Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups refused to testify at a House hearing Wednesday by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However, her troubles are far from over and will not be blown into the abyss by a single puff of wind.
An apparent pattern is beginning to rise to the surface. The very same practices that are now being uncovered in the IRS scandal were present under Lerner’s leadership of the Federal Election Commission. Lerner was the head of the enforcement division of the FEC from 1986 until 2001. During her tenure, the FEC sued the Christian Coalition for violating campaign laws.
The Christian Coalition won the case and that might have been the end of the story but for the IRS targeting conservative groups in much the same way as the Christian Coalition was targeted. FEC questions asked of the Christian Coalition were remarkably similar to some of the questions presented to conservative groups seeking tax exempt status from the IRS.
One of the FEC lawyers went so far as ask Pat Robertson if he prayed for him in an apparent attempt to present a violation of church and state. James Bopp who was the Christian Coalition’s lead lawyer at the time of the suit said recently,
“Both political activity and religious activity are specifically protected by the First Amendment. One of the most shocking things about the current IRS scandal is the revelation that the agency asked one religious pro-life group to detail the content of their prayers and asked clearly inappropriate questions about private religious activity.”