There's new evidence about the partisan and political motives of the IRS and contentious former IRS nonprofit division head Lois Lerner. Emails obtained by Judicial Watch, a legal watchdog group, appear to reveal that Lerner inappropriately collected donor lists from conservative groups for a secret research project.
The big question is what was the clandestine project on which Lois Lerner was working?
Emails (some of which were largely blacked out) don’t explain, but looking at the sequence of events laid out by Judicial Watch, it could have included targeting conservative donors for audits and releasing the lists publically. A Congressional committee thinks one in ten conservative donors was targeted. Dr. Ben Carson was among them.
This year, the IRS admitted to releasing the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) confidential tax return and donor list, which were then published by the Human Rights Campaign, NOM’s chief political rival.
The IRS saga grows more sickening as new revelations of the abuse of power and authority by the nation’s most powerful federal agency emerge. Most of this behavior occurred under the presidency of Barack Obama, but to him and his supporters, this a “phony scandal” dreamed up by conservatives.
It’s hard to deny the evidence, however. Here’s Judicial Watch’s statement reporting details:
Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) email documents revealing that under former IRS official Lois Lerner, the agency seems to acknowledge having needlessly solicited donor lists from non-profit political groups. According to a May 21, 2012, memo from the IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel: “such information was not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency’s determination on exempt status.” Later, in her May 10, 2013, remarks in which Lerner first revealed in response to question she planted about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, she conceded that the requests for donor names was “not appropriate, not usual.” The new documents obtained by Judicial Watch also reveal that 75% of the groups from whom the lists were solicited were apparently conservative, with only 5% being liberal.
Contained in the newly released IRS documents is an email from Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Margo L. Stevens that was sent in response to a question from Lerner concerning attempts to return donor lists the IRS had controversially obtained.
A subsequent IRS email thread on June 27, 2012, revealed that inappropriately obtained donor lists were being used for a “secret research project” and that a top official wanted then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller to decide how to handle the issue.
Lerner’s and other IRS officials’ concerns about how to handle these donor lists came on the heels of an advisory from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to her and other IRS officials in late March 2012 of “an audit we plan to conduct of the IRS’s process for reviewing applications for tax exemption by potential section 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations.” The documents produced do not detail the “secret research project” nor disclose how the IRS used the donor names the agency improperly obtained.
Then-IRS Commissioner Miller initially testified to Congress on May 17, 2013 that “instructions had been given to destroy any donor lists,” but donor lists were actually produced to the House Ways and Means Committee four months later. The House Ways and Means Committee also announced at May 7, 2014 hearing that, after scores of conservative groups provided donor information “to the IRS, nearly one in ten donors were subject to audit.” In 2011, as many as five donors to one conservative (c)(4) organization were audited, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Judicial Watch does a good job of chronicling all of the events and public comments by the Administration.
Like the other activities of the Obama Administration, the behavior of Lerner is symptomatic of a group of leaders in power in Washington who cloak dirty tactics under the guise of information gathering and then use that against their adversaries. How different is this from organized criminal groups that buy the silence of those they see as a threat or bully them into obedience?
The actions of Lois Lerner and her Bully Squad may have had an impact on the political events of 2012, but the damage done to the trust in the institution of the IRS is far worse.
Americans have always been distrustful and leery of the IRS. No one wants to be audited because of the time and money involved in the process and the potential new tax liabilities. But the intention was to embarrass and shame conservative donors away from supporting the causes they believe in –cutting off financial support to groups that were effective in holding big government accountable for its policies.
Following the 2010 “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections liberals recognized the power of conservatives to organize effectively. Instead of battling it out in the political ring, they snuck into the referees’ box and have been trying to fix the game.
That stinks. These are not the actions of a few rogue IRS agents but appear instead to be a well-coordinated effort by top leaders in the IRS with possible input from some at the White House and outside political organizations. When will enough be enough?