The Problem Isn't That Lois Lerner Doesn't Like Conservatives, It's That the IRS Gave Her a Weapon Against Them

Lois Lerner isn't the problem. The power of the IRS-and so many other government agencies-is a bludgeon that will inevitably be used by almost anybody who gets their hands on it.


Lois Lerner

It's no surprise that Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whose name is now eternally connected to politically motivated abuse of the tax agency's powers, doesn't like conservatives. She's a registered Democrat who explicitly targeted tea party groups during her tenure at the IRS. So the release by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) of emails from 2012 in which she referred to conservatives as "rabid," "crazies," and "assholes" (the "ass" is inexplicably redacted, but I think we can assume) isn't a shocker.

It is interesting, though, that she reacted to overhearing Britons discussing America's financial straits by pointing out that "they don't seem to see that they can't afford to keep up their welfare state either."

But many people have strong political opinions, whether or not they stupidly express those thoughts in emails sent through government accounts. She would have still held those beliefs if she'd confined herself to GMail—or kept her trap shut entirely.

And many of her critics have expressed similar feelings about liberals. Or about both liberals and conservatives (*cough* *cough*).

Strong political preferences are almost certain to be held by people holding government office. That isn't a reason to go looking for rare candidates who have managed to develop the competence to perform a responsible job without, somehow, acquiring political preferences.

Because there's almost certainly something seriously wrong with such people.

The proper response to the "revelation" that people have political biases is to make sure that they can't wield government power against those they don't like. If the people who are going to hold position in government are going to be biased, which is to say, actual human beings, then those positions shouldn't inherently represent weapons to be used against the opposition.

Lois Lerner isn't the problem. The power of the IRS—and so many other government agencies—is a bludgeon that will inevitably be used by almost anybody who gets their hands on it.

NEXT: Robby Soave: Amash's Likely Primary Win Will Vindicate Libertarian Politics

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Loved seeing this story linked on Drudge. The comments board served to prove her 100% correct in her assessment.

    1. Drudge has a comments board?

      1. Many of the sites he links to do. Go to one and disabuse yourself of any faith in humanity you might have.

        1. Speaking of commenters who disabuse me of any faith in humanity….

        2. I would, but I’m too busy basking in the purity of intellect, sweetness, and light that shines directly out of Salon comments.

          1. No equivalence, and if you think there is you haven’t been to the Drudge cesspool.

            1. No equivalence

              Didn’t not more then a few days reveal your seething hatred of all humanity?

    2. You missed the *cough, cough*. As expected. No one is NOT agreeing that the right is whacky, Tuccille’s just saying that WMD shouldn’t be used on opponents (i.e. IRS over-scrutiny). Why I even remember in these pages, writers pointing out right-wing Republican abuse of IRS powers. Your comment is nq and/or tq all the way.

      1. My point is totally relevant. Lois Lerner is a fantastic judge of character and probably the best person to put in charge of determining whether claimed non-profits are actually obvious political outfits.

        1. BWA HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

          Oh God! It’s so funny, Tony, when you shit yourself and reveal your stereotyping, backward prejudices and lack of education to the world.

          Lots of people get angry at your almost medieval backwardness, but I find it really, really funny.

          1. I fail to see how you’ve figured out shriek is a sockpuppet but not this one.

            1. I think the preponderance of evidence is that Tony isn’t a single commenter expressing sincerely held ideas or beliefs.

              I am not sure whether he is a sock, a troll, some sort of performance art, a caricature, or a honeypot for people with very particular sexual appetites.

              For the most part, I act as if he is an individual, for the sheer joy of rebutting him, kind of like a good ball player hitting home-runs off of a pitching machine, and on the off chance we really have a superstitious, racist yokel who is incapable of thinking above a 5th grade level and just keeps spouting the same bigoted envious filth because he doesn’t want to every grow up.

              1. I think he’s a Media Matters troll who gets 25 cents for every post here.

              2. Tony is real.

                1. His “voice” does change pretty dramatically from one set of posts to another. Not sure he’s just one human being.

        2. What exactly about her character judgement capability has anything to do with her ability to determine the status of non-profit claims?

        3. That is a seriously fucked up statement. I generally never wish ill on anyone, but for that kind of stupidity I do hope that Tony is someday subject to the kind of petty tyrant that Lois Lerner is.

