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(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained email exchanges between former Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicating 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 email exchanges were IRS questionnaires to a conservative group that contained questions of a hostile nature.

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The emails were produced to Judicial Watch last week by 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 (the IRS received a FOIA request for the same information and has not yet responded):

  • 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 a redacted FEC attorney 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 (CFTR) and Avenger, Inc. (AIP).

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 obtained by Judicial Watch consist 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 (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.

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).  A third was the appearance of collusion between government agencies with an apparently anti-conservative bias. The new in-depth emails obtained by Judicial Watch seem to confirm that the possible collusion between the IRS and the FEC may have been far more extensive than first indicated, particularly in view of allegations that, prior to joining the IRS, Lerner’s tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) also was marked by what appeared to be politically motivated harassment of conservative groups.

“These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies:  the IRS and FEC,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime.”

Judicial Watch Sues IRS for Tea Party Scandal Records

As I’ve noted here previously, the Obama Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has initiated an unprecedented attack against organizations characterized as “Tea Party-like” or “conservative.”

Judicial Watch, of course, knows well the penchant for the Left to use the IRS to silence perceived political “enemies.”  After all, JW was subjected to similar abuses during the Clinton administration. Now, as we also did quite effectively during the Clinton years, we’ve initiated an investigation to get the truth about the abuses, which are ongoing, at the IRS.

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On October 9, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS asking the District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the nation’s tax collecting 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.

(Almost all of the Tea Party groups were seeking recognition under Section 501 (c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code; which would allow them to educate Americans about public policy and spend resources related to political campaigns.  I need not tell you why President Obama and his allies didn’t want these Tea Party groups operating in the run-up to the 2012 election!)

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.

JW was forced to seek redress in federal court when the IRS failed to comply with four FOIA requests dating back to May, 2013.  Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records from its three FOIA requests, all 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 record 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, regarding, 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 another 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.

(Evidently, the IRS is as “efficient” at processing FOIA requests from conservative groups as it is non-profit applications.)

On May 14, 2013, the Treasury Inspector General released a 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 (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.

And how long were the delays? Well, here’s just one example courtesy of the Washington Examiner. “TeaParty.net” submitted their application in March 2010 and received their approval on October 2, 2013! That’s three years plus!  Most other Tea Party groups have either given up, shut down, or are still waiting to hear from the IRS.

A key figure in the still-developing IRS scandal is Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status.  Lerner 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. (Well, “refused to testify” is not quite accurate. Lerner submitted a statement professing her innocence and then, in an abuse of the privilege, took the Fifth.)

Eventually, the agency acknowledged that while Lerner was in charge, IRS agents improperly targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012. Lerner retired from the IRS 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.

We all know exactly why the Obama IRS undertook this campaign — to suppress the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection. However, one of the most pressing questions remains unanswered: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

We know that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and his political aide, Jonathan Davis, visited the White House hundreds of times during the Obama IRS witch hunt. This may help explain why the IRS is now stonewalling our FOIA requests and forced us to go to federal court.  This major FOIA lawsuit is designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal. More updates as events warrant.

JW Sues Mayor Bloomberg for Documents on his Anti-Gun Group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns

There is no doubt that Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are on the same page when it comes to restricting Second Amendment rights, as the Vice President’s recent speech to the Clinton Global Initiative demonstrates. Per Politico:

Appearing at the Clinton Global Initiative conference to present the Leadership in Public Service award to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Vice President Biden took what he said was “a point of personal privilege” to praise the work of his “old buddy” on gun control.

Acknowledging their failure to get federal legislation passed despite their cooperative efforts, Biden said he remains confident of success. Change will eventually come, Biden said, and “when it comes … it will be because Mike has sent it.”

“Your passion about reducing gun violence in this country is something that’s become contagious,” Biden said.

But here’s the key question: In Bloomberg’s “passion” for gun control, did he cross the line and improperly misuse taxpayer dollars to lobby for specific gun control initiatives through an anti-gun group? And what role has the Vice President, the Attorney General and the Obama administration played in this coordinated legal attack on the Second Amendment?

These questions are at the center of a Judicial Watch investigation with answers in short supply due to a Bloomberg cover-up.

On October 4, 2013, JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit with the Supreme Court of the New York requesting that the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg be ordered to produce all records of communications between the Office of the Mayor, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and Vice President Joe Biden.

