In 2010, the nascent Tea Party movement stunned the nation by helping to elect many conservatives to Congress, toppling the Democrats in the House. Many saw the development as a massive rejection of Obama’s socialist policies, ObamaCare most notably.
Emboldened, many more conservatives self-identified as Tea Partiers, Patriots, and other “dog whistle” labels. They sought 503(c)(4) status under the IRS tax code, which stipulates that:
501(c)(4) organizations may inform the public on controversial subjects and attempt to influence legislation relevant to its program and, unlike 501(c)(3) organizations, they may also participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as their primary activity is the promotion of social welfare.
They come to the attention of Lois Lerner, who:
[…] led an organization of 900 employees responsible for a broad range of compliance activities, including examining the operational and financial activities of exempt organizations, processing applications for tax exemption.
Rarely rejected outright (which would have prompted a perhaps more independent appeal), these newly politically active conservatives saw their applications wither on the vine. When there was any movement, it was backwards, in the form of more questions, more information requested, even wholly inappropriate and intolerable (and ungrammatical) inquiries such as “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.”
We later learn that this has been Lerner’s MO for decades:
Before the IRS, Lerner served as associate general counsel and head of the enforcement office at the FEC, which she joined in 1986.
General counsel’s reports composed during Lerner’s tenure at the FEC confirm Engle’s recollections of a woman predisposed to back Republicans against the wall while giving Democrats a pass. Though Noble, then the FEC’s general counsel, is listed as the author of the reports, sources familiar with the commission say that given Lerner’s position, she would have played an integral role shaping their conclusions. “As head of enforcement at the FEC, Lois would have approved the drafting of every general counsel’s report,” Engle tells me.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official who apologized for targeting conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny is married to an attorney whose firm hosted a voter registration organizing event for the Obama presidential campaign, praised President Obama’s policy work, and had one of its partners appointed by Obama to a key ambassadorship.
This is not the first of Lerner’s connections to the president to surface. Earlier this week The Daily Caller reported that Lerner personally signed the tax-exemption approval for a shady charity run by Obama’s half-brother, after an inexplicably brief one-month application process.
Unsurprisingly, a political movement so powerful as to sweep Nancy Pelosi from her perch as Speaker of the House in 2010 was rendered impotent in 2012. Their ability to organize (freedom of assembly) severely curtailed, conservative voters did not materialize on Election Day, and Obama was re-(if not fairly)-elected.
Under Republican leadership, the House smelled a rat. The House Oversight Committee summoned Lerner to explain herself. She complied, read an opening statement declaring her innocence, and then clammed up. Many legal scholars suggested her statement waived any right against self-incrimination: if you’re not going to talk, you don’t get to talk just a little bit, on your own terms. You are subject to cross examination. The committee later voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
The committee also learned that Lerner’s boss, IRS Commissioner Doug Schulman, had received White House clearance 157 times over 2010-2011—though it was unclear if Schulman had actually visited the White House that many times or what they talked about when he did.
Then came the nonsense with Lerner’s computer. Whatever evidence it contained—emails, most notably—was said to be irretrievably lost. The computer had [pick one, or more] “crashed”; the hard drive was “scratched” or had been “erased”; legally mandated backups were also unavailable—either lost, or too much of a pain in the ass to find, even at Congress’ demand.
New IRS Commissioner John Koskinen either doubled down on the story or lamely apologized in a “mistakes were made” fashion. Obama went from angry to dismissive of “phony scandals” without a “smidgen of corruption”. Though illegitimately reelected, he remained president.
Then, of course, the emails turned up. In dribs and drabs, not all at once, but slowly and surely. After four years of sneaking and stalling, the story is finally being revealed:
The IRS watchdog investigating the disappearance of Lois Lerner’s emails told a congressional panel on Thursday night they are looking into the possibility of criminal activity.
Lerner was the IRS official at the center of allegations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups applying for nonprofit status. Congress requested Lerner’s emails from the IRS and agency officials told lawmakers an unknown number of emails had been lost when Lerner’s computer crashed.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has since recovered a number of those emails.
“There is potential criminal activity,” Treasury Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus told the House Oversight Committee Thursday.
Camus told the committee that less than two weeks ago, officials discovered an additional 424 backup tapes and are trying to determine what emails, if any, are on them. The tapes are in addition to about 750 backup tapes the inspector general found in July, some of which contained Lerner emails.
The IRS had told Congress that backup tapes no longer existed.
“The IRS has a lot of explaining to do,” Chaffetz told CNN. “Because what (the inspector general) told us tonight means what the IRS told us is just factually not true.”
“Criminal activity”? Where do you start? Even more important, where do you stop? It would take Dick Tracy and Elliot Ness a decade to clean up this crime syndicate.