WASHINGTON – Last week, Lois Lerner, head of the tax exempt division of the Internal Revenue Service dropped a bombshell: The IRS had been applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups claiming tax exempt status.
The revelation came seemingly out of the blue, in response to a question during a panel at an American Bar Association conference, leaving the audience baffled, according to reports.
As it turns out, it was not a spontaneous revelation. The question, said outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Friday, was planted, as part of a prepared strategy for the IRS to release this information to the public.
Under questioning from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Miller said it was a “prepared Q and A,” and the question, which came from tax lawyer Celia Roady had been discussed in advance as well.
Roady told U.S. News and World Report later Friday afternoon that Lerner had personally contacted her and requested she ask the specific question. Roady said she did not know at the time what Lerner’s answer would be.*
Later, Miller, questioned by Rep. Peter Roskam, explained that the disclosure had been made to coincide with the conclusion of the inspector general’s report.
Miller said he and Lerner discussed, in a what he believed was a phone conversation, whether “now that the TIGTA report was finalized, now that we knew all of the facts … did it make sense for us to start talking about this in public.”
Asked why he had not first reached out to the committee to tell them, Miller first said they had planned “to do that at the same time,” but that “did not happen.” He later said they “were reaching out to this committee at the same time,” and that they had “called to try to get on the calendar.”
“Is that all you got?” Roskam scoffed.
“It’s the truth,” Miller said.
*This post has been updated with Roady’s comments.