Taxpayers may be footing the legal bills of IRS officials at the center of targeting scandal
April 18, 2023
(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for withholding records regarding billings by or payments to the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP for attorneys’ fees or other legal costs relating to the representation of Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, officials at the center of the political targeting scandal at the IRS.
The violations of numerous IRS rules and the constitutional rights of Americans were documented extensively, including in a staff report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, settlements in lawsuits, and an FBI investigation. In 2013, Lerner, then-acting IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, even appeared to apologize for inappropriately targeting conservative groups during a meeting of the American Bar Association. In NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. The Internal Revenue Service, et al., Lerner and Paz, her top aide and former IRS Director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements, were represented by the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Taxpayers may have been on the hook to pay her legal bills even after it became clear that Lerner was likely involved in misconduct, after she refused to testify, and after multiple settlements between the federal government and outside parties pertaining to her conduct. Those legal bills might still be covered by the taxpayers as Lerner has continued fighting to keep records sealed from the decade-old scandal.
In July 2022, FGI filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records regarding the DOJ’s billing and payment records for attorneys’ fees or other legal costs relating to the representation of Lerner and Paz. After multiple delays, the DOJ has been unresponsive, prompting FGI to file suit to get these records. With the IRS making a visit to Matt Taibbi’s home at the same time he testified before Congress about government abuses, it appears the weaponization of the IRS may be continuing.
Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:
“Even after the IRS agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement related to the targeting scandal, it remains an open question if and for how long DOJ paid the bills. The American public has a right to know. FGI will continue its legal fight so that taxpayers can consider the appropriateness of such costs and the incentive it could provide to other federal officials at the center of misconduct.”