Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner talked with Justice Department officials last year about potential criminal prosecutions of nonprofit groups suspected of engaging in political activity after denying they would do so in applications for tax-exempt status, The Wall Street Journal writes.
The discussions surfaced in May 2013 emails obtained by conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch. In one missive, Ms. Lerner, who led the IRS's nonprofit division, wrote that she was contacted by a Justice official to discuss possible cases against applicants who submitted documents "saying they weren't planning on doing political activity, and then [were] turning around and making large visible political expenditures."
The discussions were apparently initiated by Justice Department officials, acting on a suggestion from Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse following a Senate hearing on politicking by tax-exempt groups, the Journal says. The emails do not say what organizations Justice was eying.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has been investigating Ms. Lerner, said the email release "underscores the political nature" of IRS scrutiny of conservative groups. Ms. Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor III, said her office was responsible for determining if organizations were violating restrictions on politicking so "it ought not to be a surprise" that she "had discussions with colleagues about how best to enforce those restrictions."