The FOIL suit also requested that the mayor’s office be required to produce records of a January 9, 2013, meeting attended by MAIG representatives, Biden, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Specifically, here are the records we seek pursuant to a January 15, 2013, request;

  • Any and all records of communication between Mayor Bloomberg and/or Chief Advisor to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning John Feinblatt and Mr. Mark Glaze, Director of Mayors against Illegal Guns and a Principal at The Raben Group, LLC between December 14, 2012 and January 22, 2013.
  • Any and all records of communications between Mayor Bloomberg and/or any official, employee, or representative of the Office of the Mayor and Vice President Joe Biden and/or any official, employee, or representative of the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
  • Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the January 9, 2013 White House meeting attended by Chief Advisor to the mayor for Policy and Strategic planning John Feinblatt, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and others. This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all notes, talking points, briefing books, and internal memoranda produced in the preparation for, during, and/or subsequent to the meeting.

As I’ve detailed previously in this space, New York Mayor Bloomberg is a co-founder of MAIG, which advocates for gun control laws nationwide. Despite the refusal of the Bloomberg office to respond to the FOIL request, Judicial Watch investigators have managed to uncover some interesting information regarding this Bloomberg operation, including:

  • Since 2008, MAIG has spent a total of $1,280,000 on federal lobbyists. This excludes $580,000 in-house lobbying expenses for the organization in 2013 (the first year they reported any such expenditures). The total (in-house and out-sourced) lobbying expenses are $1,860,000 since 2008.
  • Since 2009, MAIG’s primary lobbying firm has been The Raben Group, founded and led by former Clinton Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben.
  • Through the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund, MAIG has paid for regional coordinators to be employed in mayors’ offices throughout the country, including Minneapolis, Columbus, Lewiston, Reading, and Seattle.
  • In 2010, MAIG provided grants totaling more than $371,000, and at least $346,000 in 2011 to fund these positions. The positions, however, are not cost-neutral for the municipalities in which coordinators are installed. The funding includes a matching requirement that the recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator and any salary paid to the Region: a minimum of $717,000 over 2010 and 2011.

Now, with respect to how MAIG funds can be used by municipalities, agreements between MAIG and the grant recipients specifically stipulate that “no portion of the grant may be used to support lobbying activities.” But just take a look at the grant requirements as described in a Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the city of Orlando uncovered by Judicial Watch:

  • Working to pass state or county laws requiring background checks for all gun sales at gun shows and/or a state law requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns;
  • Working to pass a state law allowing broader local government control of gun laws so that local governments can enact gun laws that they determine would help protect public safety;
  • Working to pass a new state law requiring regular gun dealer inspections to detect possible sales to illegal gun traffickers.

Wouldn’t you say that “working to pass” and “lobbying” are essentially the same activity? Or sufficiently similar enough as to warrant an investigation and an explanation? We do. And that’s why we’re fighting for the records.

The bottom line here is that we have good reason to suspect that New York taxpayers have been forced to foot the bill for Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun group. We have records showing that other municipalities also foot part of his anti-gun lobbying efforts. And it is well past time for the public to have a full accounting from Mayor Bloomberg about MAIG taxpayer-funded activities. Given the document cover-up, it looks like Mayor Bloomberg has something to hide.

We talked about MAIG and our new lawsuit earlier this week at a fascinating panel held at JW’s DC headquarters on the Second Amendment.  We had top notch experts address the topic, “The Second Amendment Under Attack.”  You can watch the video of the panel here.  I encourage you to watch as you will learn about efforts by the Obama administration and its Bloomberg-funded allies to take away your Second Amendment rights at the federal and state levels.

JW and AEF File Friend of Court Brief in Support of Virginia’s Efforts to Clean Voter Rolls

If you are a regular reader of my weekly update, you know that from time to time JW has partnered with the Allied Educational Fund (AEF) on a number of very important constitutional issues. (AEF is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education.)

Whether it’s protecting the institution of marriage in California, or fighting against racial preference policies in Michigan and Texas, or exposing a U.S. Census policy of improperly counting illegal aliens when apportioning seats in Congress, JW and AEF go to court when necessary to enforce the rule of law.

This time, we are fighting for election integrity in Virginia.

On Wednesday, JW and AEF announced the filing of an amicus curiae brief with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division in support of the Virginia Board of Election’s plan to remove as many as 57,000 voters deemed ineligible from the Virginia voter registration rolls in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

Here’s the headline folks: Virginia Democrats are trying to make certain that individuals they surely know to be ineligible to vote are kept on the voter registration rolls! This remarkable effort demonstrates that liberals in Virginia will do anything to get their candidates elected – even if it means allowing votes from people who have no legal right to cast them.

According to the Judicial Watch-AEF amicus brief:

[The Democratic Party of Virginia], on the basis of almost no evidence, is asking this Court, sitting in equity, to issue an injunction that would retain and restore registrations that even the plaintiff believes to be invalid – thereby guaranteeing that Virginia’s voter rolls will become less accurate than they are at present.  On its face, this relief is unreasonable and should be denied.

