House Republicans on Wednesday expressed outrage over an email they say shows former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner suggested the possibility of auditing Senator Charles Grassley, R–Iowa, over a group's offer to pay for accommodations for his wife to attend a speaking engagement with the senator.
Lerner appears to have mistakenly received the invitation to the event which was meant to go to Grassley. “Your and Grassley’s invitations were placed in each other’s envelopes,” wrote Matthew Giuliano, an attorney who was at the time a manager at the IRS, in one of the released emails.
Lerner wrote back, “Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?”
Due to the ambiguity of the email, Lerner could just have easily been referring to a potential audit of the group who organized the event. The name of the group was redacted.
Regardless, the Republican reaction was swift and incensed.
"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," Representative Dave Camp (R–Michigan), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
The new emails will doubtless stoke congressional interest in Lerner's emails as they relate to an investigation into whether the IRS improperly investigated nonprofit groups who were engaged in political activity. The IRS recently disclosed that Lerner’s mails from 2009 through mid-2011 were lost in a computer crash.
Grassley, the former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was among the 12 GOP senators who in 2012 signed a letter urging the IRS to conduct its investigations of Tea Party groups in an "even-handed and transparent manner," at the height of the scandal over possible IRS targeting, The Wall Street Journal notes.