The Justice Department sent a letter to Congress on Friday saying they finished their investigation into Lois Lerner and the IRS. They found that the IRS did mishandle tea party and conservative groups’ nonprofit applications, but determined that their behavior did not break any laws clearing Lois Lerner of any crimes.
“Ineffective management is not a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik said in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee. “The Department of Justice’s exhaustive probe revealed no evidence that would support a criminal prosecution. What occurred is disquieting and may necessitate corrective action — but it does not warrant criminal prosecution.”
The decision comes more than two years after the IRS’s internal watchdog reported that auditors singled out tea party groups’ applications for special scrutiny and delayed those applications beyond reasonable timelines, preventing the groups from being able to say they were officially recognized nonprofits.
Some Republicans have questioned the validity of the probe from the beginning, after learning that one of the Justice Department lawyers assigned to the investigation was a contributor to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns.
In its letter Friday the Justice Department specifically cleared Ms. Lerner, a senior executive in charge of approving the groups’ applications, who had authored a number of emails that suggested a bias against the tea party movement.
Investigators said none of the witnesses they interviewed believed Ms. Lerner acted out of political motives, and said that Ms. Lerner seemed to try to correct the inappropriate scrutiny once she “recognized that it was wrong.”
“In fact, Ms. Lerner was the first IRS official to recognize the magnitude of the problem and to take concerted steps to fix it,” Mr. Kadzik wrote.
Congressional Democrats said the decision confirmed what they’d figured out years ago — that there was no underhanded political dealing at the agency.
“Over the past five years, Republicans in the House of Representatives have squandered literally tens of millions of dollars going down all kinds of investigative rabbit holes — IRS, Planned Parenthood, Benghazi — with absolutely no evidence of illegal activity,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi investigation and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.
The House Ways and Means Committee conducted its own investigation into the IRS’s tea party targeting, as did the Senate Finance Committee. The House panel was the one that voted to refer Ms. Lerner’s behavior to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
Ms. Lerner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.
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