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Judicial Watch • New Documents: Lerner Objected to IRS Deputy Director Visit to Cincinnati Office During Congressional Inquiries into Tea Party Targeting

New Documents: Lerner Objected to IRS Deputy Director Visit to Cincinnati Office During Congressional Inquiries into Tea Party Targeting

New Documents: Lerner Objected to IRS Deputy Director Visit to Cincinnati Office During Congressional Inquiries into Tea Party Targeting

JANUARY 14, 2015

“Please don’t ask them about closures, pipelines, wait time for full development cases, or the c4 application letter … can we put this off please?”

– Lerner email to IRS Deputy Director Joseph Grant, April 2012

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents, including a series of emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner to then-Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE) Division Deputy Director Joseph H. Grant strongly objecting to his planned visit to the IRS Cincinnati office “smack dab in the middle” of congressional inquiries into the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Lerner also expresses concerns about a pending investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) into the IRS’s handing of Tea Party applications.

The new IRS internal documents were released in response to a federal court order addressing the October 9, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit Judicial Watch filed seeking compliance with four separate FOIA requests about the IRS scandal.

The newly released documents include an intense chain of emails in which Lerner pleads with Grant, who was a supervisor to her, to “put this [Grant’s planned visit to Cincinnati] off please” at the very time during which both the internal IRS watchdog and Congress were investigating whether the IRS had been inappropriately targeting conservative groups in the months leading up to the 2012 elections. The chain begins with an email from Lerner to Grant, apparently written in response to her learning of the Deputy Director’s planned visit to the Cincinnati office:

April 4, 2012 – 4:41 PM – Lois Lerner to Joseph Grant:

We just gor an very extensive information request from Imraan [Imraan Khakoo, TE/GE official] –sure looks like op review material. I’m especially concerned that information about pipeline is being asked about … Add to that the fact tha cincinnati is smack dab in the middle of the c4 Congressional inqueries and is about to get a request from TIGTA on all of that, this is NOT a good time to be asking them for anything or to be talking to them about issue in their work. Everyone is stressed to the max and at their wits end, so can we put this off please? [Typos in originals]

April 4, 2012 – 5:17 PM – Joseph Grant to Lois Lerner:

It is a visit, not an OP review … I am also interested in the questions Imraan sent to them. Some answers should be readily at hand. Others certainly won’t be … The questions just serve as a framework for a broader conversation about how things are going and what is on our respective minds.

April 4, 2012 – 5:26 PM – Lois Lerner to Joseph Grant:

I get that–but timing would be bad if we have to go to Cincy now. So, I will assume we can go
over this here as I get the information I’ve already asked for? Thanks.

April 4, 2012 –5:42 PM – Joseph Grant to Lois Lerner:

I think we are in agreement, but just to be sure. I am planning to go to Cincy at the end of the month. I am travelling with Nan Marks and Imraan.

April 4, 2012 – 6:15 PM – Lois Lerner to Joseph Grant:

Fine with me–just trying to keep the stress level manageable in Cincinnati–they are pretty freaked. Please don’t ask them about closures, pipelines, wait time for full development cases, or the c4 application letters. I know Imraan is really interested in that stuff in general—I promise to give him info—that just wouldn’t be the best place to ask. Thanks

April 04, 2012 — 9:41 PM – Joseph Grant to Lois Lerner:

Noted.

On May 8, 2013, a few days before the IRS scandal broke, then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller promoted Mr. Grant to TE/GE Commissioner, where he was to “oversee the administration of tax law relating to employee plans, tax-exempt organizations and various government entities.” Miller announced his resignation on May 15, 2013 and Grant announced his retirement the next day.

These IRS documents also include what appears to be further evidence that, contrary to Lerner’s earlier claims, the IRS targeting operation was conducted from the agency’s Washington headquarters. In May 2013, Lerner blamed the targeting of conservative groups on “low-level” employees in Cincinnati. President Obama parroted Lerner’s claim and suggested the IRS targeting was due to “bonehead decisions in local offices.” In February 2012, however, the following email exchange revealed that from 2010, Exempt Organizations (EO) Technical was deeply involved in advocacy organization applications. According to IRS Bulletin 2013-2, “The EO Technical office is located in Washington, DC.”

