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On June 17, 2014, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking the number of hours DOJ Attorney Barbara Bosserman expended in the investigation of the IRS targeting of conservative organizations seeking tax exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections cycles.

Bosserman was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to oversee the DOJ/ FBI investigation despite her being a substantial contributor to the political campaigns of Barack Obama and to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The appointment is a clear conflict of interest and brings up major doubts as to whether a serious DOJ investigation into the IRS scandal is being conducted at all.

The FOIA lawsuit filed pursuant to a February 25, 2014, FOIA request seeks the following:

All Justice Department records from the Interactive Case Management System [a web-based system for storing and accessing information about contacts, calendars, cases, documents, time tracking, and billing, etc.] detailing the number of hours DOJ Attorney Barbara Bosserman expended on the investigation of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status in the 2010 and 2012 elections cycles.

On October 9, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asking the District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the agency to produce records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) non-profit status since January 1, 2010. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the IRS to provide records of communications by former IRS official Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process.

The lawsuit comes in response to the refusal of the IRS to comply with four FOIA requests dating back to May, 2013. Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records from its initial three FOIA requests, filed on May 20, 2013:

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the number of applications received from organization seeking tax exempt status under 501(c)(4).
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and members of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any other government agency regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any office of the Executive Branch regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4).
  •  Any and all records concerning, regarded, or related to the preparation of questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status;
  • Copies of any questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

On May 22, 2013, Judicial Watch submitted a fourth FOIA request seeking the following:

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with other IRS employees regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations;
  • Any and all communications concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with any government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations.

Documents also Reveal Unusual Pressure from Key Democrat Senator to Target Conservatives

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents revealing that its handling of Tea Party applications was directed out of the agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC.  The documents also show extensive pressure on the IRS by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to shut down conservative-leaning tax-exempt organizations. The IRS’ emails by Lois Lerner detail her misleading explanations to investigators about the targeting of Tea Party organizations.

The documents came in response to an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)).

One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.”  Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office. Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:

EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.

The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters.

Another email string from February – March 2010 includes a message from a California EO Determinations manager discussing a Tea Party application “currently being held in the Screening group.” The manager urges, “Please let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially embarrassing political case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.”  A co-worker responds: “I think sending it up here [DC] is a good idea given the potential for media interest.”  As with Ben Rhodes’ Benghazi-related talking points email, Judicial Watch obtained a more complete version of this IRS email chain than was provided to a congressional committee.

The Judicial Watch documents also contain email correspondence to internal IRS investigators from Lerner, dated April 2, 2013, that tries to explain the “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) criteria used to select organizations for screening and scrutiny:

Because the BOLO only contained a brief reference to “Organizations involved with the Tea Party movement applying for exemption under 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)” in June 2011, the EO Determinations manager asked the manager of the screening group, John Shafer [IRS Cincinnati field office manager], what criteria were being used to label cases as “tea party ” cases. (“Do the applications specify/state ‘ tea party’? If not, how do we know applicant is involved with the tea party movement?”) The screening group manager asked his employees how they were applying the BOLO’s short –hand reference to “tea party.” His employees responded that they were including organizations meeting any of the following criteria as falling within the BOLO’s reference to “tea party” organizations: “1. ‘Tea Party’, ‘Patriots’ or ’9/12 Project’ is referenced in the case file. 2. Issues include government spending, government debt and taxes. 3. Educate the public through advocacy/legislative activities to make America a better place to live. 4. Statements in the case file that are critical of the how the country is being run. . . “

So, we believe we have provided information that shows that no one in EO “developed” the criteria. Rather, staff used their own interpretations of the brief reference to “organizations involved with the Tea Party movement,” which was what was on the BOLO list.

Lerner omits that her office was “developing” the applications for all Tea Party groups.

The IRS documents also include a presentation entitled “Heightened Awareness Issues” with a red and orange “Alert” symbol identifying the “emerging issues” that trigger scrutiny for organizations seeking tax-exempt status. Page six of the presentation focuses on the Tea Party organizations due, in part, to the fact that these groups had become a “Relevant Subject in Today’s Media.”

A series of letters between Senator Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, and top IRS officials throughout 2012 discuss how to target conservative groups the senator claimed were “engaged in political activities.” In response to a Levin March 30 letter citing the “urgency of the issue,” then-Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller assured the senator that IRS regulations were flexible enough to allow IRS agents to “prepare individualized questions and requests” for select 501(c)(4) organizations.

The newly released IRS documents contain several letters and emails revealing an intense effort by Levin and IRS officials to determine what, if any, existing IRS policies could be used to revoke the nonprofit exemptions of active conservative groups and deny exemptions to new applicants. In a July 30, 2012, letter, Levin singles out 12 groups he wants investigated for “political activity.” Of the groups – which include the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, the 60 Plus Association, and the Susan B. Anthony List – only one, Priorities USA, is notably left-leaning.

As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, Levin sent a series of letters to the IRS intensifying his campaign against predominantly conservative nonprofit groups:

  • September 27, 2012: Levin asks for copies of the answers to IRS exemption application question 15 – a question about planned political expenditures – from four specific groups: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA.
  • October 17, 2012: Miller informs Levin, “As discussed in our previous responses dated June 4, 2012, and August 24, 2012, the IRS cannot legally disclose whether the organizations on your list have applied for tax exemptions unless and until such application is approved.” Miller, however, then informs Levin that Americans for Prosperity and Patriot Majority have been approved, but the IRS has no records for Crossroads and Priorities USA.
  • October 23, 2012: Levin writes to again express his dissatisfaction with the IRS handling of “social welfare” (501(c)(4) organizations insisting that IRS guidance “misinterprets the law” by allowing any political activity. He again demands an answer as to whether the four organizations he listed in his previous letter were primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare.  He also seeks copies of tax exempt revocation letters sent due to c4 political activities, as well as statistics on how many c4s have been notified that they may be in violation due to political activities.

In perhaps the most revealing letter from the IRS to Levin, Miller on June 4, 2012, takes 16 pages to explain to the senator what IRS regulations and policies may and may not be used to evaluate political groups and assures him that the agency has considerable leeway in picking and choosing which groups would be subject to additional scrutiny:

There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization … Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .

