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EDITORIAL: The real Lois Lerner exposed in newly released emails

Exchanges reveal an ugly American abroad out to bring down conservatives

- - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status had their applications denied by IRS bureaucrats who called them names like "crazies," "rabid" and other words that can't be printed in a family newspaper. The tax agency is supposed to be run by nonpartisan, career professionals, but the latest set of emails released by the House Ways and Means Committee suggest the agency is anything but.

Until the scandal erupted last year, Lois G. Lerner was in charge of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations. Congressional investigators have spent months sifting through her emails — the ones that didn't "go missing" — to find out why she or her superiors subjected Tea Party organizations to intimidating questions and delays while applications from equivalent left-wing groups sailed through without a problem.

President Obama dismissed all this as a "phony scandal" and said there was not a "smidgen" of corruption at the agency. He may have spoken too soon. The smidgens continue to pile up at the IRS. Ms. Lerner's own words betray not only a lack of professionalism, but deep partisanship. If investigators conclude that she used the resources and power of the government to carry out a political vendetta, that's the biggest smidgen yet. It's an impeachable offense for any government official involved.

If one thing is certain, it is that Ms. Lerner has little regard for taxpayers. While on a sightseeing trip in England in the fall of 2012, she didn't use a personal cellphone or pay international roaming rates for her personal calls and messages. She stuck taxpayers with the bill for her complaint that her "retention bonus" was being delayed. Ms. Lerner earned around $177,000 per year and had hit the statutory limit for her pay grade. "How silly," wrote Ms. Lerner. "They have to stop my retention pay because I made too much this year and will give me the rest next year in a lump sum." She knew how to game the system to extract the maximum amount of money from taxpayers.

Ms. Lerner was in Hampstead at the time, which she described as "an Edwardian English village, full of beautiful, huge houses — which have been ruined by letting the hoi polloi live there! These people have ruined everything with their equality push!"

Ms. Lerner told her correspondent that she thought it strange that the English people she met thought America was in decline without considering Great Britain. "They don't seem to see that they can't afford to keep up their welfare state, either."

Ms. Lerner's correspondent, who isn't identified in the emails, blamed the "whacko wing of the GOP" and "right-wing radio shows" for the state of the country. "Great," replied Ms. Lerner. "Maybe we are all through if there are that many [expletives] ... . So we don't need to worry about alien terrorists. It's our own crazies that will take us down."

Rep. Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, cited the emails in a terse letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. asking him to explain why his department has not taken seriously the committee's referral of criminal charges against the former IRS official. "This new evidence clearly demonstrates why Ms. Lerner not only targeted conservatives," wrote Mr. Camp, "but denied such groups their rights to due process and equal protection."

A special prosecutor can do what the Justice Department is unwilling to do.