In March 2012, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) was one of twelve GOP senators who signed a letter to the IRS urging that, if it was going to conduct probes of Tea Party groups, it needed to act in an “even-handed and transparent manner.” In so doing, Grassley drew an IRS target on his back.
It took a while for the IRS to pull the trigger. Grassley is a strong supporter of the government integrity issues for which Judicial Watch fights. But in December 2012, Lois Lerner, the IRS’s former director of exempt organizations, saw her opportunity.
In early December, Lerner mistakenly received an invitation to a speaking event that was intended for Senator Grassley. The normal response for most people would have been to forward the invitation to Grassley’s office and go about her own business. However, Chuck Grassley had tried to interfere with the IRS’s targeting of Barack Obama’s enemies.
So, for Lerner, the normal response was to use the invitation as a weapon to bring down an enemy of the agency. And going about her own business meant attempting to target Grassley for an IRS audit.
“This isn’t random,” said Dean Zerbe, a tax lawyer who helped Grassley investigate tax-exempt groups and reform the law governing them. “This is going after the senator most active in conducting serious reviews of charitable organizations as well as the IRS work in this area.” Going after the senator was precisely what Lerner did, with all due haste.
At 11:09 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, December 4, 2013, shortly after intercepting the Grassley invitation, Lerner fired off an email to Matthew Guiliano, then a tax Law specialist at the IRS, suggesting, “Perhaps we should refer to Exam.” That referred to the IRS division that conducts audits.
Guiliano, at 12:27, emailed Lerner back, expressing some doubt as to whether Grassley had done anything wrong “on its face.” But, he added, “We need to wait for (l) Grassley to accept and attend the speaking engagement, and (ll) then determine whether [redacted] issues him a 1099. And even without the 1099, it would be Grassley who would need to report the income on his 1040.”
Fortunately for Grassley, he chose not to attend the event. And, in fact, he only learned of Lerner and Guiliano’s sinister machinations in June of this year when the House Ways and Means Committee released a batch of emails it had garnered from the IRS containing the Lerner-Guiliano exchange. Lerner’s eagerness to use misdirected mail as an excuse to target an IRS critic who is a sitting U.S. Senator should erase all doubt that her Tea Party targeting was not innocent.
“We have seen a lot of unbelievable things in this investigation, but the fact that Lois Lerner attempted to initiate an apparently baseless IRS examination against a sitting Republican United States Senator is shocking,” said Camp. “At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights. We may never know the full extent of the abuse since the IRS conveniently lost two years of Lerner emails, not to mention those of other key figures in this scandal. The fact that DOJ refuses to investigate the IRS’s abuses or appoint a special counsel demonstrates, yet again, this Administration’s unwillingness to uphold the rule of law.”
Don’t think that other members of Congress aren’t worried that they will be targeted by the IRS in retaliation for tough questions. This is why independent inquiries by Judicial Watch, through the federal courts (see above), are not only essential, but effective.