A May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report revealed that 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 TIGTA probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status (e.g., lists of past and future donors).”  The illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.

“These new documents show that officials in the IRS headquarters were responsible for the illegal delays of Tea Party applications,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “It is disturbing to see Lois Lerner mislead the IRS’ internal investigators about her office’s Tea Party targeting.  These documents also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents.  The IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress.”

In mid-April, Judicial Watch released a batch of IRS documents (produced earlier in this litigation) revealing that Lerner had communicated with the Department of Justice about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities.

New Documents Show IRS, DOJ Collusion on Potential Prosecution of Tax Exempt Groups 

Your Judicial Watch announced a major find this week in its independent investigation of the Obama IRS scandal in which the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Perhaps more than any other government official, former Internal Revenue (IRS) Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner has become the defiant face of this scandal for the Obama administration. From the time of her stonewalling appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in May 2013 when she repeatedly took the Fifth Amendment, to her repeat performance this past March 4, Lerner has served notice on the members of Congress – and the American people – that what the IRS did under her direction is effectively none of their business.

And now, we have obtained a new batch of internal IRS documentsrevealing that Lerner directly communicated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities.

The documents were dragged out of the Obama administration thanks to our October 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013.

The newly obtained IRS documents contain a revealing email exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller discussing plans to work with the DOJ to prosecute nonprofit groups that “lied” (Lerner’s quotation marks) about political activities. The tell-tale exchange includes the following:

I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.

I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…

I think we should do it – also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?

Lerner then “handed off” scheduling the issue to Senior Technical Adviser, Attorney Nancy Marks, who was then supposed to set up the meeting with the DOJ. Lerner also decided that it would be DOJ’s decision as to whether her old co-conspirators from the Federal Election Commission would attend.

By way of background, Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had held a hearing on April 9 during which, “in questioning the witnesses from DOJ and IRS, Whitehouse asked why they have not prosecuted 501(c)(4) groups that have seemingly made false statements about their political activities.” In a March 27, 2013, email to top IRS staff, Lerner made it clear that the impetus for the hearing was to go after political groups:

As I mentioned yesterday — there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.

So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity. [Emphasis added]

But in an email sent a few minutes earlier, Lerner was forced to acknowledge prosecutions would evidently be at odds with the law:

Whether there was a false statement or fraud regarding an [sic] description of an alleged political expenditure that doesn’t say vote for or vote against is not realistic under current law. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet or scapegoat — there isn’t one. The law in this area is just hard.

The newly obtained emails show that the day before Lerner broke the news of the IRS scandal, blaming it on “low-level” employees out in the hinterlands, she herself was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted. That means the IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal – which helps explain why we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.

The reaction to these new Judicial Watch revelations has been explosive.  Congress, which had been supposedly investigating this scandal for years, evidently hadn’t been given this information.  Once again, Judicial Watch proved itself better at ferreting out the truth than Congress.  But Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who have been at least trying to get at the truth through their leadership roles at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, were quick to our react to our disclosures.

“The release of new documents underscores the political nature of IRS Tea Party targeting and the extent to which supposed apolitical officials took direction from elected Democrats,” said House Oversight Chairman Issa.  “These e-mails are part of an overwhelming body of evidence that political pressure from prominent Democrats led to the targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”

“Now I see why the IRS is scared to give up the rest of Lois Lerner’s emails,” said Rep. Jordan. “Not only do these e-mails further prove the coordination among the IRS, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Justice Department and committee Democrats to target conservatives, they also show that had our committee not requested the [IRS] Inspector General’s investigation when we did, Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department would likely have been leveling trumped up criminal charges against Tea Party groups to intimidate them from exercising their Constitutional rights.”

Media coverage was significant and our revelations gained national headlines.  It is easy to see why. Talking about throwing people in jail is a lot easier to understand than talking about an effort to delay approval of an application for exemption under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.

I encourage you to look at all the emails as there’s plenty more than the big headline about jailing Obama’s political opponents. The documents include email exchanges showing that before Lerner’s May 10, 2013, speech to the American Bar Association blaming “low-level” employees in Cincinnati for targeting tax-exempt organizations, the IRS Exempt Organizations division was desperately scrambling to defuse the emerging targeting scandal:

  • May 1, 2013: After receiving an email from an assistant showing that 501(c)(4) applications had increased from 1591 in 2010 to 3398 in 2012 , Lerner wrote back, “Looks to me like 2010-2012 doubled too. Oh well – thanks.”
  • May 2, 2013: Discussing an upcoming conference call with approximately 100 congressional staffers on May 22, Lerner cautions aides, “Need to be careful not to mention sequester/furlough unless asked although can allude to budget and resources restraints.”
  • May 2, 2013: In response to an email reminding her about the upcoming conference call with congressional staffers, Lerner responded, “Arrgh – I just saw it. Sharon [White] could skate, but Cindy [Thomas] is the person who could answer that stuff. We need to give them some type of language in the event that type of question comes up” [apparently in reference to earlier email referencing “sensitive issues”].

The new documents also include emails exchanged after Lerner’s May 10 ABA speech – including a scathing email from Cindy Thomas, the former program manager of the Cincinnati office, to Lerner:

  • May 10, 2013: In an email to an aide responding to a request for information from a Washington Post reporter, Lerner admits that she “can’t confirm that there was anyone on the other side of the political spectrum” who had been targeted by the IRS. She then adds that “The one with the names used were only know [sic] because they have been very loud in the press.”
  • May 15, 2013: In an email from an aide to Lerner, the aide specifically mentions “Tea Party Organizations”, the “Tea Party movement,” and “Patriots” as organizations targeted by the IRS.

The Judicial Watch FOIA requests came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that 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 IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.

(Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, retired from the IRS with full benefits on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports. On April 9, 2014, the Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the DOJ for criminal prosecution. On April 10, 2014, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.)

You can see how your support of Judicial Watch can have an extraordinary impact.  Thanks to the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Judicial Watch’s lawyers and investigators were able to uncover a new scandal that could have historic reverberations.

In the meantime, there are more IRS documents to uncover and we will pursue the conspiracy at Obama’s Justice Department.

Stay tuned….

