Why aren't heads rolling at the IRS?

Getting rid of incompetent -- or dishonest -- government officials shouldn't be this hard.

By Jonathan Berr May 24, 2013 1:42PM
File photo of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington, D.C., on April 6, 2011 (© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Why does Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the scandal over the agency's targeting of Tea Party groups, still have a job? Somehow she has hung on even though she has created a nightmarish public relations disaster for the agency -- and now stands accused of misleading Congress.

Lerner was placed on administrative leave Friday, one day after refusing to answer questions before a congressional committee investigating the IRS' action. Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel asked her to resign, but Lerner refused, according to an account Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, gave the Washington Post.

For now, Lerner, who has worked for the government for 34 years, will continue to collect her salary and benefits despite some members of Congress believing that she lied to them. They also were steamed that Lerner originally disclosed the Tea Party targeting by having a friend ask her a question about it during a news conference.

Moreover, Lerner's version of the story of how the IRS came to target Tea Party groups has earned a "bushel of Pinochios" from the Washington Post's Fact Checker. She had argued that the agency was inundated with applications from groups seeking so-called 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status in 2010, but the "real jump" in applications didn't occur until after the IRS began targeting conservative groups.

Though members of Congress are pressing for "heads to roll" at the IRS, including Lerner's, that might not happen. Most workers who did the targeting are covered by civil service protection for federal employees that could make it difficult to terminate them. As Politico pointed out, no federal workers have been reprimanded yet in connection with the targeting.

To be clear, a legitimate concern applies to 501(c)(4) groups, which are supposed to promote social welfare, though it's not clear what that actually means. A column in The New York Times called the IRS scandal "at best stupid, and at worst alarming." But even gross incompetence doesn't excuse Lerner's actions or those of the IRS employees who used political considerations to improperly target groups.

As respected tax journalist David Cay Johnston recently noted: "Only a person lacking a sense of honor and integrity would cling to their job in the face of the horrendous damage caused to the agency they work for, to her superiors and to the welfare of the Republic if her mistakes prompt even more IRS budget cuts."
Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when lawmakers tried to question her Thursday. Some, such as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who heads the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have argued that she waived her right against self-incrimination by denying all wrongdoing.

One thing's for sure: This scandal isn't going to blow over as soon as President Barack Obama would like.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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May 24, 2013 3:14PM
Why aren't head rolling at the IRS you ask? That's easy, because there is no rule of law left in the country. Why isn't John Corzine in jail? or Lloyd Blankfein, or Angelo Tanzilla or _________ (your favorite here.) Face it, there are two sets of laws one for the little people and another that does not apply to Bankers, Politicians, or Corporate insiders. Next question?
May 24, 2013 3:56PM

Heads aren't rolling because 90% of the media is complicit and not demanding accountability. 


A vast majority of Americans probably haven't even heard about the scandal because news headlines are about gay boy scouts, Angelina Jolie's lady parts, and North Korea shooting off bottle rockets.

May 24, 2013 3:05PM

OK ---You ask her to resign and she says no//////////   Just tell her not to let the door hit her in the ****

as she is escorted out of the building/////////////// YOUR FIRED///////// Donald Trump style/////////////

May 24, 2013 2:14PM
The government is like wall-street, accountable for NOTHING!  Made it pretty easy to build the DC-wallstreet oligarchy.  Now they are strengthening the DC-Medical oligarchy foundation and putting the IRS as acting cops on the beat.  Land of the free?
May 24, 2013 3:10PM
I think soon, she'll be in charge of the DNC for the good work she's done at the IRS.
May 24, 2013 6:08PM

This is totally expected. For the last twenty years all hiring and promotions within the IRS was based totally on race (not white) and gender (not male). Hiring without any consideration of ability ends with this type of action. I bet 95% of IRS employees voted for Oboma, so they would use their jobs to protect him

May 24, 2013 3:49PM
Like with the big banks that committed large scale fraud, the IRS will do little to nothing to solve the issue. Giving someone paid leave instead of putting them in jail does not discourage the behavior
May 24, 2013 9:38PM

To almost quote Richard Nixon, the American people need to know their President isn't a crook. Well, we know how that ended. Do we really want to believe that the IRS did these things and white house aids knew of it, but not BO? Our US embassy in Benghazi comes under attack and there's not even a standard US Marine detachment at that embassy to defend it, AND no help is sent? Somali pirates snatch up ship after ship and the world is powerless is stop it or send troops in there to clean the place out? A few strategic air strikes might make them think a tad harder about the next ship. BO pulls Holder's strings and the DOJ jumps? To say it plain----things just aren't right. It's far more than just the IRS. The IRS is a symptom not the problem. The problem is our lack of control of the place. Years ago when there was talk about IRS control, congress didn't want to touch it. They were afraid of an audit, AND the IRS is going to monitor the ACA. This will be cute.   

