The poster girl for American conservatives, Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service's director of the IRS exempt-organizations division, finally tossed in her towel and retired effective today, IRS officials said in a statement.
Lerner became a fixture on news broadcasts when she first went into a tirade during her testimony in front of Congress about how she didn't do anything wrong and then almost immediately claimed protection under the Fifth Amendment .
"I am very proud of the work that I have done," Lerner told Congress before pleading the Fifth. "I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws."
Her May 22 statement came as a result of the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration's report that criticized the agency's handling of tea-party groups' applications.
Lerner was placed on paid administrative in May. Acting IRS Commissioner and former quarterback for the Florida Gators Danny Werfel told Congress that she had not been terminated and she was still employed.
Lerner's office oversaw the review of applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. Evidence indicates that her office selected tea party affiliated groups for further scrutiny if the term tea party was in their names.
But Lerner's resignation won't have any effect on Republican efforts to investigate the agency's actions. “Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over,” Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said. “Far from it. In fact, there are many serious unanswered questions that must be addressed so we can get to the truth.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, a Democratic congressional aide said Ms. Lerner's decision came after an IRS review board had informed her that it was set to propose her removal from the agency. The board had found "neglect of duties" during her tenure as , as well as mismanagement consistent with critical findings of an earlier inspector general's report, the aide said. However, the congressional aide noted the board found no evidence of political bias or willful misconduct.
The IRS scrutiny began in early 2010 and affected dozens of tea-party and other grass-roots conservative groups. Some have remained in limbo for years awaiting a decision on their applications, according to the inspector general's report.
Democrats claim that no evidence of political bias exists because some liberal groups were also scrutinized. But Republicans say the number of conservative grass-roots groups that were swept up in the IRS net is far larger, and the scrutiny more onerous, than what liberal groups experienced, according to Accounting Today.
The IRS said that since May—when —it has taken "decisive actions to correct failures" in management of the exempt-organizations division, including replacing the top managers.