Articles Obama Administration Taxes

Lois Lerner takes five

As a public service, I am presenting this transcript of the testimony we could have heard from the IRS official in charge of tax-exempt organizations.

After testifying before the House Oversight Committee that she did nothing wrong, IRS tax-exempt organizations director Lois Lerner said that she would not “answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of the committee’s meeting.”

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa pointedly told Lerner that she is uniquely able to provide testimony on how and why the IRS targeted conservative groups. Lerner took five, as criminal lawyers say. She responded by invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to answer any of the committee’s questions.

Imagine how the questioning could have unfolded on national television:

Q. “Are you the head and director of the IRS tax-exempt organizations division, and were you given that job because you are experienced and knowledgeable about the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(4), which governs tax-exempt entities for social, welfare, grassroots and other lobbying or issue membership organizations?”

A. “On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions before this committee on the grounds that the information I provide may tend to incriminate me.”

Q. “You are the head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division, and yet you cannot tell this committee whether you are familiar with the laws that you administer, laws that result in compulsory payment of money upon pain of criminal liability?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Do you know what 501(c)(4) organizations are permitted to do?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Are you aware that 501(c)(4) organizations may publicly educate on policy issues? That the law permits them to engage in direct lobbying? That they may mobilize their members for grassroots lobbying and campaign purposes? That they may make candidate-related expenses?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Do you realize that before 2010, the time frame for review and approval of IRS tax-exempt status was normally 3 to 6 months for a 501(c)(4) organization?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Were you aware that a presidential election would occur, and did occur, in November 2012?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Were you aware that your division was targeting groups that opposed Barack Obama’s policies and his re-election?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Do you know what the First Amendment of our Constitution says? Do you understand that it protects political speech and association? That these principles are at the core of our First Amendment protections? Do you realize that the IRS federal governmental program of targeting viewpoint organizations directly thwarts one of our most precious constitutional rights?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Do you know that the IRS is still holding up the applications for exempt status for dozens — if not hundreds — of conservative organizations? Do you realize this is a continuing problem?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “What changes have been made to return to the historic review process instead of the gross privacy invasions and First Amendment violations of these groups of engaged citizens?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Are you aware that, for conservative viewpoint organizations — but not for left-leaning organizations — the IRS review process involved lengthy and intrusive questions, such as ‘Provide details regarding all training you have provided or will provide’ and ‘Indicate who has received or will receive training and submit copies of the training material’? What do you believe is the legitimate basis for asking such intrusive questions? Why did you ask these questions only of conservative organizations?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “The IRS required one organization to detail how many small groups have been formed through the organization’s program and how many national organizations the group has formed coalitions with through the program. Why on earth would the IRS need to know this to grant tax-exempt status? Why weren’t other groups asked the same questions?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Are you aware that groups were asked for extensive information about their volunteers, including the number of their volunteers, the number devoted to each activity throughout the year and how many and what sort of resources the groups devoted to volunteer activities? What does this have to do with tax-exempt status? Were other groups asked the same question?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Why did you ask the targeted groups to provide a list of all issues that are important to them, and why did you require the groups to indicate their position on each issue? Do you believe the IRS is intended to function as the nation’s thought police?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Why, in contravention of the First Amendment’s protection of free association, did you seek comprehensive information about events and gatherings? Why did you seek information on rallies, educational events, discussion groups or similar events, including the date, location, nature of event and copies of all distributed materials? Why do you believe this is acceptable conduct for a federal agency?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Why did you ask for information about public rallies or exhibitions for 2012 and 2013, including the time, location and content schedule of each rally and event? Do you agree that demanding this type of information has a chilling effect on political engagement by citizens? Why would you need this information?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Why did you demand to know how the group would recruit individuals, how they would be trained, how many were trained and in what states and jurisdictions training would take place? What relevance could this have for a determination of tax-exempt status? Why were only conservative groups targeted for these inquiries?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Why did you ask groups to provide a list of contributors in 2009 through 2011? Did you intend to use such lists to target contributors? Would they become subject to IRS audits and harassment?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Are your employees civil servants whose salaries are paid by taxpayers? And yet, are they predominately devoted to the partisan objectives of the Obama administration?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “Was your pattern of delay, harassment and intimidation designed to influence the outcome of a national election?”

A. “I decline to answer.”

Q. “I have no further questions. The witness may stand down.”

First published on the Daily Caller in May 2013

About the author

Gayle Trotter

Gayle Trotter is a columnist, political analyst and attorney who regularly appears on TV, such as Fox News Channel, contributes to The Hill, The Daily Caller, Townhall and other well-known political websites, and is a frequent guest on radio shows across the country providing an insider’s view of Washington, DC. Read More

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