September 24, 2014

Lois Lerner, the Misunderstood Puppy Rescuer

After twice pleading the Fifth Amendment in Congress, Lerner emerged for an interview.

After twice pleading the Fifth Amendment in congressional hearings about the targeting of conservative 501©(4) groups, Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Division, emerged from the shadows and gave Politico a two-hour interview published Monday.

Politico’s Rachael Bade’s 3,700-word puff piece paints a glowing portrait of Lerner, the generous boss who baked brownies for her managers, put her babysitter’s son through college, and flew to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to rescue animals. We’d like to see what ended up on the cutting room floor, but considering that during the interview Lerner – in a scene reminiscent of Don Michael Corleone’s appearance before Congress – was flanked by her lawyer husband, Michael R. Miles, and three other attorneys, it probably isn’t worth the time.

Lerner denies any wrongdoing and she is sorry for nothing. She still claims to be apolitical and says her personal opinions “never affected my work,” although emails in which she lambastes conservatives as “crazies” and “a–holes” suggest otherwise. She complains that she has endured great personal harm, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for lawyer fees, lost her job, and because she is “toxic” cannot get another one.

But, unlike many pariahs, Bade writes Lerner “refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness for her role in the IRS tea party-targeting scandal.” Lerner bravely steps into the public square undisguised and – according to Bade – suffers the slings and arrows of passersby (though how many could even identify her is dubious). Presently, she spends her time as an art volunteer, walking dogs and suffering through long days cooped up in the couple’s $2.5 million hovel in Bethesda, Maryland.

Glaringly missing from the article is any mention of Lerner’s contempt of Congress citation in May. Nor does Bade address why Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has failed to bring Lerner before a federal grand jury to answer for that citation. Eric Holder’s Justice Department has a knack for making unpleasant things disappear.

Lerner excuses herself from any culpability in the curiously coincidental computer crash that allegedly lost damning emails from the period during which the targeting of conservative groups occurred. Lerner retorts, “How would I know two years ahead of time that it would be important for me to destroy emails … and why wouldn’t I have destroyed the other ones they keep releasing?” Yet the mystery of the crash remains. Surely the IRS maintains backup systems, and the emails must still be accessible somewhere unless someone went to great trouble to erase all the backups. Lerner would have faced these and other questions had she cooperated with Congress.

Bade goes to great length to paint Lerner as apolitical, but had she done her homework, she would have known and asked Lerner about her tenure at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as the associate general counsel and head of the enforcement office. Craig Engle, a Washington, DC, attorney who worked as the executive assistant to one FEC commissioner, says, “I’m probably one of the few people in Washington who really knows her whole career.” He describes Lerner as “a woman predisposed to back Republicans against the wall while giving Democrats a pass.”

Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard describes Lerner’s “politically motivated harassment” of the Christian Coalition. In 1994 Lerner led the FEC’s largest action in its history against the Christian Coalition, including investigating this shocking atrocity: At one point FEC lawyers demanded Lt. Col. Oliver North explain in a deposition why Pat Robertson was praying for him and why he later thanked Robertson. Five years later, the action was dropped.

Many other questions remain about Lerner, but she represents only a microcosm of a government agency gone rogue. The IRS code is 73,954 pages long, written in a dense government-ese that almost no one outside the IRS can comprehend. In a republic, Rule of Law is the fundamental promise of justice for all citizens, but we now have a system in which law is neither representative nor just. In a gigantic agency like the IRS, this atmosphere breeds little Napoleons such as Lerner who act out their own idea of law. Lerners will abound until the IRS and the other such bureaucratic behemoths are reined in.

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