 

ACLU “Retaliation and Harassment” against Conservatives

Judicial Watch announced this week that we are preparing a strong defense against a sweeping subpoena “witch hunt” filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against dozens of conservative organizations and individuals. The subpoenas were issued in an ACLU challenge immigration enforcement law SB 1070, Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”  The ACLU attacks are a move of breathtaking hypocrisy.   The ACLU is an organization billing itself as the “nation’s guardian of liberty” but is seeking to chill the First Amendment speech, association and assembly rights of Americans.

Among those targeted by the ACLU, along with your Judicial Watch, are more than twenty current and former members of the Arizona State Legislature, public interest groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, nine police associations, including the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police and the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, political groups such as the Arizona State Republican Party, the Arizona African American Republican Club, the Arizona Republican Assembly, and three Arizona senior citizens who have no apparent connection to SB 1070.

The subpoenas are part of litigation brought by the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other leftist groups challenging SB1070 in federal court (Valle Del Sol, et al. v. Michael B. Whiting, et al. (No. cv-10-01061)). They demand “all communications” from the targeted organizations and individuals related to SB 1070, immigrants and immigration, including emails and computer files. The ACLU subpoenas specifically note all communications that include words such as “aliens,” “illegal aliens,” “illegals,” “Mexican,” “Latino,” “invasion,” “beaner,” “spic” and “wetback.”

In an op-ed appearing in the Wednesday, April 9, 2014, Washington Times, I detailed for readers how the subpoenas, “filled with racial slurs,” are parts of a politically motivated “ground war” against conservatives:

The ACLU knows full well it cannot win in the courts with such tactics. But this is not about winning in the courts. This is about winning a political ground war with ugly and false insinuations of racism. In a move of breathtaking hypocrisy, the ACLU is seeking to chill the First Amendment speech, association and assembly rights of Americans who played by the rules and worked to support a law they believed was in the best interests of the country.

In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld SB 1070’s key provision that police can check the immigration status of an individual if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country unlawfully. “The ACLU objects to that decision,” we wrote in the Times op-ed. “It is trying to take another shot at the high court’s ruling with a lawsuit claiming that SB 1070 was the product of ‘racial animus’ and ‘invites racial profiling.’ So it has embarked on a witch hunt for racial profilers.”

One of the senior citizens targeted by the ACLU, Laura Leighton, is a 67-year-old Tucson, Arizona, resident who has been on disability for many years. In a letter to the ACLU, she pleaded, “I am not related to this lawsuit in any way and am not even sure what this lawsuit is about.” Another ACLU target is a 74-year-old grandmother who recently underwent three cardiac surgeries. She, too, says she had nothing to do with SB 1070. In both cases, the ACLU pressured the senior citizens to allow someone to come to their homes and search their computers.

The real motive for the ACLU subpoenas is retaliation and harassment.  Ms. Leighton and other subpoena recipients are targets simply because we hold views different from the ACLU and its clients. But the discovery process in civil litigation does not authorize the ACLU to trample on core First Amendment and privacy rights. Our message to the ACLU:  see you in court.

Judicial Watch, which represents many individuals and organizations targeted for harassment by the ACLU, plans to challenge the ACLU subpoenas in federal courts, if necessary.

(Judicial Watch has formerly represented the Arizona State Legislature in legal challenges to the SB 1070. In February 2012, Judicial Watch filed two separate amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of SB 1070, one on behalf of former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of the law, and a second on behalf of State Legislators for Legal Immigration.  The amicus briefs asked the Court to reverse a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling placing key provisions of SB 1070 on hold. In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the law, allowing police officers to check the immigration status of individuals they arrest or stop for questioning whom they suspect are in the U.S. illegally.)

Have a Happy and Joyous Easter!

Before I close on this Good Friday, let me leave you with an Easter thought from one of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis. It is from his essay, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” published originally in 1950:

“Then we come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, ‘The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.’ On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?”

Please accept my best wishes on behalf of all of us here at Judicial Watch for a Happy and Joyous Easter.

May 9, 2013, email reveals IRS plans to meet with Department of Justice over whether to prosecute groups that “lied” about plans for political activity 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a new batch of internal IRS documents revealing that former IRS official Lois Lerner communicated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013.

The newly released IRS documents contain an email exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller discussing plans to work with the DOJ  to prosecute nonprofit groups that “lied” (Lerner’s quotation marks) about political activities. The exchange includes the following:

I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.

I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…

I think we should do it – also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?

Lerner then “handed off” scheduling the issue to Senior Technical Adviser, Attorney Nancy Marks, who was then supposed to set up the meeting with the DOJ.  Lerner also decided that it would be DOJ’s decision as to whether representatives from the Federal Election Commission would attend.

Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had held a hearing on April 9during which, “in questioning the witnesses from DOJ and IRS, Whitehouse asked why they have not prosecuted 501(c)(4) groups that have seemingly made false statements about their political activities.”  Lerner described the impetus for this hearing in a March 27, 2013, email to top IRS staff:

As I mentioned yesterday — there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.

So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity

But in an email sent a few minutes earlier, Lerner acknowledged prosecutions would evidently be at odds with the law:

Whether there was a false statement or fraud regarding an [sic] description of an alleged political expenditure that doesn’t say vote for or vote against is not realistic under current law. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet or scapegoat — there isn’t one. The law in this area is just hard.

The documents also include email exchanges showing that before Lerner’s May 10, 2013, speech to the American Bar Association blaming “low-level” employees in Cincinnati for targeting tax-exempt organizations, the IRS Exempt Organizations division was scrambling to defuse the emerging targeting scandal:

  • May 1, 2013: After receiving an email from an assistant showing that 501(c)(4) applications had increased from 1591 in 2010 to 3398 in 2012 , Lerner wrote back, “Looks to me like 2010-2012 doubled too. Oh well – thanks.”
  • May 2, 2013: Discussing an upcoming conference call with approximately 100 congressional staffers on May 22, Lerner cautions aides, “Need to be careful not to mention sequester/furlough unless asked although can allude to budget and resources restraints.”
  • May 2, 2013: In response to an email reminding her about the upcoming conference call with congressional staffers, Lerner responded, “Arrgh – I just saw it. Sharon [White] could skate, but Cindy [Thomas] is the person who could answer that stuff. We need to give them some type of language in the event that type of question comes up” [apparently in reference to earlier email referencing “sensitive issues”].

