Barack Obama’s insistence that the IRS scandal of targeting conservative political groups contained “not even a smidgen” of corruption may get tested this week, as new information comes out about why Lois Lerner may have taken the Fifth in a Congressional hearing. According to a memo released by the House Ways and Means Committee, Lerner worked secretly with Treasury to create new 501(c)(4) rules that would have made such targeting even easier — without letting the public know about it. Fox News reported this morning that the committee plans to take this matter up pronto, while the panel’s Democrats object to the line of inquiry:
The Daily Caller had the story late yesterday:
The Obama administration’s Treasury Department and former IRS official Lois Lerner conspired to draft new 501(c)(4) regulations to restrict the activity of conservative groups in a way that would not be disclosed publicly, according to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
The Treasury Department and Lerner started devising the new rules “off-plan,” meaning that their plans would not be published on the public schedule. They planned the new rules in 2012, while the IRS targeting of conservative groups was in full swing, and not after the scandal broke in order to clarify regulations as the administration has suggested. …
The rules place would place much more stringent controls on what would be considered political activity by the IRS, effectively limiting the standard practices of a wide array of non-profit groups.
“Don’t know who in your organizations is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off -plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting…,” Treasury official Ruth Madrigal wrote in a June 14, 2012 email to Lerner and others obtained by Ways and Means and provided to The Daily Caller.
The Wall Street Journal has more, and notes that the IRS and Treasury hadn’t tried changing the 501(c)(4) rules in more than 50 years before Lerner tried doing it secretly (via Rick Moran at the American Thinker):
House committees are still digging into the IRS political targeting scandal, and based on a hearing Wednesday there’s more to learn. The day produced more evidence blowing apart President Obama’s claims that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” or political motivation in the IRS handling of groups applying for tax-exempt status. …
The email cites a blog post about the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups and reads: “Don’t know who in your organizations [sic] is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off-plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting.”
Interesting for sure. The IRS typically puts out a public schedule of coming regulations, and Mr. Camp noted that in this case “off-plan” appears to mean “hidden from the public.” He added that committee interviews with IRS officials have found that the new 2013 rules were in the works as early as 2011, meaning the Administration has “fabricated the rationale” for this new regulation.
Mr. Camp added that everything his committee has discovered contradicts the White House argument that the IRS scandal was caused by legal “confusion.” The current rules governing 501(c)(4)s have existed, unchanged, since 1959. Prior to 2010 the IRS processed and approved tax-exempt applications in fewer than three months with no apparent befuddlement.
Why the sudden interest in changing a regulation that had been in place for more than 50 years? Better yet, why the need to do so in secret?
Fox News had more on these smidgens last night, too:
This goes way beyond “boneheaded decisions” by a few low-level employees.