Key IRS official retires after controversy

Posted at 9:21 PM, Sep 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-23 21:21:39-04

By Dana Bash. Kevin Bohn and Deirdre Walsh


WASHINGTON (CNN) — The woman who first confirmed the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted certain political groups is retiring, the IRS said in a statement Monday.

Lois Lerner, director of tax exempt organizations for the IRS, was placed on administrative leave in May, just weeks after she admitted the IRS was applying extra scrutiny to certain groups.

Her statements were followed by an audit with similar findings by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“We can confirm today that Lois Lerner has retired,” the IRS said in a statement. “Under federal privacy rules, the IRS cannot comment further on individual employee matters.”

Lerner drew fierce criticism from Republicans shortly after she admitted in a phone conference with reporters that the IRS had focused on groups with the names “tea party” and “patriot” in their titles. Over the summer, however, more investigations revealed that the IRS had also looked closely at groups that used the word “progressive.”

She appeared before the House Oversight Committee in May and stated she had not broken any laws or agency regulations. She then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions.

Her retirement came Monday as an accountability review board–which was created by IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel to investigate the issue–had completed its work and reached out to Lerner’s attorney to notify her they would be recommending her removal, according to Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

The same review did not find any political bias or willful misconduct.

Levin argued the latest review disproves Republican claims of outside influence to target groups based on political ideology.

“The basic overreaching premise of the Republicans that the IRS had an ‘enemies list’ and was being influenced from the outside has been proven wrong again, as it has again and again,” Levin said.

CNN requested a response from Lerner’s attorney, but has not yet received one.

House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa said Lerner’s departure “does not alter” his committee’s “interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs.”

“We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress,” he said in a statement, adding the committee is still interested in hearing her testimony.

CNN’s Ashley Killough and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

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