Tensions Flare During House Hearing as Former IRS Official Pleads Fifth

By:  Raven Clabough
03/06/2014
       
Tensions Flare During House Hearing as Former IRS Official Pleads Fifth

Former IRS official Lois Lerner once again rested on her Fifth Amendment right not to testify on her role in the IRS scandal during a house hearing on Wednesday.

The hearing quickly lapsed into a heated dispute between top Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and top Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. The incident is just the latest in the long saga of the investigation into the IRS scandal, wherein the IRS targeted conservative groups.

The IRS scandal involves the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS openly targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization status between 2010 and 2012. Those groups faced additional audits and scrutiny by the agency. The audits cost the organizations tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of employee hours, and ultimately delayed the groups from receiving tax-exempt status.

Lois Lerner has been at the center of much of the investigation. According to National Review, Lerner exchanged e-mails with an attorney at the Federal Election Commission’s general counsel on two separate occasions wherein Lerner influenced the agency before the FEC’s vote in the case of a conservative non-profit organization:

The correspondence suggests the discrimination of conservative groups extended beyond the IRS and into the FEC, where an attorney from the agency’s enforcement division in at least one case sought and received tax information about the status of a conservative group, the American Future Fund, before recommending that the commission prosecute it for violations of campaign-finance law.

Likewise, further investigation into the scandal by the House Ways and Means Committee revealed that the Obama administration’s Treasury Department and Lerner conspired to create new 501(c)(4) regulations to restrict the activity of conservative groups.

The online Daily Caller reported, “The Treasury Department and Lerner started devising the new rules ‘off-plan,’ meaning that their plans would not be published on the public schedule. They planned the new rules in 2012, while the IRS targeting of conservative groups was in full swing, and not after the scandal broke in order to clarify regulations as the administration has suggested.”

The proposed rules would impose stricter standards on what qualifies as political activity, which would ultimately limit the practices of a number of non-profit groups.

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