IRS’s Lerner Had History of Harassment, Inappropriate Religious Inquiries at FEC
4:45 PM, May 20, 2013
By MARK HEMINGWAY
Still, Lerner has her defenders in the government and the media. Shortly after the scandal broke, The Daily Beast published an article headlined “IRS Scandal’s Central Figure, Lois Lerner, Described as ‘Apolitical.’” Insisting Lerner, and the IRS more broadly, were not not politically motivated has been a central contention of those trying to minimize the impact of the scandal.
The trouble with this defense is that, prior to joining the IRS, Lerner’s tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was marked by what appears to be politically motivated harassment of conservative groups.
Lerner was appointed head of the FEC’s enforcement division in 1986 and stayed in that position until 2001. In the late 1990s, the FEC launched an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. The investigation was notable because the FEC alleged that the Christian Coalition was coordinating issue advocacy expenditures with a number of candidates for office. Aside from lacking proof this was happening, it was an open question whether the FEC had the authority to bring these charges.
All told the FEC deposed 48 different people—and that doesn’t begin to account for all the FEC’s requests for information. Bopp further detailed the extent of the inquiry in testimony delivered before the congressional Committee on House Administration in 2003:
One of the most shocking things about the current IRS scandal is the revelation that the agency asked one religious pro-life group to detail the content of their prayers and asked clearly inappropriate questions about private religious activity. But under Lerner’s watch, inappropriate religious inquiries were a hallmark of the FEC’s interrogation of the Christian Coalition. According to Bopp’s testimony:
Curious pattern: lengthy investigation costing the one investigated massive $$ and man-hours; open-ended document requests; deposing numerous people hardly peripherally related; incredibly inappropriate and nebulous open-eneded questions. FEC tactics against the Christian Coalition; IRS tactics against conservative and religious groups and individuals. “Interesting”, suggestive, pattern: one leadership person in common. Oh by the way … after months or even years of “investigation” … and spending hundreds of thousand of $$ defending itself … the Christian Coalition was … exonerated.