Stating that “the State Board of Elections has incorporated reasonably defined and prudent procedures for removing invalid registrations,” the Judicial Watch/AEF amici brief specifically focuses on three basic arguments:

  1. Virginia Democrats presented almost no evidence to support a request for an injunction that would preserve tens of thousands of invalid registrations and actually restore the registrations of voters who no longer live in Virginia:

“While the [Virginia Democrats’] motion is long on innuendo, inference, and implication, it is remarkably short on evidence. Missing from the plaintiff’s complaint, from all of its supporting declarations and affidavits, and from its brief, is any reference to even a single instance where a voter was erroneously and permanently removed from Virginia’s voter rolls because of the IVRCP data or the procedures used by registrars.”

  1. Virginia’s implementation of the multi-state crosscheck data to identify ineligible voters incorporates numerous safeguards to protect all truly eligible voters:

“[Virginia Democrats] argue that the registrars are acting without standards in deciding when to remove registrations. In making this argument, the plaintiff repeatedly quotes the directive to ‘use your best judgment’ contained in an email from the Board of Elections to the registrars … But … that paragraph starts by directing registrars to ‘closely review the data provided against the identified individual’s voter registration and voter history in VERIS,’ the State’s voter registration database, and it instructs the registrars to determine if ‘the individual may have registered in Virginia after their registration in another state’ … Finally, federal and state laws concerning provisional ballots ensure that even a voter whose registration was improperly cancelled can still cast a ballot on Election Day.”

  1. Virginia has developed a model program that allows it to comply with federal laws requiring states to remove the registrations of voters who have moved to other states:

“Virginia’s participation in the [multi-state crosscheck effort] is an excellent example of reasonable, well-constructed and thoughtfully implemented program. The list generated by the multi-state comparison only indicates a duplicate if two records show a 100% match in first and last names, dates of birth, and the last four digits of a Social Security number. Yet, even where there is such a match, registrars have been counseled to review the database records for any indication that the match might be inaccurate, and to resolve any doubts by retaining a registration.”

On October 3, 2013, the Democratic Party of Virginia filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the State of Virginia in an effort to prevent it from removing ineligible voters from its voter rolls.

The Democratic Party alleges that the data used to conduct registration crosschecks with states participating in the Interstate Registration Crosscheck Program (IVRCP) is unreliable and that the procedures used by Virginia registrars to process the information generated are arbitrary. The Democratic Party lawsuit could force the state to restore voters deemed ineligible to its registration rolls while preventing any future use of the state’s IVRCP list to ensure that accurate voter registration rolls are maintained. With just weeks before elections, a hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for today, October 18.

What is at stake here is whether the integrity of next month’s Virginia election is going to be marred by dirty voting rolls. Clean elections shouldn’t take a back seat to partisan politics.

And make no mistake. This is not just about Virginia. JW’s Election Integrity Project is an ongoing 50-state campaign that has already prompted efforts in Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and many other places across the country.

By the way, this amicus brief was filed by the head of JW’s election integrity campaign, Robert Popper, former Deputy Chief of the Voting Section at the Department of Justice and by J. Christian Adams, a former Trial Attorney in the Voting Section.

And regarding our partners in this effort, if you have a moment, feel free to visit the AEF website for more information on the Allied Educational Fund. The Foundation has engaged in a number of projects which include, but are not limited to, educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. We are pleased that AEF has so frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption and promote a return to ethics and morality in the nation’s public life.

Until next week…

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on October 9, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)) 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).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 record 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.

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. Eventually, the agency acknowledged that while she was in charge, IRS agents improperly targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012. Lerner retired from the IRS 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.

“The Obama IRS suppressed the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “One of the most pressing questions, of course, is ‘What did the president know, and when did he know it?’ We know that former IRS Commissioner Doulas Shulman and his political aide, Jonathan Davis, visited the White House hundreds of times during the Obama IRS witch hunt. This may help explain why the IRS is now stonewalling our FOIA requests and forced us to go to federal court.  This major FOIA lawsuit is designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal.

Judicial Watch Sues CIA for Transcript of Brennan Call with Press Revealing Details of Foiled Terrorist Plot to Bomb U.S. Airliner 

The Obama administration came under heavy fire from both the Left and the Right in May of this year for secretly collecting telephone records of Associated Press reporters. The administration attempted to defend itself by arguing that the AP “had it coming” for revealing classified details about a foiled terrorist plot to bomb a U.S. aircraft scheduled to fly from Yemen to the United States.

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The AP’s disclosures “put the American people at risk,” the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed.

