Conservative website The Daily Caller reports that Ex-Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner tried to audit Sen. Charles Grassley after the Iowa Republican “blocked” President Obama’s original nominee to head the Department of Justice Tax Division.
Reports The Daily Caller:
Grassley made it more difficult for the IRS and DOJ to work together to target conservative groups by blocking Obama’s political appointee Mary L. Smith from taking over the DOJ Tax Division, which prosecutes criminal cases for the IRS. Grassley held up the nomination in early 2010, just as Lerner and fellow IRS officials were mapping out their targeting strategy. The White House later withdrew Smith’s nomination.
The source confirmed to The Daily Caller that the White House and IRS officials “were very upset at Senator Grassley and Republicans for blocking a vote on Mary Smith’s nomination.”
The Daily Caller, however, fails to add important context. The Republican opposition to Smith’s April 2009 nomination was viewed at the time as entirely legitimate, given Smith’s complete lack of tax experience. It wasn’t just raw GOP obstructionism. Even some Democrats quietly were not supporting her. Tax law bloggers panned it, too.
The Tax Division prosecutes criminal tax cases and has been involved in the sensitive negotiations with Switzerland to force Swiss banks to reveal the names of American tax dodgers – an effort that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), for one, has criticized for its mixed results. But no serious follower of criminal tax enforcement thought the division should be run by someone with no criminal tax experience.
So, while that doesn’t mean that Lerner didn’t potentially try to get some kind of revenge on Grassley, as The Daily Caller claims, it does mean that there were a lot of other problems with the Smith nomination, which makes it seem unlikely that there could have been any serious attempt to punish Grassley for the fact that Smith’s nomination bombed.