Nothing says “trust the IRS” quite like the IRS planting questions at Bar Association meetings
When Lois Lerner was asked a question at an American Bar Association about complaints regarding treatment of conservative groups, and Lerner made the admission and apology, TPM noted IRS Official’s Admission Baffled Audience At Tax Panel:
The fateful question came from a tax lawyer, in a room filled with dozens of them. It came at the end of a Friday morning panel, on the second day of the American Bar Association tax section’s big annual meeting at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington D.C. The moderator had announced that it would be the panel’s last question.
“Lois, a few months ago there were some concerns about the IRS’s review of 501(c)(4) organizations, of applications from tea party organizations,” Celia Roady, a veteran tax lawyer, asked Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, a few minutes after Lerner finished giving prepared remarks. “I was just wondering if you could provide an update.”
The name of the panel was “News From The IRS And Treasury.” But few, if any, of those present could have anticipated the kind of news Lerner would make with her response to Roady’s question.
Lerner began by describing the increase in 501(c)(4) applications the IRS received between 2010 and 2012. IRS employees in Cincinnati, Lerner said, had reacted by centralizing the applications for efficiency and consistency, something the IRS did “whenever we see an uptick in a new kind of application or something we haven’t seen before.” But in this case, Lerner said, the centralization had not been carried out properly.
“Instead of referring to the cases as advocacy cases, they actually used case names on this list,” Lerner said, according to a transcript of the meeting. “They used names like Tea Party or Patriots and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate — that’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review.”
Why the sudden admission? Just coincidence, or an attempt by the IRS to get ahead of the pending release of the Inspector General Report? There was a strong suspicion that the question was planted based on the identity of the questioner.
Now we know. At the hearings this morning, Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller admitted Lerner knew about the question in advance, and that it was planned by the IRS (transcript and video will be added when available).
Miller testified that the IRS intended to tell Congress at same time, but admitted that the only thing the IRS did in that regard was to inquire as to Congress’s calendar:
Miller further testified “it might have been Lois Lerner” who contacted Celia Rhoady to ask the question at ABA meeting:
1 real revelation: Question to IRS's Lois Lerner Fri at ABA that prompted apology was a plant, planned in advance. Not inadvertent release
— Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) May 17, 2013
Rep. Roskam wondering why IRS heads revealed scandal at American Bar Association meeting.
— Reason247 (@reason247) May 17, 2013
MIller says he “has to look at notes” to answer a direct question.Roskam than asks him if he has notes and he answers “I don’t know”. #IRS
— Father Christian (@Ranger1325) May 17, 2013
Roskam hits richest target in Miller questioning: once IRS understood nature/scope of improper vetting, why not tell Congress immediately?
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) May 17, 2013
@leginsurrection Celia Roady, who asked the question, is a registered Democrat tax lawyer/lobbyist who investigated Newt Gingrich in 90’s.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) May 17, 2013
Lois Lerner testified before Ways & Means 2 days before staged disclosure but said nothing about Tea Party targeting 1.usa.gov/10VVSnl
— Jon Ward (@jonward11) May 17, 2013
UPDATE: A reader emails:
Four questions I hope you suggest representatives raise about Celia Roady:
1. When did Celia Roady find out about this?
2. Who told Celia Roady?
3. Did the ABA moderator, who announced this was the last question, also know? What if Celia Roady had not been called on? She apparently waited until the end to ask…quite a coincidence
4. Did Celia Roady use this knowledge to help any clients? She would had the inside information that the IRS was going to be taking major heat and face a ‘distraction’ after this news became public.