When I first heard of limp faux apology by the IRS's Lois Lerner on Friday for her tax-exempt division's harassment of Tea Party and conservative organizations, I thought she had done so on a conference call.
Well, she did have a conference call with reporters later that day -- the one where she said “I’m not good at math” -- but her original apology occurred at a conference of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the Tax Section of the American Bar Association in Washington (Lerner's relevant involvement is shown here). Why would such a mea culpa occur out of the blue at such a venue? The answer, per Kevin Williamson at National Review's The Corner blog, is that it wasn't out of the blue at all (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The question at the ABA conference came from Washington-based tax lawyer Celia Roady, a lobbyist in the firm of Morgan Lewis. Roady is certainly well-versed in the issue at hand: She was named to the influential Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities in 2010 by Douglas Shulman, at that time commissioner of the IRS. Lerner is the director for tax-exempt organizations at the IRS. Roady was serving on the Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities while tea-party groups and other conservative organizations were being targeted by the IRS. Not exactly a question out of the blue — Capitol Hill sources described the question as “planted” and say the IRS has informally admitted as much.
Neither Roady nor the IRS responded to requests for comment on this issue.
If the question was planted, it obviously means that the Lerner's apology was planned, and not off the cuff.
The planned nature of the apology explains the Department of Justice's quick reaction to it:
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that he had ordered a criminal investigation into allegations that top IRS officials targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
“I have ordered an investigation to be begun,” he said. “The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters related to the IRS. Those were, I think, as everyone can agree, if not criminal, they were certainly outrageous and unacceptable, but we are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations.”
He said the investigation, begun Friday, will be looking to see whether Internal Revenue Service officials “have gone beyond what they were supposed to do, broken regulations, broken rules, broken the law. We have prosecuted people. We have held people accountable. We have tried to do things according to the rules. There are going to be people, occasionally, who will not do so.”
The government does not usually move at this speed. It seems quite likely that DOJ knew that the IRS apology was coming. This gives plenty of fodder to those who believe that the appearance of the IRS scandal was timed to distract from the more serious matter of Benghazi.
The lobbyist Williamson mentioned, Celia Roady, was on a Friday afternoon conference panel, on the topic of "Denials of Application for Tax-Exempt Status." Imagine that.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.