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Lois Lerner’s Summer Vacation

July 25, 2013

Lawmakers investigating the political targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service are demanding to know exactly who asked IRS employees like Lois Lerner to leave their positions after the scandal broke, and why.

Republicans Dave Camp, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, and Darrell Issa, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, sent a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel Wednesday asking what action has been taken against three employees implicated in the targeting: Ms. Lerner, director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS; Holly Paz, the director of Ruling and Agreements; and Joseph Grant, the former commissioner for Tax Exempt & Government Entities.

All three played a part in the targeting of conservative groups, and all three have left their positions by administrative leave or resignation. But have they been held accountable? If not, what is to prevent the IRS from putting its thumb on the scale again in some future election?

“On which ground were they placed on administrative leave?” the letter reads. “What is the status of their respective investigations?” The chairmen want to know the anticipated duration of their leave, how much its costing taxpayers to keep them on payroll and their current employment status.

“Is the IRS seeking their removal or suspension? Do they currently have access to IRS systems, documents or physical property?” the letter continues. The chairmen also asked if the IRS gave bonuses to the three employees, or to former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who resigned at the president’s urging. The letter marks the first step Congress has made to determine how those responsible might be held accountable.

Mr. Grant retired June 3 following the Inspector General’s report confirming that inappropriate criteria were used to scrutinize tea party applications for tax-exempt status. Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz were put on administrative leave around the same time. But taxpayers are still paying their salaries. According to the Office of Personnel Management, Ms. Lerner made $177,000 last year. If she’s still at that pay grade, taxpayers have paid her more than $30,000 while she’s been on leave. Same goes for Ms. Paz—she’s been paid at least $22,000 for the past few months if her pay wasn’t cut last year.

What we don’t know is how long we will continue to pay them. Mr. Werfel’s response, which the committee has asked for by Aug. 7, may give us the answer.