The new documents obtained by Judicial Watch also include emails exchanged after Lerner’s May 10 ABA speech:

  • May 10, 2013: In an email to an aide responding to a request for information from a Washington Post reporter, Lerner admits that she “can’t confirm that there was anyone on the other side of the political spectrum” who had been targeted by the IRS. She then adds that “The one with the names used were only know [sic] because they have been very loud in the press.”
  • May 15, 2013: In an email from an aide to Lerner, the aide specifically mentions “Tea Party Organizations, the “Tea Party movement,” and “Tea Party Patriots” as organizations targeted by the IRS.

The Judicial Watch FOIA requests came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that 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 IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.

Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, refused to testify at a May 2013 hearing before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight Committee, demanding immunity concerning her role in the targeting scandal. Lerner retired from the IRS with full benefits on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports. On April 9, 2014, the Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the DOJ for criminal prosecution. On April 10, 2014, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal.  No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

Judicial Watch Files Major Objections to New Obama IRS Rules on Free Speech

 

“… given the Service’s targeting of conservative non-profits, the Service cannot claim authority to overturn 53 years of consistent interpretation with regulations that target these very same groups in the middle of an election year.”

 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on February 26, 2014, it sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requesting that it direct the Treasury Department to withdraw a new IRS proposal to change the rules governing nonprofit First Amendment activity.  The watchdog group criticizes the new “plainly unconstitutional regulation that arbitrarily reverses 53 years of administrative and judicial precedent.”  Judicial Watch is the nation’s largest government watchdog organization.

Judicial Watch specifically objects to the proposed rules concerning First Amendment-protected activity of nonprofit (exempt organizations) organized under Section 501 (c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Conservative “(c) (4)’s” have been improperly targeted by the IRS under the Obama administration.  Indeed, the letter details Judicial Watch concerns about IRS abuse:

 

[Judicial Watch] is very concerned about both the opaque process by which the proposed regulations were developed, as well as the context—the apparent abuse of authority and potentially unconstitutional and criminal conduct by IRS employees with respect to the review of applications for exemption under §501(c)(4) filed by hundreds of organizations, the vast majority of which were “tea party” or other organizations supporting conservative policy principles and opposing many of the initiatives promoted by President Obama and his liberal allies—out of which the proposed regulations apparently arose.  The secret manner in which these proposed regulations were developed, and the substantive provisions that would overturn more than 50 years of settled precedent regarding what is “intervention in a political campaign,” only increase the suspicion that the IRS is not attempting to administer the law as it is, but is attempting to arrogate to itself the making of the law, a function belonging solely to Congress, and not to the IRS.

 

The Judicial Watch letter notes that the Obama IRS’s recent “targeting of conservative non-profits” made the new “regulations that target these very same groups during an election year” particularly suspect, adding:

Although the Service has alleged that its true motivation behind promulgating these rules is not to shut down the speech of conservative § 501(c)(4) organizations in the middle of an election year, the timing, overbreadth, and under-inclusiveness suggest otherwise.  Further, this would not be the first time that the impetus for a tax statute or regulation was to shut down the speech of opponents. 

Under a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities (NPRM), the IRS seeks to replace the decades-old definition – “participation of intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office” – with a new term – “candidate-related political activity.”  Judicial Watch notes that the new rules violate the First Amendment and would censor free speech. 

The groups targeted by these new rules have a First Amendment right to “fully contribute to the debate and thereby foster our democratic system.  Associational activity should be encouraged, rather than prohibited, because it protects citizens from overreaching by the government.”

The Judicial Watch letter, which included a request for a public hearing, concludes with a call for the IRS to withdraw the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

  • The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking violated the Paperwork Reduction Act by failing to include all of the new recordkeeping that will be required by §501(c)(4) organizations if the proposed regulations are adopted. 
  • The Service has no authority to adopt a regulation that departs so radically from its prior, long-standing interpretation of the definition of intervention in a campaign for public office.
  • The proposed regulation also arbitrarily creates a separate definition of “intervention in a political campaign” that irrationally applies only to §501(c)(4) organizations. 
  • If adopted, the proposed regulation would violate the constitutional rights of §501(c)(3) organizations that, as noted by Justice Blackmun in Regan v. Taxation with Representation of Washington, must depend on affiliated §501(c)(4) organizations to engage in substantial lobbying.
  • The proposed regulation arbitrarily defines certain activities as “candidate-related political activities” even when they are conducted on a nonpartisan basis.  These arbitrary definitions reverse 53 years of administrative and judicial interpretations regarding “intervention in a campaign for public office,” and would improperly cause many nonpartisan activities and issue advocacy conducted by §501(c)(4) organizations in support of their civic and social welfare objectives to be treated as political activity.
  • The proposed regulation’s definition of “candidate” is impermissibly broad, because the Service has no authority to overturn Congress’ decision to effectively ratify the definition in Treas. Reg. §1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(iii) by not amending that definition when it enacted §527 in 1976, and by re-enacting §501(c)(4) without amendment in 1986. 
  • In addition, the proposed definition of candidate will create additional complexity for §501(c)(4) organizations that do engage in candidate-related political activity, because they will have to keep one set of records for purposes of measuring and reporting on Form 990, Schedule C, the extent of their “candidate-related political activity,” and a second set of records for purposes of reporting and paying any tax due on exempt function expenditures pursuant to §527(f), using Form 1120-POL.

The letter to the IRS was signed for Judicial Watch by attorneys Alan P. Dye, Charles M. Watkins, Heidi K. Abegg, and Sarah Moone, recognized national experts in nonprofit law, First Amendment law and government regulation, of the law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, LLP.

Judicial Watch is part of a coalition of conservative and liberal groups, including the ACLU, opposed to the rules.

“These new IRS rules are a dagger aimed at the heart of the conservative movement,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These unconstitutional rules are a continuation of the IRS scandal that saw the entire Tea Party movement suppressed by the IRS to help President Obama’s reelection.  President Obama and his partisan allies in Congress want to stifle the speech of Americans opposed to their policies.  This abuse of the IRS is every bit as much of a crisis for this Republic as anything Nixon did.”

