Lois Lerner, IRS official in tea party scandal, forced out for ‘neglect of duties’
Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS tea party targeting scandal, retired from the agency Monday morning after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to congressional staff.
Her departure marks the first government official to pay a significant price in the scandal, though Republicans were quick to say her decision doesn’t put the matter to rest and pointed out that she still can be called before Congress to testify.
Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the HouseWays and Means Committee, said an accountability review board set up to investigate the people at the agency involved with the scandal completed their review and were set to recommend Ms. Lerner’s ouster. The review board, though, found no evidence of political bias, he said.
Several congressional committees were examining her behavior and emails that seemed to suggest that she was looking for reasons to deny political groups approval for tax-exempt status.
Republicans said Ms. Lerner’s resignation, while a first step, isn’t the end of the scandal.
“We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”
But Mr. Levin, who called for Ms. Lerner to resign early on, said there is still no evidence of political motivation in Ms. Lerner’s actions or those of others at the IRS. He said Republicans are stretching to create a political scandal.
“The basic overreaching premise of the Republicans that the IRS had an ‘enemies list’ and was being influenced from the outside has been proven wrong again, as it has again and again,” Mr. Levin said. “Just as the IRS has to move with all deliberate speed to restore the public trust, so too must the Republicans by not distorting the investigation and by acknowledging the improvements.”
Also Monday, one marquee tea party group announced that it had reached a deal with the Obama administration to approve its application for tax-exempt status, ending a three-year ordeal in which it faced the same intrusive scrutiny that characterized the IRS efforts with regard to conservative organizations.
True the Vote, the Texas-based voters’ rights group, said the Justice Department and IRS agreed late Friday to approve the application for 501(c )(3) status as a charitable organization.
The group found out earlier this year that it was part of a batch of hundreds of applications that the IRS was delaying, and it sued to force the agency to approve its application.
The approval of the group’s application does not end the matter, said Cleta Mitchell, lead attorney in the lawsuit.
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