But there is one gaping hole in the DOJ’s argument. At the time that the AP story broke, then-Obama counterterrorism advisor John Brennan evidently hosted a conference call with select TV terrorism consultants to discuss details related to this same terrorist plot.

As noted in a May 15, 2013, NBC News report, “[T]hat assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder could be undermined by the White House’s decision to publicly comment about the operation at the time and reveal details beyond those in the original AP story, according to legal experts and counterterrorism officials.”

So our first question is this: If the AP story, as the Obama administration has argued, “put the American people at risk,” couldn’t the same be said of Brennan’s call with the press?

Well, certainly obtaining the conference call transcript would go a long way toward answering this question. Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to keep the transcript under lock and key, which is why Judicial Watch is now forced to go to court to bust the stone wall.

On June 21, 2013, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking the Brennan phone call transcript.

By letter on March 21, 2013, the CIA acknowledged receipt of JW’s request on March 5, 2013. The letter blithely stated that it was unlikely the CIA could respond to the request within 20 working days as required by law, adding, “You have the right to consider our honest appraisal as a denial of your request and you may appeal to the Agency Release Panel.”

However, the CIA’s statement in and of itself was not an adverse determination within the meaning of FOIA law, and no administrative appeal was possible. That’s why we’re now forced to go to court.

Now let’s take a step back for just a moment and review what we know so far about this facts in this case.

On May 7, 2012, the AP broke the story of the foiled airliner bomb plot, reporting:

The CIA has thwarted a plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a US-bound airliner using a bomb with a new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009.

According to Reuters, following the breaking of the story by AP, Brennan, then a top White House adviser on counterterrorism, conducted a teleconference with select former counterterrorism advisers, who had become TV news commentators, to privately brief them on yet-unrevealed details of the foiled Yemeni plot.

While Brennan assured the commentators that “the plot was never a threat to the U.S. public or air safety because Washington had ‘inside control’ over it,” his comments reportedly “helped lead to disclosure of the secret at the heart of a joint U.S.-British-Saudi undercover counter-terrorism operation.”

NBC News reported that Brennan had an explanation regarding why he chose to host the conference call: “Brennan later told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he conducted the briefing to avoid ‘dangerous questions and speculation’ about the operation.”

Okay, fair enough. Then why the secrecy? If the purpose of Brennan’s conference call was to avoid “dangerous questions and speculation” about the foiled terrorist plot, why not disclose these details to the public for this very same purpose?

Perhaps because the record will clearly show that John Brennan’s media briefing surpassed what was reported by the AP, thereby “undermining,” as NBC News reported, the Obama administration’s heavy-handed Big Government spying campaign against the AP.

And it was heavy-handed. “In a sweeping and unusual move, the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press as part of a year-long investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot last year,” the Washington Post reported on May 13, 2013.

According the article, federal authorities obtained cellular, office, and home telephone records of individual reporters and an editor; AP general office numbers in Washington, New York and Hartford, Conn.; and the main number for AP reporters covering Congress.

This is truly classic: the Obama administration stonewalling the release of the details of a briefing to the press. One might conclude that the cover-up related to this antiterrorism briefing has something to do with minimizing the controversy of their extraordinary investigation into the AP over its reporting on the topic covered in this very same briefing.

After all, it would be a nightmare for the Obama administration if a press briefing hosted by the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism advisor turned out to be far more potentially harmful to national security than the original AP report that prompted a government action that led to less freedom for the press.  (To be clear, unlike some, I don’t think the media is above the law nor should be given “extra” protections from court processes that some Republicans and Democrats are pushing.)

As I say, we won’t know the full details until we get hold of the transcript, which is why this is a transparency fight worth having. More on this in future editions of the Weekly Update.

Obama IRS Scandal Updates: Edict from the President?

If you want to know why Judicial Watch has led the fight to obtain every White House visitor log, look no further than the still-growing IRS scandal, where the agency targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, improperly disclosed confidential financial information from these organizations and targeted conservative individuals with unnecessary audits.

Per The Daily Caller:

The Obama appointee implicated in congressional testimony in the IRS targeting scandal met with President Obama in the White House two days before offering his colleagues a new set of advice on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who was named in House Oversight testimony by retiring IRS agent Carter Hull as one of his supervisors in the improper targeting of conservative groups, met with Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 23, 2012.

On April 25, 2012, Wilkins’ office sent the exempt organizations determinations unit “additional comments on the draft guidance” for approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications, according to the IRS inspector general’s report.

The Daily Caller also notes that “Wilkins’ boss, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 24, 2012, according to White House visitor logs.”

Raise any red flags with you? It certainly does with me. The IRS man behind the targeting of Tea Party and other conservatives met with President Obama two days before the attack plan was issued. And his boss, then-IRS Commissioner Shulman, met with the president the very next day. And they did not discuss this new plan?

