Lois Lerner: Living Embodiment of Why We Should Stay the Hell Away From the IRS


Lois Lerner

Who was it who said, "everybody is guilty of something"? My high school principal, I think. Anyway, it's also a paraphrase of the warning contained in Harvey Silverglate's Three Felonies a Day, which points out that we go through our lives breaking a tangled jungle of laws, often unintentionally.

That makes us all vulnerable to prosecution on a whim—perhaps by the fine folks at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enforcing the country's vast and incomprehensible tax code.

That's why Judicial Watch's data dump of internal IRS documents suggesting that embattled former tax official Lois Lerner contacted counterparts at the Department of Justice about finding something prosecutable in the activities of conservative tax-exempt organizations is not surprising. Pick a spot in our society and dig deep enough, and eventually you'll find a crime. That's handy, if it suits your needs.

Then again, dig through bureaucrats' email trails long enough, and eventually you'll find something distasteful and nefarious.

Judicial Watch points, understandably, to the following exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-chief of staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller as particularly damning.

Sent: Wednesday, May 08, 2013 5:30 PM
To: Flax Nikole C
Cc: Grant Joseph H; Marks Nancy J
Subject: DOJ Call
Importance: High

I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ. I know him
from contacts from my days there. He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folks could talk to
about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement
cases about applicants who "lied" on their 1024s–saying they weren't planning on doing
political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ
is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.

I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS. I am out of town all next
week, so wanted to reach out and see who you think would be right for such a meeting and
also hand this off to Nan as contact person if things need to happen while I am gone —


Lois G. Lerner
Director of Exempt Organizations


From: Flax Nikole C
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 8:04 AM
To: Lerner Lois G
Cc: Grant Joseph H; Marks Nancy J; Vozne Jennifer L
Subject: RE: DOJ Call

I think we should do it – also need to include CI, which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does
it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?

Ultimately, as the scandal unfolded and ensnared much more than the "low level workers" originally blamed for the mess, no prosecutions materialized. But it's easy to see how focused interest by tax officials and federal prosecutors could have found arguable mismatches between organizations' conduct and some interpretation of a tax code that, notoriously, has no consistent meaning across the IRS. (Legal scholars debate whether the IRS should be required to adopt one interpretation of the rules and stick with it. That would be nice.)

The IRS scandal regarding tax-exempt groups actually poses a worse hazard the the thicket of unknowable laws that Silverglate warns about, since the tax code is essentially a moving target, applied in novel ways as it suits IRS officials.

Which means that everybody really is guilty of something, if you put in a little effort to find just that. And that's especially true if it's the IRS looking. That's all the more reason to stay as far away as possible from potentially hostile government officials wielding amorphous rulebooks.

NEXT: Nick Gillespie: How "The Rule of Nobody" Leads to Tyranny by Bureaucrat and Dumb Regulations

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  1. That makes us all vulnerable to prosecution on a whim?perhaps by the fine folks at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enforcing the country’s vast and incomprehensible tax code.

    This is a feature, not a bug.

  2. FAKE SCANDAL!!11!!!
    BUSHPIGS!!11!!! CHRISTFAGS!!!11!!!!!

    1. Damn, you beat me to it.

    2. And nothing esle will happen.

      1. Yeah. I read this and thought all criminal penalties should be tripled for government officials, then thought what penalties?

  3. That’s all the more reason to stay as far away as possible from potentially hostile government officials wielding amorphous rulebooks.

    I don’t understand this statement. Isn’t it the problem that hostile government official wielding amorphous rulebooks come looking for us?

    1. Yup. These rules aren’t generally a problem until one of the scumbag government officials decides they want to do something about it. They could just decide they don’t like your face–which I assume is common for you, Paul–and now they’re looking at you. And now you’re fucked.

      The worst thing you can ever do with a bureaucrat is to be in any way out of the ordinary to them. Ordinary? They just stamp the form and everything is according to the rules and it’s fine. But anything out of the ordinary, anything that confuses them or deviates from the rules even the slightest, and you’re in trouble. Because now you have their attention, and that’s the worst thing possible.

      1. anything that confuses them

        That doesn’t take much, since people who are conditioned to consult rules for everything tend to have little or no imagination.

  4. I hope the True the Vote people get more attention. They not only had the IRS after them, but (IIRC) the FBI, ATF, and OSHA.

