This post was originally published on Forbes Aug 7, 2015
I burned the midnight oil Wedenesday and got up early yesterday to finish reading the Senate Finance Committee's snappily titled report - The Internal Revenue Service's Processing Of 501(c)(3) And 501(c)(4) Applications For Tax-exempt Status Submitted By "Political Advocacy" Organizations From 2010-2013. I actually found it pretty compelling. Yesterday when I looked at other coverage I realized I had missed the most significant part of the report. In the "Additional Republican Views", they mention Bristol Palin (I had noticed that, but did not realize how significant it was). Just for an example USA Today leads with Senate Report IRS' Lerner Also Targeted Briston Palin. Silly me.
Teen Pregnancy Organization Affiliated With Bristol Palin
Another example of Lerner’s interest in conservative organizations occurred in 2011, when Lerner considered opening an audit of a group with ties to Bristol Palin. There were reports that Palin received $332,500 in compensation from the Candie’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent teen pregnancy. Upon receiving an article containing this information, Lerner took the initiative to ask her senior advisors if the IRS should open an audit of the organization:
"Thoughts on the Bristol Palin issue? I’m curious that a [private foundation] can pay any amount to someone who is not a [disqualified person]? It is a [private foundation] right? Even if it were a [public charity] – would that be private benefit – what are the consequences? I’m asking because I don’t know whether to send to Exam as a referral".
Lerner’s willingness to act on this particular news article – among many that reached her inbox each day – shows that she was paying close attention to conservative politicians and organizations. In its review of nearly 1,500,000 pages of documents provided by the IRS, Majority staff did not find any instances where Lerner referred a progressive organization for audit based on a news article.
Apparently, the organization was only able to find $35,000 to grant to charities from the $1,242,476 donated from the public. Meanwhile, the young Ms. Palin managed to pull in a $262,500 paycheck for her role as an ambassador for their teen pregnancy prevention campaign in 2009. Other celebrities affiliated (past and present) with The Candie’s Foundation include: Hayden Panettiere, Beyoncé, Ciara, Jenny McCarthy, Vanessa Minnillo, Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Usher, Rachel Bilson, and Teddy Geiger.
Personalities matter. Lois Lerner and Steve Miller were not good at interpersonal relations. Ignoring and insulting employees does not engender an enthusiastic and loyal workforce. I'm disappointed in Lois in that she let herself appear so blatantly political. No one at the IRS should be required to be apolitical, but anyone holding the office of EO Division Director should maintain an air of neutrality, no matter how one feels. I'm also very surprised how far the division has fallen in terms of effective leadership, that the “leaders” there during the "scandal" were really clueless and unwilling to demonstrate any sense of urgency.