Lois Lerner Needs to Tell Us the Truth But She is a Secondary Target

Here’s a suggestion: Put Lois in prison as soon as possible. Perhaps after a couple of months she’ll finally be ready to talk.

From Roll Call: “In Showdown With Lerner, House Imprisonment Not Out of the Question.”

Former tax official Lois Lerner’s confrontation with Congress over a potential contempt citation may get emphatically more dramatic, depending on how far back into congressional history House Republicans want to reach.

Deep in the recesses of congressional power — and in precedent stretching back to the 18th century — is the ability to pursue “inherent contempt” against individuals, including the right to imprison a person in the Capitol to compel compliance with lawmakers’ authority.

Congress hasn’t exercised inherent contempt power since 1935 and there’s no suggestion that lawmakers are actively considering the option in Lerner’s case.

But House attorneys, and lawyers for the former Internal Revenue Service official, are looking at the potential legal paths as House leaders consider first whether to take a contempt citation to the floor and, if it passes, whether the Justice Department will pursue prosecution.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted on party lines to recommend the full House hold Lerner in contempt and refer her to the Justice Department for refusing to testify before the committee on allegations of political targeting at the IRS of conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status. The GOP members said Lerner, who resigned from the IRS last year under fire for her role as the head of the office at the heart of the controversy, waived her Fifth Amendment privilege by delivering an opening statement declaring her innocence before the panel last year.

If you’re a slimy Republican, and not simply seeking justice, jailing her until she talks has the added benefit of perhaps getting her testimony just before the upcoming elections.

But, in all of this, please remember that Lois is a secondary target: the abuses began in earnest under her predecessor, Sarah Hall Ingram, who has received massive White House-approved bonuses in recent years, and is now heading the IRS’s Obamacare division.