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Lois Lerner gave labor unions a pass in tax reporting discrepancy

 Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner
Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to a Monday story in the Daily Caller, Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of a scandal concerning the targeting of tea party and conservative groups, took a far more relaxed attitude where it came to a discrepancy of how labor unions reported political expenditures. It seems that it came to light in 2007 that various labor groups were not reporting political money being spent on IRS forms that they were reporting to the Labor Department. Political spending by unions tends to overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

Lerner did claim in an email at the time that the Labor Department form included lobbying expenditures that the IRS form did not require. Nevertheless she believed that the discrepancies, numbering in the millions of dollars, was troubling enough that the matter was referred to the IRS’s Dallas office. As far as can be told, nothing was done about the matter.

A 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal noted that big labor has a huge political operation, spending money not only to influence federal but state and local elections as well. Oddly, while much of this spending is not required to be reported to the FEC, it is reported to the Labor Department. Union political clout comes at a time in which private sector union membership is declining, while that of public sector unions such as the SEIU are showing an increase.

More to the point, Lerner seems to have demonstrated an almost casual attitude toward a failure of labor unions to properly report political spending to the IRS. This contrasts sharply to her vigorous pursuit of groups whose politics she opposed. The revelation further suggests that the IRS had become a political agency, applying the rules differently according to the views of the groups whose tax reporting it is charged with overseeing. The problem appears to predate the Obama administration, but has increased substantially in recent years.