The IRS Doesn't Know How to Hide Bad News

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Lois Lerner will plead the Fifth on Wednesday before a congressional committee investigating the IRS's targeting of conservative groups. Lerner broke the news of the scandal — even to President Obama! — by planting a question with an audience member when she gave a speech at a tax lawyers' conference on May 10. In hindsight, that strategy for releasing the news does not look like it was a great idea. In a letter, the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon and Joseph Tanfani report, Lerner's lawyer says that she won't answer questions about the treatment of Tea Party groups, or why she didn't inform Congress first. And since she'll be giving no new information, her lawyer says, Lerner should be excused from the hearing, because it would "have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her."

In Senate testimony on Tuesday, outgoing IRS commissioner Steve Miller said he took responsibility for planting the question. "We thought we'd get out an apology," he said. "Obviously, the entire thing was an incredibly bad idea." Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he wasn't asked about the disclosure strategy. "I would have advised against doing that, but it was a decision for the IRS to make," Lew said. The person who asked the question, tax lawyer Celia Roady, said Lerner had called her beforehand and asked her to ask about it. They didn't discuss what Lerner would say. Last week, as Washington reacted to her planted question, Lerner was in Canada. Poor IRS. They picked the right timing, by classic Washington standards — Friday afternoon. But the choice in method of disclosure was flawed.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.