Lois Lerner under fire in new House Oversight Committee report

Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service, exercises her Fifth Amendment Right against self incrimination during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill on March 5. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Lois Lerner's decision not to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week hasn't stopped the committee's chairman,Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., from seeking to prove the former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official was involved in a scandal to target conservative organizations with extra scrutiny.

A 141-page report released by Issa and the committee's Republicans Tuesday concludes that Lerner "was extensively involved in targeting conservative-oriented tax-exempt applicants for inappropriate scrutiny." The report includes nearly 100 pages of emails and documents that aim to show Lerner had an overtly left-leaning political ideology that, combined with the public scrutiny of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision by "voices on the left," led her to develop a process to scrutinize and delay tea party groups' applications for 501(c)(4) status and later cover up that scrutiny.

"She was keenly aware of acute political pressure to crack down on conservative-leaning organizations. Not only did she seek to convey her agreement with this sentiment publicly, she went so far as to engage in a wholly inappropriate effort to circumvent federal prohibitions in order to publicize her efforts to crack down on a particular Tea Party applicant. She created unprecedented roadblocks for Tea Party organizations, worked surreptitiously to advance new Obama Administration regulations that curtail the activities of existing 501(c)(4) organizations - all the while attempting to maintain an appearance that her efforts did not appear, in her own words, 'per se political,'" the report says.

Issa's committee has been investigating the scandal for over a year, which has caused friction with the Democratic members of the committee. After Lerner was called before the committee and refused to testify against last week, there was an angry confrontation between Issa and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. As Issa adjourned the hearing - and cut off microphones -- following his repeated failed attempts to question Lerner, Cummings demanded a chance to speak and called the chairman "un-American."

"In the wake of Ms. Lerner's refusal to testify and answer questions, this report offers detailed evidence about steps she took to crack down on organizations that exercised their Constitutional rights to free political speech," said Issa. "She involved herself in efforts to apply unprecedented scrutiny to new applicants, existing organizations, and to write new rules after President Obama and other prominent Democrats expressed outrage at the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Finally, the report presents evidence that Ms. Lerner misled Congress about targeting and her own conduct."

But the report concludes that Lerner's testimony "remains critical to the committee's investigation."

"Her unwillingness to testify deprives Congress the opportunity to have her explain her conduct, hear her response to personal criticisms levied by her IRS coworkers, and provide vital context regarding the actions of other IRS officials," it says.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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