May 24, 2013 2:50PM
How come our elected senators and representatives aren't fired---they write the tax laws, right?  The IRS carries out the code with over 14,000 pages w/4 million words and growing.  Legislative aides do the writing. 
May 24, 2013 4:08PM
This is a scandal and should be investigated. The problem is that too often the Executive branch is not accountable for their actions. Just like the Iran-Contra this scandal will be blamed on some lower level person and the people responsible will not be held accountable
May 25, 2013 6:48AM
May 26, 2013 8:21AM

Will someone tell Obama the  Sgt. Schultz defense, "I see nothing, I hear nothing, I know nothing", Only makes the imbecile Obama look even more inept than he is.


He is either the dumbest, most inept President in the history of the Republic or he is corrupt far beyond Nixon.  Which is it?

May 25, 2013 9:01AM
May 24, 2013 3:55PM
Until the punishment for crimes outweigh the gain of doing them this kind of corruption will continue to occur in government and in business. The DOJ instead of prosecuting fraud "taxes" fraud with small fines that represent a fraction of the money made. Why would anybody follow the rules when the punishment for not following the rules are to pay a small fraction of what you made by breaking them or being put on paid leave like with Ms. Learner
May 25, 2013 2:35PM

Democrats ordered these Audits of campaign donors and Obama enemies.  More will come out.  He not only knew, like Nixon, he ordered it, and is lying about it.


Otherwise, just pull the audits and FIRE everyone that did them, then their bosses, strip them of their pensions and send them to jail.  Then we can investigate who leaked tax returns.  More Felonies. 



May 25, 2013 2:46PM

The I.R.S., Benghazi, D.O.J.and A, P. and Fox scandals are all the more reasons for smaller government and term limits. Obama, H. Clinton, Holder, and Lerner are creating plausibility and deniably to all questions referring to these scandals. As a supervisor, (since retired), I was held responsible for all workings (good or bad) of my subordinates. It was my JOB to know the answers of every detail of their performances in my department for this was called leadership and supervision. If "I didn't know"...the policy was an investigation with possible termination. Not knowing these answers would be considered Derelict of Duty and/or Negligence and inexcusable. This being said, to have these officials claiming "I don't know" to the Congressional Committee is an outrage to the American People with or without knowledge of the incidents brought forward and they should be held accountable. Denying security, ordering a Stand-down to military personnel for protection of Americans when protection was needed , "Targeting " organizations for political gain, abusing subpoena powers of records to probe the press for information, and the abuse the Constitution is unacceptable of ANY official holding the trust of the American people.

As President Truman said "The buck stops here." Obama, Clinton, Holder , Lerner and any other supervisors involved should all be held accountable to include termination and jail time for all these incidents. The people want the truth and the questions answered. This is unacceptable workings of our government and the overreaching needs to stop.

May 25, 2013 9:19AM
We must change our laws in order to change our government.  Civil servants are almost impossible to fire.  That needs to change.  They can do anything they want and keep their jobs.  That fact encourages bad behavior.  Look at all the parties they have that we pay for!  Look at Lerner.  We pay her salary, but she doesn't answer to us for any illegal, improper, or disgusting behavior.  Change the laws, fire the you know what!
May 24, 2013 2:53PM
Hey guys let's change our name since the IRS is coming after everyone with "tea" and "less taxes" and "patriots."  I make a motion that we change our name from the "Tea Party Patriots for Smaller Government and Less Taxes"  to "The He-Man Barry Obama Haters (no democrats allowed)."
May 25, 2013 9:59AM
better get used to it. big brother and his gestapo thugs are here and they are here to stay.
May 27, 2013 12:00AM
The Corrupt Obama Administration is Protecting Her... even the Liberals Admit IT.  Wake up America!
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