    And it still galls me how Obama’s friggin’ campaign organization became a 501(c)(4) with no difficulty, but those Tea Party groups, why, they might endorse a candidate, and that would be illegal!

  5. The sad thing is, for a moment I thought I was reading my e-mails. The banal tone of bureaucracy doesn’t change much when you swap out the content.

  6. OT: I recently had the experience of being in an online discussion with Mike Godwin of Godwin’s Law. I was expecting someone wise and fair-minded, but unfortunately, showed himself to be a rude, self-important, uninsightful jerk. He’s all in favor of free speech… as long as it conforms with his leftist worldview. I now think he came up with his “Law” to shut down people who called him on his liberal fascist tendencies. (Which I didn’t, but they were pretty clear.)

    1. Do you think he saw the frequent reducto ad hitlerum arguments because of the views he espoused and projected it onto the internet at large?

      1. Yes. I thought the Law was just a high-minded attempt to keep the tone of discussions raised, but based on the way he argues, I wonder if he got tired of being called on the liberal fascist tendencies that “progressives” often have.

        But see below. It’s possible this is the wrong Mike Godwin.

    2. You’re sure you’ve got the right Mike Godwin? IIRC, there are two and one is jerkier than the other.

      1. This one is a lawyer in CA, writes on free speech issues, and is involved in open source. Is that not the one with the Law?

        1. Good chance that’s him. The other guy I’m thinking of is a polemicist but is not a lawyer.

        2. Good chance that’s him. The other guy I’m thinking of is a polemicist but is not a lawyer.

      2. Godwin of Godwin’s law occasionally writes here. He’s not exactly a hardcore libertartian (but certainly has some sympathies).

    3. I was expecting someone wise and fair-minded, but unfortunately, showed himself to be a rude, self-important, uninsightful jerk.

      You don’t say?

  7. Since paying taxes is voluntary, we can abolish the Infernal Revenue (dis)Service.

    Failing that, let’s make all these clowns wear old timey powdered wigs.

  8. Then again, dig through bureaucrats’ email trails long enough, and eventually you’ll find something distasteful and nefarious.

    And, in this case, illegal?

    1. Nope. All crimes are crimes against the state. So when someone is acting as an agent of the state, it is impossible for them to commit a crime. That’s like committing a crime against yourself. It can’t be done.

      1. It is both sad and terrifying that this is exactly right.

  9. Lois Lerner: Living Embodiment of Why We Should Stay the Hell Away From the IRS Dismantle the IRS and Reaffirm the Purpose of the Bill of Rights

    I think this is better headline, Two-Chilis, but that’s just me.

  10. Most want to stay away from the IRS. Only crazy people would deliberately fight them instead of pay them. Because that’s how terrorism works (inserted NSA code word). They are a terrorist organization because they work on fear and intimidation. Of course we should have a society that is not subject to fear and intimidation from a monopoly provider of protection. We should be able to pay for our basic protections as freely as we pay for our rent and food.
    But some people do resist the IRS. And some do get their money back, while others get in trouble. But you should be able to get all your paycheck withholding back, and some do. It apparently can get arbitrary. Their are hundreds of IRS campuses, and some enforce rules differently than others.

    For more information see my blog Nontaxpayers for Ron Paul

    1. Argh.

      Look. I like the idea that there’s some kind of magic invocation that would free me from the shackles of taxation, but the reality is, it does not matter what you say, or cite, or research. The IRS believes you owe taxes. The Federal Courts believe you owe taxes. And they are the people who will send men with guns after you if you do not pay your taxes.

      Even if there was a black letter law you could point to that stated, directly, that you did not have to pay taxes, the judge is vastly more likely to say “that’s clearly not what the people who passed that law meant” and sent you to jail for non-payment, than to agree with you that suddenly, no one needs to pay taxes. In 99,999 case out of 100,000, the government will side with the government.

      I’m not offering an opinion on whether your scholarship is correct or not. I’m saying that it does not matter, when the jackboot meets the head.

  11. I should have realized that something like this existed… But the implications of Private Letter Ruling are horrifying. It’s nothing short of tyrannical rule by edict bullshit.

    I guess my finances are neither complicated nor ample enough to be aware of this crap.

  12. THE IRS .. short for Irrational, Radical, Scum ..

  13. And everyone thought it was so wonderful that the IRS brought down Al Capone when no one else could.
    Slippery slope. Now it’s Martha Stewart.

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