HONOLULU — Lois Lerner, head of the Internal Revenue Service’s exempt-organizations division, led a campaign of harassment against conservative and tea party groups that applied for tax-exempt status.
Now she’s out, allowed to resign Monday, after an internal-review board reportedly ruled she should be fired for “neglect of duties.”
Lerner has been on paid leave since an inspector general’s audit determined IRS officials inappropriately targeted groups for additional scrutiny on her watch.
On May 10, Lerner acknowledged and apologized for targeting conservative groups, but she maintained only a couple of rogue IRS agents in the Cincinnati office initiated the abusive behavior. Lerner refused to testify at a congressional hearing on the matter later that month.
The Honolulu Tea Party and Hawaii Tea Party on Maui were targeted by the IRS for additional scrutiny over the last two years, and joined a federal lawsuit filed by in May by the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, D.C., on behalf of nearly two dozen conservative groups across the country.
The 29-page lawsuit names the U.S. attorney general, Treasury secretary and IRS — including Lerner and other top officials — as defendants.
The ACLJ said the IRS harassment tactics were used in other offices, including at the headquarters in Washington. The organization obtained letters that show Lerner was personally involved in sending “invasive questionnaires” to 15 of their clients in March 2012, nine months after she said she learned about the scheme and pledged to stop it.
Adrienne King, head of the Honolulu Tea Party, said she is pleased Lerner has left the IRS and is no longer on paid leave, but she doesn’t believe enough has been done to address the situation.
King, an attorney, said IRS officials and the Obama administration still have a great deal to answer for.
She was angered when she got an inquiry from the IRS in 2012 demanding she provide detailed information on Honolulu tea party activities, materials, pictures, videos, names of speakers and attendees, as well as copies and recordings of speeches made during events. The IRS also wanted to know how the speakers were selected, how much time was devoted to each speaker and topics discussed.
The Hawaii Tea Party on Maui received a similar letter.
King believes the Obama administration overstepped its authority, violating the First and Fifth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act, and like other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, wants protection from “further IRS abuse or retaliation.”