In 2013, Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS non-profit section, pleaded the Fifth Amendment before the House Oversight Committee. She had been called to testify about her division’s unjustifiable harassment of conservative applicants for nonprofit status.
Just over a year later, it was reported that a number of Lerner’s work emails had gone missing due to a supposed problem with her hard drive. Then last month, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration testified that IRS employees — despite being under explicit orders not to destroy records — had “magnetically erased” as many as 24,000 of Lerner’s missing emails from hundreds of data tapes where they were being stored.
Whether the emails’ disappearance was innocent or not, the public is only now beginning to get more information about just what it concealed, thanks to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. Documents unearthed this week show that in Fall 2010, Lerner was working to get the Justice Department to prosecute nonprofits that engaged in political activity. This despite the fact that 501(c)4 groups, which cannot take tax-deductible donations, are permitted to engage in some political advocacy by law and by Civil Rights-era court precedents.
One newly uncovered memo describes an October 2010 meeting between Lerner, an FBI official and senior officials at the Justice Department criminal division that investigates public corruption cases. According to this memo, Lerner attempted to get them to go after groups that Lerner described as “political committees ‘posing’ as if they are not subject to FEC law.”