###

February 7, 2014

JW Accuses IRS of Flouting Federal Rules:  Seeks End to IRS Anti-Tea Party Regs

When it comes to silencing political opposition, the Obama administration often wields a big stick – say, for example, using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to block the non-profit applications for organizations deemed too “patriotic.”  Or subjecting these organizations to painful and unnecessary audits.

On other occasions, however, the administration opts for a more subtle approach, tweaking a few words here and there in federal code. (Remember, the president has said he “has a pen” and is not afraid to use it.) But here’s the thing. When it comes to rewriting federal regulations small changes create big problems.

And this is the message JW brought to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a letter requesting that the agency direct the Treasury Department to withdraw a new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) proposal to redefine “political activity” in a way that could place a “substantial … record-keeping and collection of information burden” on more than 100,000 non-profit organizations.

Here’s what the Obama administration attempted to do.

Under a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities (NPRM), the Obama IRS seeks, without the approval of Congress, to do the following: Replace the decades-old definition – “participation of intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office” – with a new term – “candidate-related political activity.”

It may seem to some that this slight change in phraseology would yield insignificant results, but this is far from the truth.

As noted by The Daily Caller, “Communications and activities including voter registration drives and publishing voter guides, among others, are now classified as political activity. Grants and donations that 501(c)(4)’s give to other nonprofits are now subject to new record-keeping and increased scrutiny to prevent the money’s use for broadly-defined political activity.”

And then there’s the paperwork.

According to JW, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) submission filed by the IRS to support its proposal redefinition “does not analyze the substantial burden this new term will place on nearly all of the more than 100,000 501(c)(4) organizations,” and is therefore “fundamentally flawed.”

(The letter to OMB was signed for Judicial Watch by attorney Alan P. Dye, a recognized national expert in non-profit law and government regulation, of the law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, LLP.)

Let’s discuss some of the “flaws” in the IRS PRA submission as noted in our letter:

  • First … the Service [IRS] fails to mention, let alone review and evaluate as required under PRA, the burden of the collection of information arising out of its replacement of long-standing language … The new term … includes several activities … that under the long-standing concept would not be treated as political activity … Although the Service is now proposing to regulate these activities (by limiting their amount), it does not analyze the burden arising from its landscape-changing definition.
  • Second, “burden” is broadly defined in the PRA to include all of the “time, effort, or financial resources expended by persons to generate, maintain, or provide information to or for a Federal agency,” including any time or other expenditure needed to review instructions, acquire technology, or search data sources … Yet, the Service has completely ignored these components of burden.
  • Third, the new inclusion of volunteer hours imposed an additional layer of recordkeeping and burden upon these non-profit organizations, many of which rely heavily upon local volunteers … Anyone who has worked with volunteers knows that recordkeeping can be notoriously difficult – how many volunteers are going to want to fill out time cards for their service? How many volunteers are going to be turned off from civic engagement due to this paperwork burden?

 

“In short,” the Judicial Watch letter concludes, “the Service has failed to address the collection of information arising out of the NPRM’s new term … Consequently, the Service has not reviewed and evaluated the substantial burden this new term will place on nearly all of the 100,000 501(c) (4) organizations … [W]e respectfully request that the Director disapprove of the collection of information contained in the NPRM ….”

And while this could impact organizations on both sides of the political aisle, according to some members of Congress, given the Tea Party hate-fest ongoing at the IRS, it is clear the Obama administration intended for this policy to hamper conservative organizations disproportionately.

Per CBS News:

The IRS’ proposed changes to requirements for tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations, which would put new limits on their political activity, are the latest attempt by the federal agency to target conservative groups, Republican lawmakers said Tuesday.

The regulations, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a hearing, were “drafted in a manner, in my view, to shut down tea party groups.”

Rep. Charles Boustany, (R-LA) chairman of the Ways and Means’ oversight subpanel, added “that the new rules would ‘essentially codify the continued targeting of these very same groups’ that were previously targeted,” CBS News reported.

In short: The Obama IRS wants to kill the conservative movement with paperwork and regulation. These new IRS rules violate the law and could, through First Amendment-killing paperwork, freeze millions of patriotic volunteers, from both sides of the political divide.  President Obama and his administration ought to start obeying the law rather than rewriting it.

Stay tuned on this issue.  We will be objecting to these rules directly with the IRS and will be asking you, as part of a massive social media effort, to do the same next week.  The Obama administration, with the urging of its leftist allies, wants to kill the conservative movement with these proposed regulations and other steps.  Judicial Watch won’t stand still for it and neither should you.

Obama Administration Withholds Key Benghazi Emails

Even after a year and a federal lawsuit, the Obama administration is still in full stonewall mode on Benghazi. And JW continues to fight day-in and day-out to get to the truth in one of the most egregious and secretive scandals of the Obama administration.

Documents uncovered by JW show the Obama administration is withholding key emails about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in its ongoing cover-up of the deadly scandal. The documents, released in December, include multiple emails, which are heavily redacted, about the controversial Benghazi talking points that falsely portray the attack as being the result of a spontaneous protest.

Do you remember that whopper of a lie peddled by former UN Ambassador Susan Rice and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on all those Sunday talk shows? To date, no one has been held to account for this deception.  In fact, President Obama continues to deceive on Benghazi.  Check out the transcript from his Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly.

On October 18, 2012 JW filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the Department of State seeking information about talking points used to discuss the Benghazi attack that were given to then UN Ambassador Rice and others in the Obama administration. After waiting months for a response, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the State Department on June 21, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and requested that the State Department be compelled to produce all non-exempt responsive documents.

To date, the State Department has produced two sets of documents, each containing little or no information not previously available to the public.

The first set of documents consisted of 1192 pages of daily press clips from the United States Mission to the United Nations, dated September 12-28. The documents contained nothing beyond published news stories.

The second set of documents, provided to Judicial Watch on December 13, 2013 consists of 67 pages of emails. The majority of the content is redacted, aside from three prepared talking points sent to members of Congress on September 15, 2012, the first containing the administration’s false claim that the attack was “spontaneously inspired:”

  • “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.  There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
  • “This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.”
  • “The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice to those responsible for the deaths of US citizens.”

