At congressional hearings today, it was revealed that IRS planted question at ABA mtg disclosing targeting of conservatives via communications between Celia Roady, a tax lawyer who asked the question, and Lois Lerner of the IRS who was on an ABA panel.  Roady has a deep background in tax exempt issues and once served as an expert in the House investigation of New Gingrich in the late 1990s.

Roady confirmed the arrangement after the testimony with TPM:

Celia Roady, a partner in the Washington D.C. office of Morgan Lewis and a member of the the IRS’ Advisory Committee on Tax-Exempt and Government Entities, said she got a call from Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, on May 9, the day before Lerner appeared on a panel at the American Bar Association tax section’s annual meeting.

“On May 9, I received a call from Lois Lerner, who told me that she wanted to address an issue after her prepared remarks at the ABA Tax Section’s Exempt Organizations Committee Meeting, and asked if I would pose a question to her after her remarks,” Roady said in the statement, obtained by TPM. “I agreed to do so, and she then gave me the question that I asked at the meeting the next day. We had no discussion thereafter on the topic of the question, nor had we spoken about any of this before I received her call. She did not tell me, and I did not know, how she would answer the question.”

But in a prior TPM report on May 14, attendees at the conference stated that Roady denied any prearrangement when questioned immediately after the Q&A which had shocked the audience:

“We all just sort of looked at each other and couldn’t quite understand,” Ellen Aprill, a professor at Loyola Law School who was in the audience, told TPM on Monday. “It seemed so odd that it was such a detailed response to the question rather than part of her prepared remarks.”

Paul Streckfus, the editor of EO Tax Journal, an online publication for exempt organization tax practitioners, told TPM he had been “dozing off” when Roady had asked the question, but had “jumped almost out of my seat” when he realized what Lerner was saying. (Streckfus recorded the panel and provided the transcript of Roady’s question to TPM.) Once Lerner had finished, Streckfus rushed up along with another reporter to question Lerner further, but she begged off….

It’s not unheard of for questions to be planted at events like Friday’s, but no one TPM talked to believed that Roady’s question had set up in advance. Both Aprill and Streckfus said they had asked Roady directly about the issue. Roady denied any arrangement.

“I know that some people in the audience thought it was set up, but I talked to Celia [Roady],” Aprill said. “It was not a set up. And I believe Celia. I’ve known Celia for years.”

I reached out to Roady, Aprill and Streckfus for comment, but have not had a response.

UPDATE 7:10pm EST: 

The following response was received via email from Ellen Aprill after this post went live:

“In light of information today, I now see that I must have misunderstood/misinterpreted her.  I think I asked her something like, “what just happened” and I think she responded along the lines “I was surprised.”  I thought she was referring to the whole interchange and she must have been referring to the specifics of Ms. Lerner’s answer.”

UPDATE 5-18-2013 2:50 p.m. — The following email was just received:

Bill, thanks for your email. I think I’m now up to 20 media inquiries about recent IRS developments, so I am a bit backed up

Unfortunately, I did not have my tape recorder with me when I saw Celia Roady on Friday, May 10, to which you reference. The panel had just ended and people were milling about and I was heading for the men’s room when I saw Ms. Roady talking to some people. I remember saying something to her about whether her question to Lois Lerner was a set-up, which was my initial assumption. I don’t know for sure whether she heard me in the confusion and I’m not sure whether the answer I thought I heard was in response to my question or to someone else’s. My best recollection is that she merely smiled when I asked her in passing if it had been a set-up. I usually always have my tape recorder with me at these meetings, but I don’t take it with me to the men’s room, as I don’t want to record those sounds. Hope this helps. Paul Streckfus.

NEW POSTWas Celia Roady, who asked the planted question, a victim of the IRS?