GovernmentExec.com called the revelation a potential “smoking gun.”  I tend to agree. At the very least, President Obama needs to personally address exactly what was discussed during these meetings. His silence will only deepen suspicions that the president himself issued the order, in a scandal the administration attempted unsuccessfully to pin on the local Cincinnati IRS office.

(Incidentally, Wilkins also has ties to Obama’s nut-house spiritual advisor and life coach, the “Reverend” Jeremiah Wright. Click here for more on that.)

As evidence emerged seemingly suggested that the IRS scandal could have been initiated from the very top, new allegations also surfaced this week that IRS targeting was more far-reaching than initially believed. In addition to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, new evidence suggests that conservative organizations that had already received tax-exempt status were also subject to scrutiny.  Judicial Watch was proud to sign a Free Congress-led coalition letter with nearly 80 other conservative organizations and activists demanding a broadened investigation into this very issue.  This coalition got results.

Fox News had the story:

House Republicans want an inspector general to open up a new front in an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, focusing on the agency’s treatment of conservative groups that were already granted tax-exempt status.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan charged Monday the IRS targeted those groups for extra scrutiny.

Among the organizations allegedly targeted: The Leadership Institute and the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute.

The Leadership Institute, operating as a tax-exempt organization since 1979, was audited in 2011 and 2012. The IRS reportedly subjected the organization to “invasive questions” and required more than 23,000 pages of documents. The tab for the audits cost approximately $50,000.

The Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, in business for over a decade, was subjected to its first ever audit in 2011. Michelle Easton, a spokesperson for the Institute told The Wall Street Journal, that “she was asked for donor lists and had to provide check registries and other paperwork, a process that was expensive, time-consuming, and made it hard to focus on the group’s mission.”

And that’s not all folks.

Not only did the IRS scandal involve more conservative organizations than initially believed, but it also seems to have involved the Federal Election Commission (FEC). While IRS official Lois Lerner told Congress she “did nothing wrong,” she may have violated federal law, says The National Review:

Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner and an attorney in the Federal Election Commission’s general counsel’s office appear to have twice colluded to influence the record before the FEC’s vote in the case of a conservative non-profit organization, according to e-mails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee and obtained exclusively by National Review Online.

The correspondence suggests the discrimination of conservative groups extended beyond the IRS and into the FEC, where an attorney from the agency’s enforcement division in at least one case sought and received tax information about the status of a conservative group, the American Future Fund, before recommending that the commission prosecute it for violations of campaign-finance law. Lerner, the former head of the IRS’s exempt-organizations division, worked at the FEC from 1986 to 1995, and was known for aggressive investigation of conservative groups during her tenure there, too.

According to federal law, the IRS is not legally able to disclose confidential tax information to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Nonetheless, Lerner reportedly willingly turned it over in advance of the FEC vote. The FEC General Counsel’s office, for its part, is not, by law, allowed to begin an investigation of a non-profit until after the vote of the six-member FEC panel. (Ultimately the panel split, and then voted 6-0 to close the case.)

So is anyone still buying Lerner’s “non-testimony” before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee?

Here’s Lerner’s statement verbatim: “I have not done anything wrong, I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”

Then she took the Fifth.

So let’s sum up the week’s news. First we have the IRS official responsible for issuing the edict to target Tea Party organizations meeting with President just two days before the command was issued. We have the list of organizations targeted by the IRS expanding to conservative organizations that had already been cleared by the IRS and had received tax-exempt status. And we have IRS official Lois Lerner improperly releasing tax records to the FEC General Counsel’s office, at its request, to target yet another conservative organization – both parties evidently in violation of the law.

It continues to go from bad to horrible to outrageous for the Obama administration in this ever-growing IRS scandal.

As I’ve reported in this space previously, Judicial Watch has a number of active Freedom of Information Act investigations into the IRS scandal, and our legal and investigative staff has been appropriately mobilized.  Also be sure to check out the panel discussion we held on June 20, 2013 entitled, “The Continuing IRS Scandal.” You can watch the video here.

Judicial Watch Sues for Records Detailing Costs of Luxury Vacations Taken by Obama, First Lady, and Biden

Our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work really has one purpose: to lay bare for the American people the inner-workings of government. We believe that transparency is the antidote to corruption and that FOIA law requires that government officials err on the side of public disclosure when it comes to government records.

The Obama administration takes a very different view, selectively releasing records that make the president look good, while shielding records that might cast the president or his administration in a negative light.

We have to scratch and claw for every record from this administration related to a host of scandals. Even some as seemingly innocuous as the cost of Obama family vacations.