The Obama administration has withheld the name of the CIA official who distributed these inaccurate talking points, which seemed to have been used to brief Congress.

Now, I ask you. Why would the Obama administration produce dozens of blanked out emails if not to conceal the truth from the American people about its response to the Benghazi attacks? I think it’s clear that administration officials feared the political repercussions should more information detailing their incompetence and deceit be known. Remember, this all took place during the stretch run in the lead up to Election Day 2012.  You can bet our lawyers are considering challenges to this latest Obama secrecy gambit.

Our attorneys and investigators have already found some success by pressing the matter through the courts.

In June, 2013, Judicial Watch obtained the first seven photos from the Department of State depicting the aftermath of the September 11 Benghazi attacks, including: a burned and ransacked building, burned vehicles, and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans. In November, it obtained additional previously withheld photos, depicting: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and additional militant Islamist slogans.

Now, photos in hand, we’re after documents and records currently under lock and key inside the Obama administration.

In fact, JW currently has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request. It has published two in-depth special reports on Benghazi, the last one on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. [The first Special Report can be accessed here, the second here.]

The Obama administration only releases records it wants to release, or records the courts force it to release. Since there is absolutely zero chance the Obama gang will willingly do the right thing and let the full story of what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi be told, it is up to us to convince the courts to enforce FOIA law.

Will you help us in this effort?  Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support JW’s work, including our Benghazi related investigations and lawsuits.

JW Challenges Obama Administration’s Race-Based Policy

Obsessed with stoking racial division, the Left now promotes dishonest intellectual absurdity that George Orwell would well recognize.

Under the Left’s racial spoils system theory of “disparate impact,” a defendant can be held liable for discrimination for a race-neutral policy that statistically disadvantages a specific minority group even if that negative “impact” was neither foreseen nor intended. In such cases, defendants can be forced to pay for harm caused not by their own actions, but by economic and statistical realities, even if beyond their control.

Predictably, this HUD policy has been challenged in court and JW is right in the thick of this debate. This week, JW joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of the insurance industry lawsuit challenging the HUD policy of enforcing disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), even in instances where there is no direct evidence of discriminatory intent.

Before we get to JW’s principle legal arguments, however, let’s review what the law actually says about the issues of concern:

As made applicable by section 3603 of this title and except as exempted by sections 3603 (b) and 3607 of this title, it shall be unlawful—

To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

(b) To discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

[Note: The law also makes provisions for people deemed “handicapped” as well.]

Clearly, it is outside the bounds of law, for example, for a realtor to intentionally engage in discrimination against a prospective homebuyer because of their race or color or any of the other qualifiers listed in the law. (Note the words “because of” as we delve into excerpts from JW’s brief which illuminate our legal theory.)

Specifically, Judicial Watch argues that the HUD disparate impact regulation violates both the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) — restricting federal agencies from exceeding the powers given to them by statute — and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. According to the amicus brief:

I. HUD’s Rule Violates the Administrative Procedures Act

Section 804(a) of the FHA does nothing more than make it unlawful to “refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” The phrase “because of race” conveys the fact that race must be the reason (or at least a reason) for the refusal. Accordingly, under the statute’s plain text, there must be an intent to discriminate against a member of one of the named classes in order for the action to be unlawful. HUD’s interpretation is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the statute, and so the regulation must be stricken.

II. Any Interpretation of the FHA That Would Allow HUD’s Rule Would Violate the Equal Protection Clause

Any interpretation of the FHA Section 804(a) which allows HUD’s regulation would render the FHA unconstitutional … HUD’s interpretation of the FHA would be unlikely to survive strict scrutiny, as the Supreme Court does not view “racial balancing” as a compelling state interest. In fact, the Supreme Court has found quite the opposite: “At the heart of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection lies the simple command that the Government must treat citizens as individuals, not as simply components of a racial, religious, sexual or national class.”

Warning that HUD’s “unlawful action poses a serious threat to the rule of law,” ” the Judicial Watch/AEF brief argues:

HUD’s broad, race-based housing regulation is especially harmful because it attempts to further enshrine the intellectually impoverished concept of race into law, and seeks to use the law to perpetuate a culture of racial politics in the housing market, and more broadly, in American public life. Such actions will serve to increase racial polarization and resentment in this country, perpetuating our domestic focus on ‘racial’ issues, and inevitably prolonging the misconception that a person’s ‘race’ is a useful distinction for judging who a person is and what they are entitled to.

As noted by The Weekly Standard, this is not the first court challenge to HUD’s “Disparate Impact” theory, but it might be the first to earn a court judgment: “…twice now since 2011 private parties brought disparate impact claims in cases that reached the Supreme Court and were accepted for review. Both cases presented the same question as the insurers’ associations present now—whether such claims are legitimate under the FHA. And both cases were settled mere weeks before oral argument, paving the way for their withdrawal from the Court.”

And why were they withdrawn and/or settled?

“Both settlements were driven by parties fearful that the Supreme Court would decide that disparate impact claims are not permitted under the FHA,” the Standard explains.

The “parties” responsible for the settlements include the race-baiting former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez (See Black Panthers) and liberal organizations like George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Liberals were afraid their cherished theory would be invalidated and they ducked out of court to avoid it.

Judicial Watch previously has gone to court three times in its efforts to expose and oppose the Obama administration’s controversial “disparate impact” policies.

On November 2, 2012, JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against HUD seeking documents relating to possible collusion between the Obama administration and the city of St. Paul, MN, in withdrawing a disparate impact appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On September 3, 2013, it filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the township of Mt. Holly, New Jersey, arguing that the FHA prohibits only disparate treatment, not alleged discriminatory intent.

And on September 24, it filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit  against HUD for all records of communications regarding two disparate impact housing discrimination lawsuits, Magner v. Gallagher and the Township of Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens Association. Mount Holly like Magner, was withdrawn from the Supreme Court docket before arguments could be heard.

The Obama administration wants, in the words of this brief, “to perpetuate a culture of racial politics in the housing market, and more broadly, in American public life.” The Obama administration’s race card is dangerous and detrimental to the basic concept of equal justice under law.  Let’s hope and pray that courts rein this latest example of Obama’s dangerous lawlessness.

