Obama Justice Department Lets Lois Lerner Walk Free

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, October 23rd, 2015, 4:50 PM PERMALINK

In a Friday afternoon news dump, the Department of Justice announced that no IRS official -- including Lois Lerner -- would face criminal charges over the Tea Party and conservative group targeting scandal.

"The Obama Justice Department makes it official: the IRS can discriminate against tea party groups -- and they don't care," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Earlier this year a U.S. Senate report found that only one (yes, one) conservative group was granted non-profit status in the three-year time period between February 2009 and May 2012. The DOJ announcement dismisses the treatment of groups as mere “mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia."

Lerner’s personal political beliefs led to Tea Party and conservative groups receiving disparate and unfair treatment when applying for non-profit status, according to the report compiled by the Senate Finance Committee:

“Due to the circuitous process implemented by Lerner, only one conservative political advocacy organization was granted tax-exempt status between February 2009 and May 2012. Lerner’s bias against these applicants unquestionably led to these delays, and is particularly evident when compared to the IRS’s treatment of other applications, discussed immediately below.”

As the report notes, Lois Lerner became aware in April or May of 2010 that the IRS Exempt Organizations (EO) division had begun receiving a high number of applications from Tea Party organizations. But as the backlog of applicants increased, Lerner added “more layers of review and raised hurdles for applicants to clear.”

This “rigid and unorthodox process” meant that over the three year period, tea party and conservative groups waited a total of 621 years for the IRS to make a decision about their applications for tax-exempt status. As the report notes, many of these applications could have been decided far earlier, but were not due to decisions by Lerner. As the report notes:

“The unfortunate consequence of imposing this highly rigid and unorthodox process on EO Determinations was that many Tea Party applications that could have been decided in 2010 were not. Rather, those Tea Party applications unnecessarily languished for several more years, while the IRS mismanaged its way through a series of failed initiatives designed to bring the applications to decision.”

In contrast, progressive or non-affiliated applicants faced a timely review process. Indeed, the IRS was willing and able to quickly approve high profile non-tea party applicants:

“Although applications from the Tea Party and conservative organizations languished at the IRS, this was not the case for all groups that applied. In cases where the IRS wanted to act quickly, it did – particularly for other high-profile applications that attracted political attention.”

As the Finance Committee concluded, the process by which EO approved applications for tax-exempt status was clearly based on how closely an organization aligned with Lerner’s left wing views: 

“The IRS’s treatment of these organizations was almost universally consistent with Lerner’s personal political views – this is, supporting Democratic candidates and opposing conservative tax-exempt organizations that engaged in political speech. Conservative organizations that sought to participate in the nation’s political discourse, such as the Tea Party, drew the strongest ire from Lerner.”

Below are key findings from multiple investigations into the Lois Lerner Tea Party targeting scandal:

 

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