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Why retirement of Lois Lerner doesn’t end IRS tea party scandal (+video)

The controversy over the IRS targeting of tea party groups for extra scrutiny has been a political boon to conservatives. Republicans in Congress said Lois Lerner's retirement 'does not mean the investigation is over.'

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Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official under fire for her department’s targeting of tea party groups, has retired effective Monday, according to the IRS.

But that development does not end the scandal that burst into the open last May, when Ms. Lerner revealed that tea party groups were undergoing extra scrutiny in their applications for tax exemption. Lerner, who was director of the IRS’s section on tax-exempt organizations, had been placed on paid administrative leave, and remains under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating the scandal.

“Lois Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, chairman of the committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, also signaled his continued interest in the IRS targeting scandal.

“Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over,” Senator Hatch said in a statement. “Far from it. In fact, there are many serious unanswered questions that must be addressed so we can get to the truth.”

The brouhaha has been a political boon to conservatives, who had long suspected they were being targeted by the government in an effort to undermine their activities. The issue is likely to figure in efforts to energize conservatives for the 2014 midterms. Republicans already control the House, but have a shot at taking over the Senate.

Lerner emerged early as a key figure in the targeting scandal. In fact, it was she who brought the practice to light in public on May 10, when she responded to an audience question – later revealed to be planted – at a legal conference. She stated that the targeting was “absolutely incorrect,” “insensitive,” and “inappropriate,” and that “the IRS would like to apologize for that.”

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