Until next week…

Judicial Watch Continues to Expose Lois Lerner’s Political Witch Hunt

If there is any single name that has become synonymous with Barack Obama’s corruption of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it is Lois Lerner. Few can forget her stern visage as the then-IRS top official took the Fifth Amendment before California Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee on May 22 in order to cover up her key role in targeting conservative groups for IRS harassment.

A week earlier, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) had released a report revealing that, under Lerner’s leadership, the IRS Exempt Organizations Division had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles in applications for tax-exempt status. The TIGTA probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status  (e.g., lists of past and future donors).”  The illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.

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Judicial Watch immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the IRS for records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) nonprofit status since January 1, 2010. And we followed that with a second request specifically seeking all records of communications by Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process. As I said at the time, the Obama IRS suppressed the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection. And one of the most pressing questions is “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” The IRS, as expected, has stonewalled that FOIA request, which forced us on October 9 to file a FOIA lawsuit against the agency in the District Court for the District of Columbia. We’ll keep you posted on that critical lawsuit.

Eventually, of course, long after Lerner’s disastrous congressional testimony, the IRS finally admitted that while Lerner was in charge, its agents had, indeed, improperly targeted Tea Party groups. At which point, they promptly rewarded her by putting her on paid leave and allowing her to spend several months relaxing at home. Lerner then retired from the IRS on September 23 with full benefits, even after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was preparing to call for her firing, according to news reports.  And that, folks, is how Washington works.

But, I am pleased to tell you that the story doesn’t end there – because Judicial Watch is now hot on the trail of yet another Lerner-IRS scandal, this one involving her collusion with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to carry out her vendetta against conservative groups.

Last week, Judicial Watch obtained 176 pages of email exchanges between Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicating that she had provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC in violation of federal law.

The emails came from the FEC in response to an August 9, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking access to the following for the timeframe January 1, 2009, to the present (we sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking the same information, but they are still stonewalling):

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the FEC’s coordination with the IRS regarding the political activities of 501(c) (4) non-profit organizations;
  • Any and all communications between the FEC and the IRS regarding the political activities of non-profit organizations.

The revealing email chain obtained by Judicial Watch begins with a February 3, 2009, email from an FEC attorney (whose name is redacted) asking Lerner if the IRS had issued an exemption letter for American Future Fund (AFF). The writer of the letter notes, “When we spoke last July, you told us that the American Future Fund had not received an exemption letter from the IRS.”  In the same email, the FEC attorney asked Lerner if she could also advise him if the IRS had granted an exemption letter to American Issues Project (AIP) as well as to AIP’s predecessor organizations, Citizens for the Republic and Avenger, Inc.

In her response sent ten minutes later from her irs.gov email address, Lerner indicated that she would require her staff to cooperate fully, saying, “I have sent your email out to some of my staff. Will get back to you as soon as I have heard from them.”

The bulk of the records Judicial Watch obtained consists of extensive materials from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC containing detailed, confidential information about the organizations. These include annual tax returns (Form 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and legal correspondence between the non-profit 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.

Initial news reports, when word of some of these IRS-FEC emails first surfaced in August 2013, raised a variety of legal issues.  One was the fact that Lerner was supplying confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status of conservative organizations.  Another was the fact that the inquiries regarding AFF made by the FEC attorneys in February 2009 to Lerner occurred before the FEC commissioners had voted on whether to investigate AFF (the FEC later voted not to investigate AFF). And a third was the clearly collusion between government agencies with an apparently anti-conservative bias.

It should be noted that Lois Lerner has a long track record of using her position to go after targets of interest for the Left. During the Clinton administration, when she was head of the FEC’s enforcement division previous to joining the IRS, she oversaw an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. Though the Coalition was thoroughly exonerated, Lerner had taken her toll.

These new documents show that the suppression of the Tea Party and conservatives wasn’t necessarily limited to the IRS. Any criminal and congressional investigations need to be expanded beyond the IRS to the FEC. I have the feeling that these documents are just the beginning.

The Ravens Need to Go to the Video

This coming week, when the Baltimore Ravens sit down to review game tapes, they might want to include the C-SPAN video of Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius’ stilted, stultifying, cynical, and deceptive attempt to defend the (Un)affordable Health Care Act (aka: Obamacare) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on October 30.  In so doing, they may quickly learn that when they decided to join team Obama in order to help promote his now thoroughly discredited government health care takeover, they handcuffed themselves to a loser.

The reigning Super Bowl champion has tarnished its name by helping Barack Obama and his minions impose Obamacare on the American people. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch this past week, the Ravens organization is getting $130,000 from taxpayers to wave the Obamacare banner.

The deal was secured on September 9 between the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL) and Maryland state Obamacare officials. The White House has tried recruiting professional sports leagues—especially the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA)—to help promote the president’s healthcare law, but they have declined.

In fact, the NFL confirmed months ago that it would not participate in the Obamacare public relations campaign, offering the media this written statement: “We have responded to the letters we received from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about [the health-care law’s] implementation.” Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper called it a blow to the administration.”

But Maryland officials evidently appealed directly to the home team, announcing in early September that the Ravens would help market the state’s Obamacare exchange known as Maryland Health Connection. Both parties refused to offer specifics when the deal was initiated, and Judicial Watch filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for details.

In a Sponsorship Agreement between the Maryland Health Connection and the Ravens, the state will pay the Super Bowl champs $130,000 to push Obamacare on television, radio, the team’s official website, its newsletter and in social media. This includes the Ravens Report Show on cable TV and a number of pre and post-game radio segments, as well as Facebook and Twitter plugs.

Taxpayers and football fans alike should be outraged by this propaganda deal.  The Super Bowl champion Ravens have enough problems this season, and allowing their name to be linked with the Obamacare debacle is going to further disappoint many fans.  Sure enough, the Maryland Obamacare exchange is a massive failure.  And this shows why Obamacare is a failure, as the government seemed more interested in spending money on ads rather than making it work. As a longtime Ravens fan, I still have hope that Ravens can recover this season – which is more than I can say for Obamacare.