          1. What like you and all the horrific abuse you’ve suffered at the hands of liberal bogeymen? I was being facetious in that particular instance.

            1. liberal bogeymen

              The following are not fictional:

              DOE (both)

              And before you say they’re not associated with liberals, you can identify the ones you would abolish and whose missions you believe are not legitimate functions of government.

              1. You’re being oppressed by not eating poison and breathing smog?

                1. There was clean food before the FDA and clean air before the EPA.

                  Every action taken by these agencies impacts some portion of the population.

                  Banning a food oppresses foodies.
                  Banning a drug oppresses the sick.
                  Banning a factory oppresses its workers.
                  Banning an industry oppresses its customers.

                  Of course, to a person such as yourself, it is better that people go hungry, or stay sick, or be dependent on welfare, or suffer than have the freedom to make choices for themselves.

        4. determining whether claimed non-profits are actually obvious political outfits.

          Unless they are applying for charitable 501(c)(3) status, whether they are political or not is pretty irrelevant.

          I am fascinated, by the way, with the idea that a good judge of character can actually judge character based on a paper application.

        5. Exactly. I bet she would have been great at helping Democrats find and stop all the illiterate voters back in the day.

          Yes, ok, she might have a pretty high false positive rate on all the white illiterates, and yes, it is strange how all the applications from the literate blacks got lost until after the election, but still, you can’t expect perfection.

      2. So who comprises “the right” that is uniformly wacky?

        1. You’re clearly not thinking circularly enough.

  2. Can you imagine Kissinger or Stockman or James Baker writing such childish notes to their buddies?

    These people are morons. They can’t express themselves coherently. They probably can’t even rationally reason their way through things.

    They may be inside adult bodies, but the minds are those of children.

    1. You are comparing pomegranates to mangosteens. IRS is lower-grade. Jes’ sayin’. (although not in power over the avg citizen, granted)

      1. Bluntly, anyone in my company older than the age of 30 expresses themselves more professionally and eloquently in their emails to each other….

        A person who wrote like that would not be hired at the end of their trial phase, let alone promoted to management.

        1. In Lois Lerner’s case her partisan hackery is her only qualification. For the Obama’s and Tony’s of the world, that’s more than enough.

      1. Damn, squirrels ate the comment.

        Basically, sending out this stuff on your work email shows that you view your office as a club to beat your ideological opponents with. And then people like Tony wonder why the joys of hyper-scaled government aren’t more widely supported.

  3. Strong political preferences are almost certain to be held by people holding government office. That isn’t a reason to go looking for rare candidates who have managed to develop the competence to perform a responsible job without, somehow, acquiring political preferences.

    it shouldn’t be detectable. besides being against the law, it’s extremely unprofessional.

    1. Yeah, this.

      Kind of a “pride point” of actual, y’know PROFESSIONALS.

      Which hacks like Lois Lerner are. Not a professional. A hack.

      1. Yep. As a libertarian, I have strong views about government money-pots.

        As a hospital lawyer, I keep those views to myself as we go about emptying those money-pots.

        1. Precisely. Politics is only shared with exceptionally-trusted colleagues on personal time, and rarely. And it does NOT enter into doing my job.

          I have to support lots of shit – actively – in my job with which I disagree utterly, including, but not limited to: affirmative action, Equal Employment, NLRB stuff, various touchy-feely “diversity” initiatives the company pushes, playing nice with the union, etc. etc.

          They PAY me to ensure compliance with those things and do those things, so I do it. Cause it’s my job. And I do it well. When I go home….I actively work against all of those things.

          Just a couple years until I retire, and I can stop whoring my principles for the almight dollar 🙂

          1. It’s Eichmann’s all the way down.

  4. And many of her critics have expressed similar feelings about liberals.

    What about the left?


    Can reason writers get around to stop calling the left liberals? Jesus it is not as if you guys actually think a person like Lois Lerner is in any way shape or form a liberal.

    1. What’s your definition of a liberal? If you’re claiming the left has gone full statist and should now be called progs instead, I’d probably agree, but all the liberals I know are full up statist so they are probably interchangeable.

      1. Liberal/lefty/prog – I’m sure there are distinctions that matter if you are interested in fine distinctions amongst crypto-Marxist neo-fascists.

        But I’m not. They’re all progs to me.

        1. I can distinguish a liberal from a prog. I can work with a liberal on civil rights/cop abuse/etc issues. The lefties that support civil rights abuse or cop felating are progs.

