- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the Internal Revenue Service’s tea party targeting scandal, tried to get her agency to conduct an audit involving a sitting U.S. senator, according to emails released Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ms. Lerner suggested that the IRS look into whether it was wrong for a group to pay for Sen. Chuck Grassley’s wife to attend an event where he was slated to speak. Her suggestion was shot down by another IRS employee who said the arrangement appeared to be legal.

But the email chain, which was turned over to Congress as part of its investigation, raises more questions about Ms. Lerner.

“At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights,” said Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Ms. Lerner’s attorney didn’t return an email seeking comment.

Congressional Democrats dismissed the latest emails, sending around a columnist’s take that played down the revelations as unimportant.

But Mr. Grassley said Ms. Lerner’s apparent fervor was worrisome.

“This kind of thing fuels the deep concerns many people have about political targeting by the IRS and by officials at the highest levels. It’s very troubling that a simple clerical mix-up could get a taxpayer immediately referred for an IRS exam without any due diligence from agency officials,” he said in a statement.

According to the email chain, a group — its name has been redacted — invited Mr. Grassley and Ms. Lerner to appear at an event.

But the group sent Ms. Lerner’s invitation to Mr. Grassley, and his invitation, which included the offer to pay for his wife to attend, ended up with Ms. Lerner.

After getting the corrected invitation, Ms. Lerner began to pursue the audit angle.

“Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?” she said in a Dec. 4, 2012, message sent from her BlackBerry device to several IRS colleagues.

One colleague, Matthew Giuliano, replied, “I think the offer to pay for Grassley’s wife is income to Grassley, and not prohibited on its face.”

He also said the IRS would need to wait for Mr. Grassley to accept the offer, attend the event and then determine whether he was issued a 1099 tax form.

“And even without the 1099, it would be Grassley who would need to report the income on his 1040,” Mr. Giuliano said.

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