IRS Attorney to Take the Fifth

Via John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum comes news that Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official who oversees the tax-exempt office and who first disclosed her office’s targeting of Tea Party groups in response to a planted question at an ABA conference, will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify before Congress.  Steele thinks Lerner is likely “smart” to take this step, but also suspects she and other IRS officials now wish they had played this issue differently.

In other IRS scandal-related news and commentary, Dave Weigel has a good piece explaining how and why agencies like the IRS are disproportionately staffed by those on the left side of the American political spectrum and, not coincidentally, are most likely to be unsympathetic to Tea Party types and others who call for shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.  As a consequence, there need not have been any orders from above, just as the EPA Administrator need not be responsible for, or even aware that, the EPA is more solicitous of environmentalists than anti-regulatory types in considering FOIA fee waiver applications.  Bureaucrats are people too, and are no less likely to be influenced by their own cognitive biases.  Peter Suderman adds that the real reason the IRS targeted Tea Party groups is that it could.  In other words, this is a problem of government power, not a given official’s particular ideological agenda.

As always, for those who want more, Paul Caron is rounding up coverage and commentary on the TaxProf blog.