      2. The ACLU are mostly liberals, for one. Liberals might be shit on policy, but they’re still pretty good on a good chunk of the negative rights, particularly the political rights. You can treat Citizens United as a shibboleth for distinguishing liberals from progs and socialists.

        Liberalism in the broadest sense (true modern left liberals and classical liberals alike) is pluralistic — progs and socialists are totalitarian. Liberals can play nice with other ideologies, so long as they abide by a few ground rules. Progs’ cultural expansionism, arrogance, and hunger for power will inevitably cause them to need to discard such rules and will drive them into conflict with not every other ideology but every other variant of prog.

  5. I would quibble (just bitchin’ to be bitchin’, here) with the statement that Lois isn’t the problem. She’s not the only problem, but her personal willingness to abuse power and lie about it is most certainly a serious problem.

    1. This is a fair point well made.

      1. Tony, when she took the 5th when called to testify one of two cases was true:
        1) She had committed acts that she truthfully thought were criminal.
        2) She was committing perjury.

        Her behavior is only consistent with the knowledge that she was guilty of some very heavy misconduct. And given her well documented history of attempting to suppress politicians and political organizations whose policies she disliked at the FEC, at this point calling the abuse of power at the IRS and allegation is like calling William Tennet and alleged torturer.

        1. 3) Her lawyers rightly urged her not to participate in a Republican circus.

          Speaker Boehner said “I want to see someone go to jail.” Since he and head kangaroo Darrell Issa were determined to find wrongdoing whether there was any or not, she was absolutely correct to protect herself and not to participate in what was, from the outset, a witch hunt rather than an attempt to find the truth about any wrongdoing–which they haven’t.

          1. 3) Her lawyers rightly urged her not to participate in a Republican circus.

            Then they should be disbarred. A lawyer, as an officer of the court, knows the rules, one can only plead the fifth in cases where one’s testimony will implicate one in a crime.

            It doesn’t matter if the hearing one has been subpoenaed to is a circus. The laws are abso-fucking-lutely clear on this principle.

            Toi the point where people who have tried to invoke the fifth have gone to jail where either they had immunity, or it was shown that their testimony would not implicate them in a prosecutable crime.

            These incidents have tended to happen when people are called to testify before grand juries, which in this day are just as much a circus as congressional hearings.

            1. Jesus Christ. This coming from “don’t trust the government!” people.

              Let’s pick apart how ludicrous this is. On the one hand, you’re absolutely convinced that a government agency, the IRS, is targeting people for their political views.

              On the other hand, Lois Lerner pleading the Fifth (as is her goddamn constitutional right) because the government (this time Congress) might target her for persecution, is obviously evidence of her guilt.

              Do we sense a disconnect? You can plead the Fifth even if you’re innocent because what the truth is and what government might decide the truth is could be different things. As I said, she was protecting herself from a witchhunt. Which you are acknowledging the government is perfectly capable of engaging in.

              1. Once again, Tony, we aren’t arguing about what the law should be. I am telling you what the law is. I agree that it is absurd. And the law is clear: only if Lois Lerner truly believed she had committed a crime can she plead the fifth.

                And her and her co-conspirators risible claims that there are no email records because they accidentally destroyed them are but one of many signs that she wasn’t saying magic words to avoid testifying but recognizes that her conduct is criminal.

                1. Us Supreme Court: “A witness may have a reasonable fear of prosecution and yet be innocent of any wrongdoing. The [Fifth Amendment] privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”

                  Ambiguous circumstances such as a blatant partisan witch hunt looking to put someone in jail and run election ads on it. Perhaps.

              2. Tony|7.30.14 @ 6:02PM|#
                “Jesus Christ. This coming from “don’t trust the government!” people”

                Fucking liar.

          2. If her lawyers were urging her to ignore the subpoena, then they weren’t doing so “rightly.”

            If they advised to her to make a self-serving statement proclaiming her innocence, and then take the 5th, that wasn’t done “rightly”, either.

            About the only “rightly” advice they could have given her was either (a) show up, and answer every question truthfully, or (b) show up, and plead the 5th to any question other than “what’s your name”.

            1. The waiver is the real controversy, and she would have been better off not making a statement, but this isn’t exactly certain law.