In our view, American taxpayers have a right to know how much of their hard-earned money is used to support the leisure activities of the president and his family. I’ve surmised that the Obama administration’s view is information related to their luxury vacationing could harm the president’s carefully crafted image and so they keep these records shielded from public view.

Fortunately, Judicial Watch has been successful in forcing the Obama administration to come clean on Obama vacation records. We started all the way back in 2009, obtaining the Secret Service costs of the Obamas’ “date night” in New York City. (Click here for a full list of our disclosures.) And now we’re back at it again.

On June 21, 2013, JW filed a FOIA lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Secret Service to obtain information pertaining to the costs to taxpayers of Barack Obama’s February 2013 “boys’ weekend” in Palm Beach, Florida, and the simultaneous vacations of Michelle Obama and Joseph Biden in Aspen, Colorado.

Specifically, JW seeks access to the following records pursuant to its February 15, 2013, FOIA request:

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to President Obama and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Palm Beach, Florida;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions during her February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to Vice President Biden and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado.

By letter on March 18, 2013, the Secret Service acknowledged having received JW’s request on February 27, 2013. By law, it had until March 27, 2013, to notify JW of its determination, the reasons therefore, and the right to appeal any adverse determination. As of the date of the FOIA lawsuit, the Secret Service had failed either to comply or to indicate when a response will be forthcoming.

On February 15, 2013, in an article entitled, “Obama treats himself to boys’ weekend in Florida,” The Associated Press reported that the president “high-tailed it south after a speech Friday in Chicago on building a stronger middle class.” Reporting on Obama’s retreat to the West Palm Beach “well-trod stomping ground of the rich,” WhiteHouseDossier.com observed, “While unemployment stands at nearly eight percent, Obama is taking his second vacation of 2013. The year is only six weeks old.”

Also on February 15, 2013, the Washington Post reported that “First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are spending their Presidents’ Day weekend in Aspen, Colo., where they’re expected to hit the ski slopes.” According the article, Michelle Obama and her daughters had spent the past two Presidents’ Day weekends in Aspen. The article reported that Vice President Biden and his family were also vacationing in the swanky ski resort town.

The JW suit is not the first time the organization has been forced to go to court to obtain information about taxpayer funding of lavish vacations for the president and his family. In October 2011, Judicial Watch obtained documents pertaining to a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana.  According to expense records and manifests for that trip, the cost for flight and crew alone was $424,142.

In April 2012, Judicial Watch obtained documents through a FOIA lawsuit from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with what the press described as Michelle Obama’s “whirlwind tour of Spain” in August 2010. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the trip, which included visits to coastal towns, shopping and a lunch date with the country’s King and Queen, cost the taxpayers at least $467,585.

These lavish personal vacations are symbolic of the total indifference this administration has to the out of control costs of government. Once again, the administration is, contrary to law, stonewalling simple requests for just how much their luxe lifestyles are costing American taxpayers.

And don’t expect press outlets to do any hard reporting on this controversy.

Breitbart’s Tony Lee points out the hypocrisy:

Eight months into President George W. Bush’s second term, the Washington Post wrote that Bush’s frequent trips to his Texas ranch symbolized “a lackadaisical approach to the world’s most important day job” and gleefully noted that Bush was intent on setting the record for being on “vacation”— or away from Washington, D.C. – for the most number of days of any president.

But when President Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, sets up a fantasy golf vacation for himself with Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods, averages more than a vacation a month in 2013 while purporting to be a man of the people and demanding the rich pay their fair share, and playing sequester politics by shutting down White House tours, the mainstream media is silent.

Even the Washington Post had to admit (as Lee notes), that President Bush spent the majority of his vacation time chopping wood or riding a mountain bike, and “did not make time for fun.” So why does the press remain silent on the Obama family vacations?

Nonetheless, JW will continue to do the job the media refuses to do, hold the administration to account for spending taxpayer dollars on Obama family vacations (and the travel of the Obama administration’s “top dogs” as well).

In case you are wondering, the Obama’s will have their sixth luxury vacation this year up in Martha’s Vineyard beginning August 10.  And, yes, we’ll be checking on the price to taxpayers for that one, too.

Until next week…

As if the Internal Revenue Service wasn’t in a boatload of trouble already, a congressional committee charged with rooting out corruption in government is investigating the tax agency for blowing tens of millions of dollars on employee conferences.

The probe comes on the heels of the scandal for the ages, in which the IRS targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Organizations with conservative-sounding phrases such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles were singled out by the agency, according to a Treasury Inspector General report that ignited outrage among both Democrats and Republicans alike. Though illegal, this witch hunt against conservatives was rampant at the highest levels of the agency, according to the Treasury watchdog.

