7 questions for Darrell Issa to ask Lois Lerner at Wednesday’s hearing

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has recalled embattled former IRS exempt organizations division head Lois Lerner to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Lerner’s apology for improperly scrutinizing and harassing conservative groups applying for non-profit status kicked off the IRS targeting scandal ten months ago, and Lerner has been stonewalling ever since (famously trying to invoke the Fifth Amendment the last time she testified but failing because she made a statement attesting to her innocence first). Her lawyer said she intends to “continue to assert her Fifth Amendment rights.”  Since she already waived them, Issa better not allow that.

If The Daily Caller was Darrell Issa (and at this point we really should be) here are seven questions we’d ask Lois:

1. Will you admit you lied when you blamed the Cincinnati office?

Lerner initially blamed the conservative targeting on “our line agents in Cincinnati” and former IRS commissioner Steven Miller said the targeting was initiated by two “rogue” Cincinnati agents. The New York Times quickly went to bat for the administration, writing a widely mocked piece about problems at the “backwater” Cincinnati office, which allegedly operated with little to no Washington oversight. But Lerner’s own emails debunked her claim.

“Tea Party Matter very dangerous… Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one… Cincy should probably NOT have these cases,” Lerner said in a February 2011 email.

“Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ (but) instead was hit by a convoy of Mack trucks,” wrote Cindy Thomas, former director of the IRS exempt organizations office in Cincinnati, in a May 10, 2013 email to Lerner.

2. How many offices targeted conservative groups?

Now that we know the wacky gang in Cincinnati wasn’t cooking up the whole scheme between Bengals games, trips to Oktoberfest and cups of Skyline Chili, we’re wondering how many offices received orders from Washington to “BOLO (Be on the Lookout).” By The Daily Caller”s count, there were at least five: Cincinnati, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Laguna Niguel, California, and El Monte, California.

3. How much did the IRS collude with Democratic political operatives and how involved was the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)?

“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in an email, responding to a complaint the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The IRS and FEC reportedly collaborated on conservative targeting.

4. So these new 501(c)(4) rules restricting the political activity of nonprofit groups: When did you start developing them and why?

Lerner and the Obama administration’s Treasury Department conspired to draft new 501(c)(4) regulations to restrict the activity of conservative groups in a way that would not be disclosed publicly, despite the IRS’ claim that the rules are meant to clarify regulations following the scandal. The Treasury Department and Lerner started devising the new rules “off-plan,” meaning that their plans would not be published on the public schedule. Emails about the developing rules date back to at least 2011.

“Don’t know who in your organizations is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off -plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting…,” Treasury official Ruth Madrigal wrote in a June 14, 2012 email to Lerner and others.

5. Provide every single communication between the White House and the IRS between 2010 and 2012.

Top Internal Revenue Service Obamacare official Sarah Hall Ingram discussed confidential taxpayer information with senior Obama White House officials, according to 2012 emails. Lerner also received an email alongside White House officials that contained confidential information.

Ingram attempted to counsel the White House on a lawsuit from religious organizations opposing Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Email exchanges involving Ingram and White House officials — including White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz and deputy assistant to the president for health policy Jeanne Lambrew — contained confidential taxpayer information.

6. How many IRS agents did you specifically order to target conservative groups, and why was the Special Counsel’s Office involved?

“In April 2010, Mr. Hull was instructed to scrutinize certain Tea Party applications by one of his superiors in Washington. According to Mr. Hull, these applications were used as ‘test’ cases and assigned to him because of his expertise and because IRS leadership in Washington was ‘trying to find out how [the IRS] should approach these organizations, and how [the IRS] should handle them,'” according to Oversight Committee documents.

“According to Hull’s testimony, Ms. Lerner… gave an atypical instruction that the Tea Party applications undergo special scrutiny that included an uncommon multi-layer review that involved a top advisor to Lerner as well as the Chief Counsel’s office,” according to Oversight Committee documents.

In August 2012, the “Chief Counsel’s office held a meeting with Mr. Hull, Ms. Lerner’s senior advisor, and other Washington officials to discuss these test applications.”

7. Who ordered you to target conservative groups?

We know you weren’t the highest-ranking bureaucrat on the food chain. Now, regardless of whether or not we give you the immunity your lawyers have been trying to get you,  you’re not going anywhere until you answer this question. Why don’t we make the lights a little brighter, turn up the heat in here, lock the ladies’ room door and put on the most recent Justin Bieber album. Go ahead and play it on repeat. We’re going to be here for a while. Ready to talk?

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