Lois Lerner, who volunteered the first details of what became the Tea Party's immortal IRS scandal, has retired after months of administrative leave. She was formerly the director of the agency's department for tax exempt organizations, but has lately been known as the No. 1 most wanted IRS official by conservative lawmakers for her role in the scandal. Her retirement is reportedly effective today.
Back in May, Lerner planted and answered a question on the IRS's targeting of groups with certain associated keywords —those that had "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names, for example — for extra scrutiny during the application process for tax-exempt status. That happened between the years 2010 and 2012, while Lerner was in charge. It turned out that groups with "progressive," and other keywords were also singled out for scrutiny, but the story has remained one driven by conservatives hell-bend on connecting the scandal as high up the administrative ladder as it'll go.
Lerner's decision to plead the fifth during a congressional investigation has both increased the scrutiny of her personally as well as opened up the door to speculation about what she knows. She's now under a subpoena to testify in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Via the Associated Press, the IRS released a statement on Monday which seems indirectly in response to Lerner's retirement, outlining the reforms the agency's put into place since May:
"Since May, the IRS has taken decisive actions to correct failures in exempt organizations management, replacing top leadership throughout the chain of command. In addition, IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel created an accountability review board to fully review information to ensure proper oversight in handling personnel issues."
According to Politico, an internal IRS investigation determined that Lerner wasn't that great at her job — the term used was "neglectful of duty" — but not politically biased. The IRS was reportedly in the process of ending her employment at the agency. That, however, hasn't led Republican congressmen to slow down their investigation. In a statement, Sen. Orrin Hatch said, "Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over. Far from it." Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the oversight committee, aid that her retirement "does not...diminish the Committee's interest in hearing her testimony."