MARCH 13, 2014
Months ago Judicial Watch obtained government records that show the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) illegally colluded with another federal agency to crack down on conservative nonprofit groups during the 2012 election cycle. Now, a congressional committee charged with holding government accountable confirms what JW has helped uncover in the course of an ongoing probe into the scandal at the tax agency.
The IRS director at the center of the scheme, Lois Lerner, not only broke agency rules—as well as the law—to target conservative organizations, she also lied to Congress in an effort to cover up the wrongdoing, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In a scorching 141-page report the panel blasts Lerner for mishandling taxpayer information (and lying to Congress about it), subjecting conservative applicants for tax-exempt status to heightened scrutiny and obstructing the committee’s investigation.
“Lois G. Lerner, the now-retired Director of IRS Exempt Organizations (EO), was extensively involved in targeting conservative-oriented tax-exempt applicants for inappropriate scrutiny,” the House report says. It goes on to confirm that Lerner “brazenly subjected Republican groups to rigorous investigations” while “similar Democratic groups did not receive the same scrutiny.”
The plot first came to light in an explosive 2013 Treasury Inspector General report that said the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The questionable reviews continued for more than 18 months, the Treasury report says, and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election. The apparent goal was to sideline applicants that could cause trouble for Democrats—or President Obama—during the election cycle.
JW immediately launched an investigation, filing public-records requests with the IRS back in May to obtain information about the agency’s controversial review and approval process for nonprofits. JW was forced to sue months later when the IRS refused to comply with the requests, which were filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW filed separate records requests with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) in an effort to uncover information about that agency’s coordination with the IRS regarding the political activities of nonprofit organizations.
As a result of that action, JW obtained disturbing email exchanges between Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the FEC. The correspondence indicates that the IRS provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC in violation of federal law. Included with the records were IRS questionnaires to a conservative group that contained questions of a hostile nature.
The bulk of the records obtained by Judicial Watch consist of extensive materials from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC. This includes annual tax returns (Forms 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents and correspondence between the nonprofit organizations and the IRS. Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a felony for an IRS official to disclose either “return information” or “taxpayer return information,” even to another government agency.
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