Outgoing IRS Chief: Question That Sparked Scandal Was A Plant

One of the oddest aspects of the IRS scandal was the way the story first came to light last Friday, when Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, apologized for inappropriate targeting of conservative groups. The apology, a major admission, was delivered in a decidedly low-profile place: in response to a question from an attendee at a panel during the American Bar Association tax section’s annual meeting in Washington D.C.It was such an unusual place for Lerner to drop such a bombshell, many people in the room thought the question had been prearranged. Turns out, it was.

“It was a prepared Q & A,” outgoing acting IRS chief Steven Miller told Congress on Friday, in response to a question from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Nunes asked Miller if the question itself, which was asked by Celia Roady, a veteran tax lawyer, was planted in advance.

“I believe we talked about that, yes,” Miller responded.

Roady, a partner in the D.C. office of Morgan Lewis, is also a member of the the IRS’ Advisory Committee on Tax-Exempt and Government Entities.

Later on in the hearing, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) asked Miller to elaborate on the conversation that took place before Lerner’s admission. Miller said he did not speak to Roady, but did speak to Lerner, over the phone, about how the inspector general’s report had been completed, “did it make sense for us to start talking of this in public.”

Roskam asked why the revelation was made at the ABA meeting instead of a disclosure to Congress.

“We were going to do it at the same time I believe,” Miller said. “Our attempt was to talk to you all at the same time.”

“But that didn’t happen, did it?” Roskam asked.

“It did not happen, I don’t believe,” Miller said.

Earlier this week, TPM spoke with a number of people who were in the room where Lerner revealed and apologies for the IRS’ actions. It’s not unheard of for questions to be prearranged at panels like the one at the ABA tax section meeting. But two of the people in the room asked Roady directly if the question had been planted, and they said Roady had denied it.

Roady did not respond to a request for comment from TPM earlier this week. A message left at her office Friday was not immediately returned.