Lerner is the director of exempt organizations whose failures are at the heart of the furor over indefensible criteria for selecting 501(c)(4) applicants for scrutiny. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report makes her bungling clear.
Lerner was, to be kind, dissembling on a conference call with reporters May 12 when I asked when and how she learned of the practices of the Determination Unit in Cincinnati. Lerner said she learned from news reports, but did not recall when, while the TIGTA report plainly shows otherwise.
As the IRS press office knows, this is not the first time Lerner has been called out for lying. Another reporter (whose reputation is rock solid) complained over a matter relevant to this issue. So too, this week, did Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, who told The New York Times “Lois Lerner lied to me” about the issue at hand.
Even worse, her incompetence got acting commissioner Steve Miller fired, albeit just short of his planned retirement. Miller was vulnerable because he told a Congressional hearing no one was singled out for extra scrutiny, which evidently is what passed up the chain of command to him from – Lois Lerner.
Even so, having the President of the United States address the nation on live television to say that the Treasury secretary has asked for, and obtained your resignation (which is how high level firing is done) is humiliating, especially when all the evidence so far indicates Miller had nothing to do with this.
And Lerner’s boss, Joseph Grant, the IRS commissioner for exempt organizations who was promoted just last week, will be out June 3, earlier than he planned.
So why is Lois Lerner still working for the IRS?
That Ms. Lerner put out the news about this issue in a bizarre way, at the American Bar Association’s annual May tax law conference, is itself worthy of scrutiny. Was Lerner hoping that her ring-and-run apology five days head of the TIGTA audit release would escape public attention? If so, it is another sign of her incompetence.
Did Lerner plant the question that Celia Roady, the Morgan Lewis tax lawyer, asked last week? (Roady told reporters at the time the question was not planted, EO Journal publisher Paul Streckfuss told me; Roady has not responded to my requests for an interview.)
Only a person lacking a sense of honor and integrity would cling to their job in the face of the horrendous damage caused to the agency they work for, to her superiors and to the welfare of the Republic if her mistakes prompt even more IRS budget cuts.
No one in this century has done more to breed disrespect for our tax system than Lois G. Lerner, undermining the public confidence on which voluntary compliance rests.
Lerner’s resignation should be as forthright as it should be immediate. No excuses. She should make an unqualified apology that states “I failed to do my job. I apologize for all the harm I have done. I will cooperate in every way with those who will, and should, examine every aspect of my indefensible errors in judgment.”
Anything less than that will only add to her disgrace.
Ms. Lerner, have you no decency? At long last, have you no shame?
David Cay Johnston, an American investigative journalist and author, is a specialist in economics and tax issues, and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting. His column was published originally on Tax Analysts.