      2. Sorry, Tony. I don’t do “alleged”, because this isn’t a court and she, saidly, hasn’t even been indicted yet.

        I say she abused her power, and I say she lied about it. No qualifications. I invite her libel suit, because I will fillet her like a trout during discovery.

        1. I will fillet her like a trout during discovery

          Literally? or metaphorically?

          Either way, you might be able to sell tickets!

          1. I’ll go . . . metaphorically. On account of we all know this is an NSA honeypot.

            Hi, guys!

            1. You know, what? I think we should get the NSA to check us out for terrorists hiding in our midst!


  6. I agree wholeheartedly about the abuse of power and it being unreasonable to expect people not to hold and express political opinions. I wouldn’t have any problem at all with those emails, if they were personal correspondence, but they appear to have been sent in the course of official business. That’s inappropriate to say the least for someone in her position.

    1. Inappropriate? How about “jack booted totalitarian abuse of power?”

      1. I would call it theft of taxpayer dollars.

  7. “Lois Lerner is a fantastic judge of character”


    [citation needed]


    Choney – the derp that keeps on derping!

  8. ***Lois Lerner isn’t the problem. The power of the IRS?and so many other government agencies?is a bludgeon that will inevitably be used by almost anybody who gets their hands on it.***

    So it’s NOT the bureaucrat, but the bureaucracy? That’s bullshit. It’s the Bureaucrats who WANT the power that is vested in the bureaucracy; the inert bureaucracy doesn’t demand it itself. The problem is not having enough people with gonads enough to prevent those bureaucrats getting the power they covet in the first place. The hammer looking for nails analogy still has to have the person who made the hammer in the first place, and the the blind to reality to let them do it.

    The people have allowed any semblance of checks and balances to be tossed out. The executive branch is a separate entity not all that accountable to anyone but themselves. It is they who have stitched themselves to the corporate sector and merged into the corporo-fascistic entity we now have (and both parties gleefully support). And anyone who stands in its way is going to get dry and sideways. Anyone who thinks something as quaint as the House controlling spending Bills somehow contains the Apparatus is deluding themselves. And the Apparatus wants power because the people within it want power, and the only use for power is to fuck with people they don’t like.

    1. cont.

      In other words, who joins the IRS out of a sense of altruism and trying to help? The lower ranking apparatchiki certainly may need the job, but anyone who stays within is looking for control and power. The whole of the IRS code is a monstrosity of forbidding and mandating. Anyone who rises within the ranks of administrating that code can’t suddenly be an innocent tenderfoot with hotheaded tendencies now and again. They are “patriots” out to fuck with “extremists”. The only thing that could possibly change is who they are going to triangulate their energies against.

      1. I agree with every bit of this. The bureaucracies themselves attract the worst possible people; people like Lerner. It is inevitable that they will be transformed over time into specifically political instruments for the use of the disgusting scum who seek out high positions within them. That is what they are for.

        1. Eh, a lot of them are just glorified accountants. But in the political positions, sure.

    2. The problem is not having enough people with gonads enough to prevent those bureaucrats getting the power they covet in the first place

      Why are you calling it bullshit when YOU JUST AGREED WITH TUCILLI?

      1. But the difference is the assertion that “the hammer” just appeared and, well gosh darn it, someone is going to swing it versus the the reality that the Lerner’s MADE that hammer.

        1. But Lerner didn’t make the hammer. Congress made it. Lerner and her ilk asked Congress to modify the design to their tastes. But in the end it was Congress that made it. And, as has been pointed out repeatedly, the American people keep voting for the morons who crafted the hammer.

          And the only way for the people to stop getting hammered is to stop sending these morons to Congress.

          1. Sorry, tarran, but the hammer is mainly the IRS rules and regs. Congress did not make that hammer (because its regs, not a statute). The IRS did.

            I’m not excusing Congress, mind you. But don’t forget that every single regulation is created and enforced by executive branch agencies.

            1. In the end, though, the Congress can completely fillet them but chooses not to.

              My original point is that Tucilli isn’t wrong; that the problem is Lerner, it’s that politicians are tolerated and reelected who grant her such power.

              It doesn’t matter who crafted the hammer. Either Congress crafted the hammer, or they handed her a smithy with which to craft it. The end result is that Congress bears ultimate responsibility for the mess.

              1. Well, I don’t want to bitch just to be bitching, so

                I think we’re close enough. There’s more than enough blame to pass around to Congress, to the agencies, and to bureaucrats who eagerly seize unaccountable power and use it for their own ends.