This week’s IRS scandal du jour involves $50 million that the beleaguered agency spent on hundreds of conferences for its employees between 2010 and 2012. Media reports began to leak over the weekend attributing the outrageous figure to a Treasury IG report due out this week. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the congressional watchdog that holds government accountable to taxpayers, immediately jumped on it and will hold a hearing on the matter this week.

The conference spending includes $4 million for a 2010 gathering in southern California in which IRS employees stayed in lavish presidential suites that cost American taxpayers $1,500 to $3,500 per night. Attendees also got free alcohol and tickets to see the area’s professional baseball team. To inspire IRS staff, more than a dozen speakers were paid $135,000 in fees, including one who got a whopping $17,000 to talk about “leadership through art.”

Additionally, multiple videos were produced for the conference. One of the videos, posted on the House Government Reform Committee’s website, features IRS employees learning a popular dance called the “cupid shuffle” as they prepared for the California management conference. It’s quite entertaining though enraging that our tax dollars have been wasted on such a venture.

“The IRS is an agency in crisis,” said Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California. “The American people expect that their tax-dollars will be used responsibly and not for financing lavish hotel suites and entertainment for government employees. The Oversight Committee will examine these egregious abuses of the public trust and an IRS culture that shuns accountability.”

Over the years the IRS has been in hot water over a series of transgressions. One of the things the agency is well known for is giving incarcerated criminals who prepare fraudulent returns tens of millions of dollars in refunds they’re not entitled to. The figure increases annually and at last count the IRS doled out north of $35 million to criminals, according to a federal audit.

A few years ago the IRS came under fire for allowing 1 million foreigners—many in the U.S. illegally— to improperly claim close to $9 billion in tax credits even though they did not provide valid Social Security numbers on their return.  Not long after that, the tax agency got in trouble for handing out $33 million in bogus electric car credits.

Just this year, on the heels of “Tax Day,” two dozen IRS employees got charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, including food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. The scheme fleeced U.S. taxpayers out of at least a quarter of a million dollars, according to federal prosecutors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wastes resources going after conservative groups that have committed no wrongdoing, a wealthy Indian tribe in south Florida cheats the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes from its lucrative gambling businesses.

Perhaps this is because it’s not politically correct to go after minorities like the Miccosukee Indians, but it is quite ok to pursue groups linked to conservative movements like the Tea Party and other social causes viewed negatively by the left. What other explanation could there be for the huge discrepancy in the way the tax agency treats conservatives and liberals, who may have evaded taxes for years.

The scandal involving the witch hunt of conservatives broke earlier this month after an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General revealed what many conservative groups have known and alleged for years; that the IRS is used by the administration as a political tool to go after its enemies. Though illegal this appears to be rampant at the highest levels of the agency, as the inspector general’s scorching report indicates.

The IRS singles out groups with conservative-sounding phrases such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status, the IG says. The probe determined that for more than 18 months the IRS “used inappropriate criteria” that singled out conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status. This has ignited outrage among lawmakers—both Democrat and Republican—as well as President Obama who called it “intolerable and inexcusable.”

In the meantime, a south Florida Indian tribe has for years failed to pay taxes from distribution of gambling profits to tribal members, according to court records cited in a local news report. The IRS finally slapped the Miccosukee Indians with a bill of $170 million and hundreds of tribe members with separate bills totaling $58 million, the story says. The tribe’s tax evasion dates back more than a dozen years.

This is appalling considering the tribe is very rich thanks to its highly profitable casino enterprise, which nets a chunk of change each year. The wealth is spread among its 600 members, which get a sweet annual payout of up to $160,000 each. Miccosukee officials argue that they’re not obligated to withhold taxes on gaming distributions and that individual members don’t have to pay taxes on income derived from the tribe’s slot machines and poker.

Miccosukee’s Chairman says members won’t be intimidated or coerced into surrendering “tribal sovereignty or principles for which so many of our ancestors have paid a very high price in blood, lives, and tears.’’ Federal law says that the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation means the entity itself is not subject to taxes, however, once casino profits are distributed to members, Uncle Sam must get a cut. In fact, the tribe must withhold taxes on the income and turn the records over to the IRS, according to the 1988 Indian Gambling Regulatory Act.

A prominent defense attorney and accountant quoted in the story finds it “perplexing” that the tribe refuses to pay taxes. Clearly, the feds have allowed it. The Miccosukees are renowned for keeping their lucrative gambling revenues secret and refusing to reveal how money is distributed. In fact, the tribe is the only in the United States that fails to follow federal law when it hands out gambling profits.

So, why didn’t the IRS go after this wealthy tax-evading Indian tribe sooner? The beleaguered tax agency was probably too busy hounding conservatives.

