the IRS over the past ten years. Mission accomplished.
What I’ve taken from all of these scandals so far is that by Republicans refusing to allow Obama his own nominees, they’ve saddled him with their appointees, who may or may not have an agenda and may or may not be utterly incompetent. That’s a nifty game. So now Bush appointee Lois Lerner, who claims to be “nonpolitical” but yet donated the maximum amount to Romney if this Open Secrets note is the right Lois Lerner, is the Obama administration’s undoing according to Republicans.
I am only sorry Lois Lerner is pleading the fifth, because I’d really like someone to ask her why she “let this slip” at a Bar Association meeting, and upon what evidence she based this “slip”.
The Daily Beast said that Lerner “acknowledged that the influx in tax-exempt applications starting in 2010 is what sparked the heightened scrutiny. The admission raises the question of whether Lerner had the opportunity to help clean up what has become a messy campaign-contribution system and, if so, why she instead is cleaning up the mess of a field office that supposedly went rogue.” You see why we should be asking some questions.
I’d like to ask her if she or anyone in her office was the “source” for several media outlets reporting that conservatives were “targeted” as fact. Then again, no one in the House was going to ask Lerner these questions, because they don’t serve the Republican narrative.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.