The Likely Happy Ending to the IRS Targeting Scandal

May. 9, 2014
by Bob Adelmann

To some, the two votes on Wednesday in the House of Representatives – one to cite IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt, the other to demand that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor for investigate further the IRS’ targeting scandal – represents the end of the matter.

The Inspector General’s report issued back in May 2013 has long since been forgotten, the FBI’s investigation came up empty, and now Wednesday’s contempt citation is headed for oblivion.

But the aftermath, the residuals, are significant. And positive.

First, six Democrats joined with all the Republicans in voting for Lerner’s contempt citation. Two dozen Democrats joined with all the Republicans to demand that Justice appoint a special prosecutor. In a word, the corruption at the IRS is so deep and wide that even some Democrats felt the heat, saw the light, and voted with the hated Republicans.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), was understandably pessimistic about Justice lifting a finger:

Unfortunately, we don’t expect the attorney general to move forward with this case. Sadly [Holder] has put politics above the enforcement of the law on numerous occasions and unfortunately that is likely to occur again.

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has run out of ammo. He’d like to link Lerner and Obama, but he can’t. He has the questions, but she won’t answer them. Said Issa:

Our evidence does not lead to the Oval Office.

At this point, it leads to Lois Lerner. We have an individual who is at the center of it all. I have never alleged [that] it went to the president.

And now that the issue has been passed off to Washington, DC’s United States Attorney Ronald Machen – an Obama appointee – one may rest assured that it will die a death by asphyxiation, despite Machen’s claim that “We will carefully review the report from the Speaker of the House and take whatever action is appropriate.”

In Washingtonese, that means that nothing will be done. For all intents and purposes, the IRS targeting scandal is ancient history.

And yet…

Lerner’s lies are legendary, winning her Four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Times.  He reviewed several claims Lerner made in her denial of involvement in the scandal, and each of them was exposed to be a lie. She claimed that it was local people in Cincinnati – “front line people” she called them – that dreamed up the idea sometime in 2012 of using their power to harass, delay, and intimidate some 300 conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. But it was learned that she knew all about the targeting strategy much earlier. And other offices besides Cincinnati were also doing the targeting.

She claimed that this was just a “shortcut” designed to handle the huge increase in applications following the Citizens United decision in January 2010, but she couldn’t even get those numbers right. Most of the increase in applications (far less than she claimed) came in 2011, long after the BOLO (“Be On the Look Out”) criteria had been disseminated throughout the IRS.

She also claimed that she didn’t even know about the targeting until she read it in the papers! Here’s her claim:

I think you guys were reading the paper as much as I was. So it was pretty much we started seeing information in the press that raised questions for us….

For those lies, Lerner earned four coveted Pinocchios from Kessler.

Lerner’s deceit was so evident that back in May 2013 David Cay Johnston, a highly regarded journalist and head of Investigative Reporters and Editors, wrote:

Only a person lacking a sense of honor and integrity would cling to their job in the face of horrendous damage caused to the agency they work for, to her superiors and to the welfare of the Republic….

No one in this century has done more to breed disrespect for our tax system than Lois G. Lerner, undermining public confidence in which voluntary compliance rests.

Lerner’s resignation should be as forthright as it should be immediate.

Lerner took his advice, resigning without fanfare in September.

How can any of this be positive? First, there’s an election in November. Second, the American public has just paid their income taxes. Third, their fear of the IRS is slowly turning into disgust and contempt. Fourth, the corruption at the IRS is now obvious to citizens who recognize that the IRS is not just the armed enforcer of the tax code but also a political tool to attack opponents.

In addition, the next time the IRS comes hat in hand to the House for more funding to harass further the hapless taxpayer, what kind of response is it likely to get? “Budget cuts at the IRS” will surely bring a smile to citizens now fully cognizant of the threat.

Along with that, citizens are being reminded that Lerner is not the only important official cited with contempt. Eric Holder is the only sitting Attorney General in history to be so gifted by the House with its contempt citation over his gun-running scandal.

Finally, those standing firm and voting for contempt of Congress for Lerner will likely be rewarded with another term in November, while those who stood aside and kept their hands in their pockets on Wednesday may likely find themselves looking for other work after the election. 

The claim that the IRS scandal has now come to an ignominious end is false. Instead it’s one huge step towards reining in this outlaw agency.

A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at



The Washington Times: House votes to find IRS’s Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress

NPR:   Congress Holds Former IRS Official Lois Lerner In Contempt

NPR:   Lois Lerner's Brief And Awful Day On Capitol Hill

The Washington Times: A bushel of Pinocchios for IRS’s Lois Lerner

David Cay Johnston: Lois Lerner Must Resign

The Washington Post: House votes to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress

Fox News: House votes to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress

Bio on Lois Lerner

The Washington Post: IRS admits targeting conservatives for tax scrutiny in 2012 election

Bio on Ronald Machen

Bio on David Cay Johnston

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