    3. That’s bullshit. It’s the Bureaucrats who WANT the power that is vested in the bureaucracy

      Yeah the fact that much if not most laws are written and enacted by Bureaucrats without a congressional vote is another huge problem.

  9. Sounds like some crazy smack to me dude.

  10. Lois Lerner isn’t the biggest problem, but she certainly is a predictable consequence of the biggest problem (government by bureaucratic fiat.)

    Tony, could you name something that the left could do that you wouldn’t defend? There must be something. I would be fascinated to hear a serious answer from you. (not something like, “turn into republicans, harr harr harr!”)

    1. “Craft a law so bad they couldn’t pass it, harr harr harr!”

    2. Anything criminal or wrong. Is there any Republican bullshit you don’t eagerly shovel into your ear holes and take as gospel?

  11. I don’t think there’s really a way to seperate the malevolent views of the bureaucracy from the malevolence of the bureaucracy itself. Bureaucracy by its nature will attract those who have embraced mythologies about their country which are flattering to the work they do and which conforms with what they have been taught. In Japan, the myth was some variant of State Shintoism. In our country, it’s some variant of pro-state leftism. Such ideologies define themselves against something and see themselves as moving the entire nation towards some goal, precisely because such attitudes thrive in a zero-sum environment where he who expands his bureaucracy is rewarded. It provides the internal motivation which conforms to the external incentives of the bureaucratic state. IOW, while a bureaucracy need not start out as an activist institution, it will tend towards such through selection not dissimilar from the Darwinian mechanisms found in nature.

  12. The woman deserves to be in prison, as do numerous other people at the IRS. Turning the IRS into a partisan weapon is a huge, huge scandal. Tony can bleat all he wants about the “alleged” crimes, but they are plain as day by now: the IRS persecuted groups it saw as enemies of the Obama administration. They tied groups up in endless red tape in order to keep them out of action in the 2012 election.

    Meanwhile, progressive groups largely got a pass (with a single exception, AFAIK). Worse yet, Obama’s skeezy half-brother had a “charity” that was operating illegally, and that got approved in record time (weeks) along with an unprecedented retroactive OK for years of illegal fundraising.

    If the partisan labels were reversed, Tony would be screaming to high heaven, and he’d be justified in doing so. But he can see no crime when his Team benefits.

    1. If the partisan labels were reversed, Tony would be screaming to high heaven, and he’d be justified in doing so. But he can see no crime when his Team benefits.

      Well, I suspect that, to Tony, the Enlightenment was something that happened to other people.

    2. I realize you won’t be swayed by standards of evidence, since you clearly get all of your information from partisan right-wing sources.

      But I am not doing what you’re accusing me of. I am defending a Bush appointee who was fired by Obama. I am standing up for the principle that government can engage in witch-hunts, and that luckily people have a constitutional right to attempt to protect themselves from such via the 5th Amendment.

      The only scandals here is that you government-hating nonpartisan free thinkers are taking Darrell Fucking Issa’s word on everything, when, since we’re being so cavalier with standards of evidence, is an obvious fucking partisan witch hunter.

      Once again, I’m the only libertarian in the room.

      1. “Bush appointee” is irrelevant. Republicans have a long history of appointing partisan Democrats who abuse their positions.

        I am standing up for the principle that government can engage in witch-hunts


        In any case, too bad for your argument that the Inspector General of the IRS agrees with Issa and not you. There were real abuses, and it’s a real scandal. Good for Issa for working to uncover this.

      2. “I am standing up for the principle that government can engage in witch-hunts, and that luckily people have a constitutional right to attempt to protect themselves from such via the 5th Amendment.”

        Somebody should have told the conservative groups trying to get equal speech rights from the IRS.

        1. The first amendment guarantees tax exemption for political organizations? I wouldn’t put it past the Roberts court.

          1. Tony|7.30.14 @ 10:39PM|#
            “The first amendment guarantees tax exemption for political organizations?”

            Asshole misrepresents argument? I wouldn’t put it past the asshole.

          2. I think one could argue that taxing speech infringes on it.

  13. I am defending a Bush appointee who was fired by Obama.

    There is no fact that Tony can’t get wrong. She wasn’t “appointed by Bush” because she’s not a political appointee; she’s career civil service.

    She wasn’t fired by Obama. She retired.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.