Lois Lerner, who was at the center of the IRS scandal involving improper targets of the Tea Party, will not be charged. The Justice Department announced that after a two year investigation, it’s shutting down the case and won’t charge Lerner or anyone else at the agency. The agency said it found “substantial evidence of mismanagement,” but mismanagement is not a crime. Just a few days later, House Republicans announced that they were starting impeachment proceedings against John Koskinen, Commissioner of the IRS, over the same scandal.
1. Her Answer to a Question at an American Bar Association Meeting Set Off the Investigation
Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, set off the two-year long investigation into whether the Tea Party was improperly targeted for tax exemption investigations by the IRS. At an American Bar Association meeting in May 2013, Lerner answered a planted question, apologizing for the IRS taking “absolutely inappropriate” actions in scrutinizing Tea Party members extra closely, ABC News reported. She said the scrutiny wasn’t centrally planned, but only came from the Cincinnati office. However, later reports found that IRS officials from Washington were involved in scrutinizing conservative groups more closely.
In a conference call in May 2013, she said that between 2010 and 2012, the IRS used shortcuts to identify some tax exempt applicants for closer scrutiny. Among those shortcuts were searching for terms like “Tea Party” or “patriots” in applications. She said the shortcuts weren’t politically motivated, NPR reported.
2. She Was Put on Leave in May 2013, Resigned in September 2013, And Was Held in Contempt of Congress in 2014
After the revelations, Lerner was put on paid administrative leave in May 2013. She formally resigned and retired from the IRS in September 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported. In 2014, she refused to testify to a Congressional committee about the tax exempt investigations. Congress held her in contempt, although she had invoked the 5th Amendment.
3. Backups of Her Subpoenaed Emails Were Erased, Prompting Questions About Whether It Was Intentional
In the continued scandal and investigations, Lerner came under scrutiny again because of her emails. The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed all of Lerner’s emails for the time period it was investigating. Her hard drive crashed, causing some of her emails to be lost, the IRS responded. Later, the IRS Inspector General said that backup tapes might have the missing emails. In June 2015, it was revealed that 424 backup tapes of her emails had been erased back in March 2014, after they had been subpoenaed, The Washington Post reported. IRS Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus said that he couldn’t find any evidence that the erasures were done to conceal information or destroy evidence. The IRS later said the emails were erased because of a “breakdown of communication,” ABC News reported.
4. The Justice Department Decided Not to Pursue Charges Against Her And Some Officials Said This Is a Huge Miscarriage of Justice
After two years of investigations, contempt of Congress filings and questions regarding deleted evidence, the Justice Department decided it won’t file any charges against Lois Lerner or any other officials, CNN reported. “Substantial evidence of mismanagement” was found, the department stated, but this was not politically motivated and mismanagement is not a crime. Even though the mismanagement disproportionately affected conservative groups, no evidence of criminal activity was found.
Darrell Issa, R-California and the former House Oversight Committee chairman, said this decision to not prosecute Lerner or others gives the impression that “government officials are above the law,” CNN reported. He said it was wrong to give Lerner a free pass. Rep. Paul Ryan has said his committee will continue to investigate. Other Republicans want a special counsel to be assigned to the case, Fox News reported. Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party, said the decision is a miscarriage of justice. Here is just one reaction from the many conservatives upset by the decision:
A few days later, House Republicans announced that they were starting impeachment proceedings against John Koskinen, the Commissioner of the IRS, based on the same scandal.
5. Lerner Is Married, Has Two Children, And Lives in a $2 Million Home
Lois Lerner is married to Michael R. Miles, an attorney. According to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, the firm where Miles works, Miles was an attorney with the IRS before joining the law firm. Miles and Lerner have two children, Laura Miles and Meredith Miles, according to the Hartford Courant.
Although Lerner’s specific net worth is not known, she does receive a $100,000 annual pension from the IRS, The Washington Post reported. She and Miles live in a $2.5 million, 6,500-square-foot home in Bethesda, Maryland. A 2014 article stated that she was having trouble finding work since she retired from the IRS. In the meantime, she’s doing a lot of gardening, walking her dogs, and volunteering as an editor.