Former Illinois state representative Al Salvi, who ran as a Republican against Democrat Dick Durbin in his state’s 1996 U.S. Senate race, said that embattled IRS official Lois Lerner intimidated him in her then-capacity as a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) official and told him she would drop various complaints against him if he never ran for office again.
Lerner is currently on administrative leave from her position at the IRS, where she oversaw groups’ applications for tax-exempt nonprofit status, and where she admittedly targeted conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny.
Salvi told Illinois Review this week that he went head-to-head with Lerner after his 1996 electoral loss to Durbin, when she was head of the commission’s Enforcement Division. The FEC hit his campaign committee with a small handful of complaints related to a $1.1 million personal loan he made to his campaign in its final weeks.
Though a federal district court dismissed the case against Salvi, the FEC appealed it to the 7th U.S. District Court of Appeals, and featured Salvi’s case multiple times in the official FEC magazine.
Salvi said that Lerner offered to drop the case if Salvi agreed never to run for office again.
“She said, ‘If you promise to never run for office again, we’ll drop this case,’” Salvi said, noting that he thought Lerner was helping Durbin keep him out of Illinois politics in the future.
The case was eventually dropped in 2000, by which time Salvi had reportedly racked up nearly $100,000 in legal fees. A judge ruled that Salvi’s loan to his own campaign was completely legal, according to Salvi.
“I didn’t plead the Fifth,” Salvi, who went on to become a radio talk show host, told Illinois Review, a reference to Lerner pleading the Fifth Amendment in congressional testimony to avoid incriminating herself in the IRS scandal.
Durbin wrote a 2010 letter requesting that the IRS scrutinize the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups like Crossroads GPS.