Former Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner cited the Fifth…
Everyone in Washington has a P.R. machine, or at minimum, an agenda. That’s certainly the case with Lois Lerner, the former IRS executive whose division targeted conservative nonprofit applicants with delays and harassment.
Lerner’s division of the IRS systematically obstructed and denied status to Tea Party groups while subjecting many of the smallest ones those most vulnerable and least likely to be lawyered up to inappropriate demands for information that was not legally required. In one case, this included the content of the opening prayer recited in meetings, and in others, this IRS Inquisition demanded that leaders of certain groups pledge never to run for office.
Lerner is out of that business now, and on to a new campaign. This campaign, in which she has enlisted friends and former colleagues, aims to tell the side of the story that she has refused to give Congress under oath.
The resulting Politico piece includes this is no joke the revelations that she once baked brownies for colleagues and that she loves dogs. How delightful for her and the dogs! But so what? Lerner cited the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions about her involvement in this scandal. The reason for doing that is that she believes her answers could facilitate a criminal prosecution against her. The mysterious destruction of evidence in this case strongly suggests she is right to worry about that. So does her concerned email inquiry to government IT workers as to whether her instant messages with colleagues could ever be obtained by congressional investigators.
Lerner is willing to testify only in the news media, where the whole truth is not required and irrelevant information can be shared to make her seem less unsympathetic.
But Lerner’s complaints about her treatment, her inability to find a job to supplement her pension, and her legal bills fall flat. She and her attorneys complain that the disparaging opinions she once expressed by email about conservatives, later obtained by Congress, should not be used against her. It would be unreasonable, she and her defenders point out, to expect her not to have opinions.
She is correct, America is a free country where all may express their views. But then, that’s precisely why Lerner finds herself in so much hot water. Her IRS division used government power to suppress the political opinions of others to make private citizens unfree to express opinions she does not like.
If liberals are so irked that conservatives have freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to spend their own money on advocacy, there is a proper channel for their frustration. They can weaken or even abolish the First Amendment to the Constitution. Democrats tried this in the U.S. Senate earlier this month, and good for them it is the right of every elected official to take such a political risk, because voters can hold such officials accountable.
But it’s quite another thing for powerful, entrenched and unaccountable bureaucrats to abuse their power and attack others’ constitutional rights from deep within the intestines of the government. This is why Lerner now finds herself a pariah, and it’s also why she isn’t a victim.
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Cry us a river, Lois Lerner