In the old days, they'd send them to Alaska to get them out of the way. Today, they just ask them to resign.
Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS tea party targeting scandal, retired from the agency Monday morning after an internal investigation found she was guilty of "neglect of duties" and was going to call for her ouster, according to congressional staff.
Her departure marks the first government official to pay a significant price in the scandal, though Republicans were quick to say her decision doesn't put the matter to rest and pointed out that she still can be called before Congress to testify.
The Internal Revenue Service confirmed Ms. Lerner's retirement in a statement but said it couldn't release any more information because of privacy concerns.
Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the HouseWays and Means Committee, said an accountability review board set up to investigate the people at the agency involved with the scandal completed their review and were set to recommend Ms. Lerner's ouster. The review board, though, found no evidence of political bias, he said.
Ms. Lerner was head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, which oversaw applications for tax-exempt status, including those from political groups.
Several congressional committees were examining her behavior and emails that seemed to suggest that she was looking for reasons to deny political groups approval for tax-exempt status.
Last week, acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said he had asked a review board and the agency's inspector general to look at the emails.
Republicans said Ms. Lerner's resignation, while a first step, isn't the end of the scandal
"We still don't know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress," said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee's interest in hearing her testimony."
But Mr. Levin, who called for Ms. Lerner to resign early on, said there is still no evidence of political motivation in Ms. Lerner's actions or those of others at the IRS. He said Republicans are stretching to create a political scandal.
"No evidence" we assume, means nothing that would stand up in court. That's probably true. But the pattern of behavior by Lerner both at the IRS and at her former job at the FEC suggests a bias against Republicans. At the very least, Lerner has been shown to be a bully of a bureaucrat who takes pleasure in exercising her power.
"Negleect of duties" is the least of her transgressions.
The Ways and Means Committee isn't done with Lerner yet. She will no doubt be called to testify about the curious chain of events that led to the targeting of tea party groups. She is one of the only IRS employees who can shed any light at all on whose idea this was and when it was presented.