April 10 - U.S. House of Representatives panel voted 21-12 along party lines to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress over her role in a 2013 IRS controversy targeting conservative political groups. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) A U.S. House of Representatives panel voted 21-12 along party lines on Thursday (April 10) to hold a former Internal Revenue Service officer in contempt of Congress over her role in a 2013 controversy involving IRS targeting of conservative political groups. Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, twice exercised her constitutional right not to testify about the affair before the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at public hearings on Capitol Hill. After almost a year of politically charged investigations, Republican committee members voted to approve a contempt resolution against Lerner, sending it to the full House for further consideration. Democratic members voted against it. The resolution read: "The Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee recommends that the House find Ms. Lerner in contempt for her failure to comply with the subpoena issued to her." As part of its required review of applications for tax-exempt status from politically active groups, the IRS applied extra scrutiny in recent years to groups with the words 'Tea Party' in their names, as well as some progressive groups. Lerner triggered a scandal over this in May 2013 when, in answer to a planted question from the audience at a legal conference, she publicly apologized for what she called "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups. Her unexpected statement set off a fire storm of accusations by Republican politicians that the IRS had targeted conservatives for unfair treatment. Investigations ensued and the acting chief of the agency lost his job over the matter. The committee's inquiry quickly took on political overtones, with Republican lawmakers and staff investigators trying to link the White House to the IRS's conduct, but without success. Lerner retired from the IRS in September 2013. Her attorney William Taylor said in an emailed statement that the contempt vote was the latest Republican effort "to keep the IRS story alive through this fall's mid-term elections." He said, "Ms. Lerner has done nothing wrong. She did not violate any law or regulation. She did not mislead Congress. She did not interfere with the rights of any organization to a tax exemption ... There is not a court in this country that will hold Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress." Democrats on the committee compared the Republicans' treatment of Lerner to the Communist witch hunts of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. "I cannot cast a vote that would place me on the same page of the history books as Senator Joseph McCarthy," said Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings at the hearing where the contempt vote was held. On Wednesday, another House committee voted, also on party lines, to ask the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecution of Lerner over the same matter.