We are about to embark upon a two-week journey in which we will take an in-depth look at the IRS. First, in this article, we will examine the events leading up to the current controversy with the IRS. Then next week, I intend to offer an analysis of current events with the IRS and present the facts so that you may draw your own conclusion about whether or not corruption exists in the IRS and to what extent. So, here we go…
In early 2010, an arm of the Exempted Organizations Unit of the IRS began flagging applications for tax-exempt status containing words such as “TEA Party,” “patriots,” and others. According to an article in the Washington Post, these inappropriate search terms were applied by a team in Cincinnati as a means of separating “legitimate tax-exempt groups from those working to get candidates elected.” In June of 2011, the director of the Exempted Organizations Unit, Lois Lerner, learned of this “be on the lookout” list of search criteria. After expressing her own concerns with the search criteria, she instructed the team to revise its list.
Eight months later (March 2012) the IRS commissioner at the time, Douglas Shulman, and Lois Lerner denied the notion that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting any specific groups for particular scrutiny. Then, in May of 2013, Ms. Lerner acknowledged the improper scrutiny in response to a planted question during a conference at which she spoke.
On May 22, 2013, Lerner sat before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where she defended herself in an opening statement saying “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.”
I want to take a moment to explain the procedure at these hearings. When the Chairman calls a hearing to order, he makes an opening statement. His remarks are followed by an opening statement from the Ranking Member. The Chairman is affiliated with the body’s majority party (in this case the Republicans) and the Ranking Member is the highest-ranking member on the committee of the minority party (again in this case, the Democrats). Following the Ranking Member, the Chairman may call on other members of the committee to present opening statements. Next, the Chairman calls on the witness(es) to present their respective opening statements. Once all the opening statements are presented, The Chairman begins questioning the witness(es) and his line of questioning is followed by each committee member who wishes to direct questions to any witness (each member has a time limit of five minutes).
Returning to the May 22 hearing, Lois Lerner made her opening statement and when Chairman Darrell Issa began questioning Ms. Lerner, she invoked the Fifth Amendment. The Constitution protects citizens from self-incrimination in the Fifth Amendment
Now that the stage has been set, next week’s piece will investigate the events following Lerner’s infamous “testimony” at that May 22 hearing.