Curious: Lois Lerner discussed new IRS 'scrutiny' guidelines same month her emails disappeared

Former Internal Revenue Service executive Lois Lerner, once the head of the division which oversaw tax-exemption applications, spoke at a 2010 government conference where she joined former chief of staff to the IRS commissioner Nikole Flax, in discussing new guidelines the agency would use when scrutinizing applications.

According to a report via The Daily Caller’s Patrick Howley, Flax and Lerner both briefed federal bureaucrats on the new approach to vetting groups applying for tax-exempt status apparently amid a series of computer crashes that permanently deleted the emails of both IRS officials.

Both Flax and Lerner spoke at the February 18 – 19, 2010 non-profit legal and tax conference workshop on a panel entitled “Will the IRS Come Knocking?”

Lerner gave a luncheon speech at a morning session featuring workshops entitled “Current Developments Affecting Exempt Organizations” and “Will the IRS Come Knocking? What You Need To Know About IRS Audit Plans And Practices For Tax Exempts,” which was moderated by Washington lawyer and former IRS exempt director Marcus S. Owens. Lerner served as “government faculty” for the conference, according to a program obtained by The Daily Caller.

Flax, a frequent White House visitor, announced that 155 new employees were recently added to the Exempt Organizations office, and said that 100 of these employees would be working in the examinations office to audit nonprofit groups. Flax also announced the addition of new Washington-based “tax law specialists” to work on private-letter rulings for groups that would need renewal of their charitable tax-exempt status.

The IRS reportedly began to perform what they eventually admitted to be “inappropriate” targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status that same month. The IRS later claimed that many of the emails Lerner, Flax, and others sent between 2009 and 2011 were lost as a result of computer crashes and the subsequent destruction of IRS hardware.

Among the email communications between Flax and Lerner which the IRS did submit to congressional investigators was this exchange from May 8, 2013 – just days before Lerner admitted to undue targeting of conservative groups at an American Bar Association conference:

I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ. I know him from contacts from my days there. He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s could talk to about [Rhode Island Democrat] Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.

I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS. I am out of town all next week, so wanted to reach out and see who you think would be right for such a meeting and also hand this off to Nan as contact person if things need to happen while I am gone

“Translation: The Obama Justice Department was reaching out to the Obama IRS to see if it could “piece together” prosecutions of nonprofits even before any evidence of wrongdoing emerged,” observed National Review’s David French.

Flax replied:

I think we should do it – also need to include CI, which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?

If there was this level of coordination between Flax and Lerner in 2013 regarding the strict enforcement of tax law, it would be interesting to see how they corresponded in 2010.