US-POLITICS-TAX-CONGRESS

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) witch hunt of conservative groups similar to Judicial Watch is indeed atrocious, but it’s hardly the first scandal to rock the beleaguered tax agency in the last few years.

This particular crisis exploded after an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General revealed what many conservative groups have known and alleged for years; that the IRS is used by the administration as a political tool to go after its enemies. Though illegal this was rampant at the highest levels of the agency, as the inspector general’s scorching report indicates.

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The IRS singles out groups with conservative-sounding phrases such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status, the IG says. The probe determined that for more than 18 months the IRS “used inappropriate criteria” that singled out conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status. This has ignited outrage among lawmakers—both Democrat and Republican—as well as President Obama who called it “intolerable and inexcusable.”

At a congressional hearing this week, IRS chief Steven Miller apologized for the way his agency has treated conservative groups but he had the audacity to say that partisanship did not serve as a motivation. Rather he attributed his agency’s actions to “foolish mistakes” made by employees attempting to be “more efficient in their workload selection.” He must think Americans are really dumb.

“Partisanship or the perception of politics has no place in the IRS,” Miller assured members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is investigating the scandal. If that’s true, then it’s just a big coincidence that liberal groups aren’t targeted by the agency. In fact, liberal groups are spared scrutiny and one news report reveals that a foundation operated by President Obama’s half-brother got fast-tracked to become tax-exempt.

This appears to be the icing on the cake for an agency that’s made plenty of headlines over the years for its transgressions. One of the things the IRS is well known for is giving incarcerated criminals who prepare fraudulent returns tens of millions of dollars in refunds they’re not entitled to. The figure increases annually and at last count the IRS doled out north of $35 million to criminals, according to a federal audit.

A few years ago the IRS came under fire for allowing 1 million foreigners—many in the U.S. illegally— to improperly claim close to $9 billion in tax credits even though they did not provide valid Social Security numbers on their return.  Not long after that, the tax agency got in trouble for handing out $33 million in bogus electric car credits.

Just last month, on the heels of “Tax Day,” two dozen IRS employees got charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, including food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. The scheme fleeced U.S. taxpayers out of at least a quarter of a million dollars, according to federal prosecutors.

On the heels of “Tax Day,” 24 Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees have been charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, including food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers.

The story comes out of Tennessee, where federal prosecutors announced this month that the scheme fleeced U.S. taxpayers out of at least a quarter of a million dollars in government benefits. The corrupt IRS employees did it by making false statements to fraudulently obtain the benefits, which also included unemployment insurance.

In short, the IRS workers were “brazenly stealing from law-abiding American taxpayers,” according to the federal prosecutor handling the case. Better yet, Americans are not only paying their salary and generous government benefits while also getting fleeced for the other welfare the corrupt federal workers stole.

This case simply marks the latest of many shameful transgressions for the IRS in the past few years alone. The agency has repeatedly come under fire for failing to crack down on a number of fraudulent schemes, including prison inmates that illegally receive tens of millions of dollars in tax refunds, federal employees at various agencies that have escaped paying billions in back taxes and letting illegal immigrants get billions in tax refunds.

The jailbird tax scam has become a big joke because the IRS has for years failed to stop the fleecing by incarcerated criminals. In fact, the number of fraudulent tax returns filed by prisoners—and the money doled out by the government—increases every year, several federal audits have found. Earlier this year one such audit revealed that from 2004 to 2010 the number of inmates that swindled the government increased from 18,000 to over 91,000 and the refunds claimed skyrocketed from $68 million to $757 million.

A few years earlier a separate federal probe determined that more than a quarter of a million inmates filed tax returns with the IRS and nearly 50,000 claimed more than $130 million in refunds without bothering to report wage information. That particular investigation also disclosed that the IRS has never bothered to create a system to catch the offenders, despite an ongoing epidemic of inmates—in both federal and state prisons—illegally receiving millions of dollars in tax refunds each year.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the IRS has also permitted more than 1 million foreigners—many in the country illegally—to claim tax credits they didn’t qualify for, which ended up costing the government an astounding $9 billion. The agency knew the tax credits were not legal because filers didn’t possess a valid Social Security number, but rather an alternative Tax Identification Number (TIN) popular among illegal aliens but not valid to work in the U.S.

There have been a number of other scandals at the IRS over the years, including a $33 million giveaway for bogus electric car credits and a high-level agency director who admitted defrauding the U.S. government out of $1.3 million using fake deductions to reduce the taxes of unsuspecting Americans. Last spring Judicial Watch obtained records showing how the IRS uses taxpayer confidentiality laws to withhold records of employee fraud.

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