February 29, 2012 – 2:53 PM – Holly Paz to Lois Lerner:

Lois, EO Determinations noticed an uptick in applications from advocacy organizations early in 2010. The first case was referred to EO Technical in…2010. That case was an application for…status. It closed…2010 when the… At that time, EO Technical requested another…from an…be transferred to EO Technical. Such a case was transferred in…2010. That case also closed…2012 after the… EO Technical also requested an application from a…be transferred from Determinations. A case was transferred in…2010. It is still being developed by EO Technical. To give you a sense of the growth in the number of these cases, in October 2010, we had identified approximately 40 advocacy cases.

As of about 10:00 a.m. on 2/28/2012, we had 229 of these cases. Of the 229 cases, 141 have been assigned. Development letters have been sent to the majority of the 141 assigned cases. The oldest control dates of those cases that are still unassigned are 2/8/2011, 3/18/2011, 4/28/2011, and 5/28/2011. These will be assigned next. Otherwise, we’re at approximately 6/6/2011 control date for these cases. EO Technical provided guidance regarding the development of applications by advocacy organizations to EO Determinations in November 2011.

Paz’s allegation about an “uptick in applications from advocacy organizations early in 2010” is contradicted by the May 14, 2013, TIGTA report on the matter, which details that such applications actually declined in 2010 from the prior year.

Additional emails on the same date indicate that Lerner knew that the requests for information from the targeted Tea Party groups were burdensome.

February 29, 2012 – 6:30 PM – Lois Lerner to Holly Paz:

Have we given Cincy new guidance on how they might reduce the burden in the information requests and make it clearer that recipients can ask for extensions? I don’t want any more letters going out on advocacy cases until the letters have been adjusted. Also, I have been telling folks that not all the letters are the same because it depends on the facts. What I’ve seen so far though is identical letters–can you clarify for me please. Thanks

February 29, 2012 – 8:18 PM – Holly Paz to Lois Lerner:

Andy and Justin are working on revising the letter. That should be done soon. In the meantime, Cindy [Cindy Thomas, Director of OE Cincinnati Office] and I discussed having specialists print the relevant parts of since that seemed to be the most burdensome request. We can hold off on sending anymore development letters until we have the revised version.

Also in the new internal IRS documents obtained by Judicial Watch is an email confirming that former IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller knew from early 2012 that the agency was collecting the names of donors to nonprofit organizations.

March 8, 2012, 10:30 AM – Nikole Flax [former Chief of Staff to Miller] to Lois Lerner:

Lois – maybe we can chat after the meeting. Steve wanted to make sure that going forward we were modifying the info request (I told him that I thought your guys were already working on it) and that for the cases already ongoing, that is was clear that if the TP calls, we will allow them not to send donor names in the initial submission (but we may need later). Thanks

At the time, Miller was the IRS’s Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. Miller became the Acting IRS Commissioner on November 9, 2012, four days after Obama’s reelection.

Judicial Watch had previously obtained a May 21, 2012, memo from the IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel acknowledged that the donor identities were “not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency’s determination on exempt status.” Later, in Lerner’s May 10, 2013, remarks she conceded – in response to a question she planted about the IRS targeting of conservative groups – that the requests for donor names was “not appropriate, not usual.” This lawsuit has led to a number of new disclosures about the IRS scandal that brought new attention to the issue from Congress and others in the media, including the exposure of the Justice Department’s plans to prosecute the very groups that had been inappropriately targeted by the IRS. This lawsuit also led to admissions by the Obama administration that supposedly missing emails of Lois Lerner and other top IRS officials still exist.

“These new documents, withheld for years contrary to law, suggest that a top IRS official may have obstructed investigations into the IRS scandal. Even Lois Lerner objected to her boss’s travel to the infamous Cincinnati IRS office, falsely accused by Barack Obama as being solely responsible for the abuse of the First Amendment rights of his critics,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents also show the IRS knew early on that it was abusing its authority and innocent Americans through burdensome information requests and improper collection of the names of donors to groups that threatened Obama’s reelection. This IRS scandal is just getting started. Obama’s cover up of his administration’s suppression of his political opposition continues to unravel.”

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