Politico does weepy story about poor Lois Lerner

Do you feel sorry for Lois Lerner? A remarkable long feature article in Politico about the former high-ranking IRS official who pleaded the Fifth Amendment paints a remarkably sympathetic picture of her. The title of the piece by Rachel Bade tantalizingly suggests that some negotiations as to subject matter and tone might have taken place: “Exclusive: Lois Lerner breaks silence.” As Rick Moran pointed out to me, Lerner could have taken her exclusive to the New York Times or Washington Post, and almost certainly they would have been delighted to sit down and talk with her for two hours, as she did with Ms. Bade.

The lead paragraph gives away the story:

Employers won’t hire her. She’s been berated with epithets like “dirty Jew.” Federal agents have guarded her house because of death threats. And she’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself against accusations she orchestrated a coverup in a scandal that has come to represent everything Americans hate about the IRS.

I have followed the story fairly closely, and I had no idea what religion Ms. Lerner favored. But there you have it, eleven words into the piece: she’s the victim of anti-Semitism, doncha know. Strategically deployed two days before the Jewish High Holy Days begin.  Poor Lois!

There is some new material offered. I didn’t realize that:

Lerner started her career far away from tax policy, as a dental hygienist. She quickly switched gears and went to law school, graduating cum laude. After a stint at the Justice Department, she spent 20 years at the FEC before heading to the IRS in 2001.

Dos this mean she switched majors in college? Or that she actually stood over patients handing tools to a dentist? We just don't know. But it paints a picture of up-from-humble origins.

The two decades at the FEC get very short shrift here, and that is curious, because Lerner behaved in a highly questionable manner at a body intended to be a nonpartisan referee.  She and staff over whose activities she had approval, treated Republicans much more harshly than Democrats in similar circumstances, as detailed by Eliana Johnson at NRO. A report she approved once cited the

“high profile as a prominent Democratic fundraiser” and “potential fundraising involvement in support of Mr. Gore’s expected presidential campaign” as reasons not to pursue an investigation.

But most notoriously, Lerner actually tried to drive a Republican out of politics as condition for dropping an FEC action:

More than a decade before his 2010 letter to IRS officials urging the agency to target conservative organizations, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin's political career crossed paths with Ms. Lerner when she was head of the Enforcement Division of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and directly involved in the 1996 Illinois U.S. Senate race.

Soon after the IRS story broke, Al Salvi told Illinois Review that it was IRS official Lois Lerner who represented the FEC in the 1996 Democrat complaint against him. According to Salvi, Lerner was, without question, politically motivated, and went so far as to make him an offer: "Promise me you will never run for office again, and we'll drop this case."

Salvi declined her offer. In fact he ran for Illinois Secretary of State in 1998.

But when he saw Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment before Congress last week, he recognized her. "That's the woman," Salvi said. "And I didn't plead the Fifth like she did."

In 2000, a federal judge dismissed the FEC case against him, clearing Salvi's name and reputation.

Politico readers learn nothing of this. No awkward questions. please.

They do learn, however, that Lerner has big legal bills and can’t get a job, being forced to make do on her six figure retirement income along with her husband’s income. The article tells us he has been “forced” to continue to work. (His law firm has been involved in Obama fundraising efforts.) But nary a word on the fundraising efforts to pay Lerner’s legal bills. Gee, I wonder what kind of moneyed interests might be interested in helping her avoid any kind of plea deal? Politico doesn't wonder, though.

I will admit that it was a tough job for Ms. Bade to make Lerner sympathetic. But of course there are many tricks of the trade available:

  • It’s easy to see how Republicans have seized on the image of a devilish figure cracking down on conservative nonprofits.
  • Lerner is also described as “apolitical” and fair. Some say she was a generous boss who inspired loyalty, baking brownies and handing out lottery tickets to managers to raise morale. She’s putting her babysitter’s son through college and in 2005 flew to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to rescue animals.
    “Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, she got these amazing ratings and bonuses. … And once she retired, she would have gone out with bells and whistles, and the IRS commissioner would have made a speech. … It went from that to: You’re under criminal investigation, and your career is ruined, in a week,” said Lerner’s husband, Michael Miles, who sat to her right during the interview.
  • Lerner won over employees with her chatty personality and smart jokes — and by showing them her gratitude with little things, like doling out lottery tickets and treating them to lunch or dinner. She loved to talk fashion, and she’d ask how people were doing, not just at work, but in their personal lives.

There’s more, but I will spare you. If you want to see a textbook case of sympathy-mongering read the whole thing for yourself.