May 23, 2013

IRS official who took the Fifth has been replaced

By Stephen Ohlemacher / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this May 22, 2013, photo, Lois Lerner listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. A day after she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, Lerner has been replaced as director the Internal Revenue Service division that oversaw agents who targeted tea party groups. Danny Werfel, the agency's new acting commissioner, told IRS employees in an email Thursday, May 23, 2013, that he has selected a new acting head of the division, staying within the IRS to find new leadership. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Lerner learned in June 2011 that agents were singling out groups with "Tea Party" and "Patriots" in their applications for tax-exempt status, according to a report by the agency's inspector general. Lerner ordered agents to scrap the criteria immediately, but later they evolved to include groups that promoted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It finally stopped in May 2012, when top agency officials say they found out and ordered agents to adopt appropriate criteria for determining whether tax-exempt groups were overly political.

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told two congressional committees this week that he first learned in the spring of 2012 that conservative groups had been improperly singled out for additional scrutiny. However, after learning that the practice had stopped and that the inspector general was investigating, Shulman said he didn't tell anyone in the Treasury Department or the White House about it. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.

Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, left office in November, when his five-year term expired.

On Thursday, the two leaders of the Senate Investigations subcommittee accused Lerner of misleading committee staff just a few days before it she made the controversy public.

Subcommittee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Republican member, Arizona Sen. John McCain, called on the IRS to immediately suspend Lois Lerner from her job as director of the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status.

On April 30, committee staff interviewed Lerner and seven of her colleagues for six hours, the senators said in a letter to Werfel.

"That interview covered, among other topics, how the IRS determines which groups to review, what actions are taken in connection with the IRS reviews, and how the laws and regulations are used to examine those groups," the senators wrote. "Ms. Lerner failed to disclose the internal controversy."

Lerner, 62, is an attorney who joined the IRS in 2001. In her brief appearance Wednesday, she expressed pride in her 34-year career in federal government, which has included work at the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission. AT the IRS, she oversaw 900 workers and a budget approaching $100 million.

Corbin, the new acting director of exempt organizations, began his IRS career in Atlanta in 1986, Werfel said.

"Ken is a proven leader during challenging times. He has strong management experience inside the IRS handling a wide range of processing issues and compliance topics as well as taxpayer service areas," Werfel said. "Combined with his track record of leading large work groups, these skills make him an ideal choice to help lead the Exempt Organizations area through this difficult period."

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, praised the selection of Corbin.

"In naming Ken Corbin as acting director to replace Lois Lerner, the administration has taken a strong step to address serious mistakes made by the IRS Exempt Organization Division," Levin said. "This and further corrective action are vital in restoring the confidence of the American people."

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