The truth is, before continuing with their outrageous sell-out to the Maryland’s political powers that be, the Ravens really should take just a few minutes to watch Secretary Sebelius’ performance before Congress. Icily indifferent to the devastating impact of the program she helped cobble together and now oversees, at one point she went so far as to respond to one congressman’s serious questions by shrugging her shoulders, staring vacantly, and simply replying, “Whatever.”

While Sebelius at one point offered a perfunctory mea culpa for the massive failures of the Obamacare website, she very tellingly showed a deep-seated misunderstanding of the program she is charged with administering. When asked by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) about the provisions of Obamacare covering abortions, Sebelius appeared clueless. Here was the exchange:

Rep. Shimkus: “… Another transparency issue: Um, if someone – a constituent of mine or someone in this country has strongly held pro-life views, can you commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer that is clearly identified, and so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not? Because right now, you cannot make that determination.”

Sec. Sebelius: “Sir, I – I don’t know… I – I know exactly the, the, uh, um issue that you are talking about, I will check and make sure…”

Later, Sebelius showed an even deeper misunderstanding of the law she administers when she wrongly informed Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) that she is ineligible to enroll in Obamacare. As the online publication Mediaite reported:

Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius engaged in a heated exchange with a Republican representative about whether or not she plans to enroll in the insurance exchanges associated with the Affordable Care Act like the members of Congress have done. Sebelius said that she already had health insurance and insisted that she believed it was illegal for her to enter the exchanges.

As even the Obamacare-supporting Washington Post was forced to admit, according to HealthCare.gov, Sebelius is legally allowed to get insurance on the exchange. She would simply not receive her employer’s contribution to her premiums. As Business Insider observed, “This is a kind of shocking oversight from the top official overseeing implementation of Obamacare. It’s not a minor technical point; one of the key issues in the law’s design is how to deal with workers who might choose exchange coverage over their offers of work-based coverage.”

The bottom line on all of this is that America is in deep trouble over the Obama administration’s insistence upon forcing a mortally flawed government health care contrivance on the American people that even its own top lieutenants don’t understand and can’t defend. It goes far beyond disastrous bugs in the program’s website; it goes to the very heart of a free people’s right to protect their lives, limbs, and liberty.

As many as seven million Americans may lose their health care coverage because of Obamacare. The program will increase health care spending by more than $7,000 per year for a typical family of four. And, according to Gallup, 41 percent of businesses already have frozen hiring because of the health care law.  Unlike the Baltimore Ravens, Americans aren’t going to “take a knee” in the face of the destructive Obamacare law.

 

Judicial Watch Obtains 57,000 Pages of Records Relating to Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Reform Task Force

Regular readers of the Weekly Update will recall that Judicial Watch has long been on the trail of the corruption and deceit that were part and parcel of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s National Taskforce on Health Care Reform. I’m pleased to report to you that this past week we scored another breakthrough, pulling back more the veil of secrecy in which the Clintons have long shrouded their most famous policy failure.

On October 17, 2013, thanks to Judicial Watch litigation, the public gained access to more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency. The release of records came more than seven years after Judicial Watch filed an April 4, 2006, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for “any and all” records pertaining to the Taskforce on Health Care Reform. On November 2, 2007, Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the records (Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (No: 1:07-cv-07-1987)).

And finally, on October 17, after nearly a decade, the Supervisor Architect of the Clinton Presidential Library sent a letter to Judicial Watch conceding, “We have completed processing, according to the provisions of FOIA, the approximately 57,234 pages of Clinton Presidential records responsive to … your FOIA request ….”

One thing we already know for certain is that Hillary Clinton was the power behind the throne, given unbridled authority to direct and dictate the entire effort. According to Clinton Presidential Library records, “The cabinet-level Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was given primary responsibility for providing advice and making recommendations to the President regarding the national health care reform package,” which everyone knew as Hillarycare.

The release of the Task Force records marks another milestone in our long and relentless effort to obtain the information, dating back to the original 2006 FOIA request. Following the 2007 FOIA lawsuit, in February 2008 we asked the federal court to deny a National Archives motion to delay the release of any records indefinitely. In May 2008, the court granted the Archives motion, prompting us to note at the time, “The Archives processed requests for information about UFOs, while refusing to process requests for important information about a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator. This delay benefits no one but bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs and politicians running for office.”

In September 2008, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives and refused their motion to dismiss our lawsuit.  In his ruling, the judged declared, “[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch's] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents,” while noting that the Archives “should have been better prepared” to process open records requests related to the Clinton Presidential Library. And now, five years later, the National Archives has finally acceded to the law of the land.

What will Judicial Watch attorneys find as they dig into the stacks of previously withheld documents? Well, if the past is prologue, the revelations could be interesting. In January 2008, as our lawsuit against the National Archives was proceeding, we obtained an earlier batch of records from the Clinton Presidential Library that were stunning in their revelations. Among the highlights of those documents were the following:

  • A June 18, 1993, internal Memorandum entitled, “A Critique of Our Plan,” authored by someone with the initials “P.S.,” makes the startling admission that critics of Hillary’s health care reform plan were correct: “I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy…Is the public really ready for this?… none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all…”
  • A “Confidential” May 26, 1993, memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, “Health Care Reform Communications,” which criticizes the Task Force as a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks’” that has engaged in “choking off information” from the public regarding health care reform. The memorandum suggests that Hillary Clinton “use classic opposition research” to attack those who were excluded by the Clinton Administration from Task Force deliberations and to “expose lifestyles, tactics and motives of lobbyists” in order to deflect criticism. Senator Rockefeller also suggested news organizations “are anxious and willing to receive guidance [from the Clinton Administration] on how to time and shape their [news] coverage.”
  • A February 5, 1993, draft memorandum from Alexis Herman and Mike Lux details the Office of Public Liaison’s plan for the health care reform campaign. The memorandum notes the development of an “interest group database” detailing whether organizations “support(ed) us in the election.” The database would also track personal information about interest group leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, “biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congresspeople.”

You can see how things haven’t changed much in DC!  The concerns and machinations over Hillarycare are virtually no different for the ongoing Obamacare disaster.  Our investigators are preparing to fly down to Little Rock to review the new Hillarycare documents, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what they find.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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