GOP: Lerner sought audit of Sen. Grassley

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A top House Republican charged Wednesday that former IRS official Lois Lerner sought to audit a senior Senate Republican in late 2012 over an invitation from a nonprofit group.

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) released emails that suggest an unnamed group mistakenly sent Lerner, the figure at the center of the Internal Revenue Services's targeting controversy, an invitation meant for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

That invitation, the emails suggest, also offered to pay for Grassley’s wife to attend the event.

Lerner responded to the invitation by saying the nonprofit was “inappropriately offering to pay” for Grassley’s wife, and asks if “perhaps we should refer” the situation to the IRS’s examinations unit. Lerner later wrote that she didn't "think she wanted to be on stage with Grassley on this issue." 

It’s unclear from the emails — which are redacted to protect taxpayer information and written in clipped shorthand — whether Lerner wanted to refer the nonprofit or Grassley to the examinations unit. Ways and Means says the senator signed off on the release of the emails.

Matthew Giuliano, the IRS official who responded to Lerner’s email, appeared to think that she was referring to Grassley, though he also said that an audit didn’t seem necessary yet. Giuliano said the offer to pay for Grassley’s wife would count as income and would not be prohibited.

Camp cast the emails as further proof of Lerner’s vendetta against conservatives.

“We have seen a lot of unbelievable things in this investigation, but the fact that Lois Lerner attempted to initiate an apparently baseless IRS examination against a sitting Republican United States Senator is shocking,” said Camp. “At every turn, Lerner was using the IRS as a tool for political purposes in defiance of taxpayer rights.”

A spokeswoman for Grassley said that the senator did not accept the invitation referred to in the emails, didn't receive Lerner’s invitation and had no reason to believe he was audited.

Grassley said the emails would only add to the public’s skepticism about the IRS.

“It’s very troubling that a simple clerical mix-up could get a taxpayer immediately referred for an IRS exam without any due diligence from agency officials,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement.

The newly released emails come less than two weeks after the IRS said Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, leaving it unable to recover a stash of her emails over a two-year span.

Republicans have since intensified their investigation into the IRS, after Lerner acknowledged that the agency had improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups.

Lerner emailed about Grassley in December 2012, more than a year after her computer crashed.

— This story was updated at 5:57 p.m.