IRS Scandal Update
NEW: Depositions of Obama IRS Officials Detail Knowledge of Tea Party Targeting
Boston Targeted COVID Policy Protestors Outside Mayor’s Home
Record Amounts of Fentanyl Entering Via Mexico, 323% Spike in One Region
We have been at the forefront in uncovering the Obama IRS scandal that showed the agency’s abuse of conservative Americans and organizations in the run-up to the 2012 election. We’re still learning the details of their conspiracy.
We have just received previously sealed court documents, including depositions of IRS officials Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Holly Paz, her top aide and former IRS director of Office of Rulings and Agreements, which show they knew most Tea Party organizations were legally entitled to tax-exempt status.
The release comes in the December 2017 amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) we filed in NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. The Internal Revenue Service, et al. (No. 1:13-cv-00341). We argued that the documents we sought may shed light on government misconduct, and the shielding of internal government deliberations does not serve the public’s interest.
Lerner’s and Paz’s depositions were sealed by Judge Barrett in April 2017, after Lerner’s and Paz’s lawyers claimed the two officials were receiving threats. The court finally ordered the unsealing of the depositions four years after the plaintiffs requested the depositions be unsealed and only after the plaintiffs filed for a writ of mandamus to force action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The sworn depositions were given in 2017 by Lerner and Paz. In the newly unsealed deposition transcripts, the two IRS officials repeatedly have memory lapses and regularly plead ignorance of the fundamental matters in question.
The unsealed Lerner and Paz deposition transcripts reveal through sworn testimony the bureaucratic tangle created by the Obama IRS to single out, delay and deny the processing of conservative, especially Tea Party non-profit groups’ applications for tax-exempt status and to disclose their donors’ names. At the same time, Paz admits under questioning that she knew from the beginning there was not sufficient legal basis to deny most of the targeted groups tax exempt status:
Q: [T]he organizations had filed applications representing …what they were organized for and what they have done and also their intended activities, and you thought that … for the majority of those applications that that would warrant the recognition of exemption?
The Witness [Paz]: My recollection is that at the time, my thinking was that the majority of the (c)(4) applications, while they may have indicated some amount of political activity, that we would not have enough basis to make a determination that that would be their primary activity and deny them exempt status.
Q: And, therefore, they would receive an approval or recognition of exemption?
The records also include an unsealed court filing by NorCal Tea Party Patriots that provides a detailed description of the ordinary process by which the IRS determines whether to grant an organization tax exempt status and how the process under Lerner deviated from that norm after the IRS brought Tea Party groups under special scrutiny following the Citizens’ United Supreme Court decision. (The Citizens United decision held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.)
The NorCal Tea Party Patriots filing details:
Lerner expressed strong feelings about the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision. In a June 1, 2012, email exchange with [redacted], Lerner wrote that “Citizens United is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to this country.” Later in the same email exchange, Lerner expanded on her views of Citizens United:
We are witnessing the end of “America.” There has always been the struggle between the capitalistic ideals and the humanistic ideals. Religion has usually tempered the selfishness of capitalism, but the rabid, hellfire piece of religion has hijacked the game and in the end, we will all lose out. It’s all tied together— money can buy the Congress and the Presidency, so in turn, money packs the SCt. and the court backs the money—the “old boys” still win.”
Lerner sought to reverse the impact of Citizens United. In a June 11, 2012, email exchange with Robert Stern [former chair of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws] about Stern’s report discussing states’ responses to Citizens United, Lerner wrote:
I like it! Very easy to find specific information, as well as get the big picture— you done good! Now, if you can only fix the darn law!”
In a February 13, 2012, email exchange among Lerner and various of her subordinates about [proposed] federal legislation that would require tax-exempt organizations to disclose their donors, Lerner wrote: “Wouldn’t that be great? And I won’t hold my breath.”
The NorCal Tea Party Patriots filing also describes Lerner’s targeting Tea Party groups after Citizens’ United:
Lerner began to worry that applicants for exemption would rely on Citizens United to challenge the IRS’s regulations on political activities by (c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations.
Lerner particularly worried that Tea Party groups would seek to challenge IRS regulations. In an email exchange concerning the February 1, 2011, SCR [Sensitive Case Report], Lerner told Paz and others: “Tea Party Matter very dangerous…This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue of whether Citizen’s United [sic] overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax exempt rules. Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one please needs to be in this. Cincy should probably NOT have these cases—Holly please see what exactly they have please.’
Later in that exchange, Lerner directed her subordinates to find a reason other than political activity to deny the Tea Party applicants exemption under § 501(c)(3) to prevent them from challenging the exemption rules based on Citizens United.
Thanks—even if we go with a 4 on the Tea Party cases, they may want to argue they should be 3s, so it would be great if we can get there without saying the only reason they don’t get a 3 is political activity.
These new transcripts expose how the Obama IRS intentionally suppressed the Tea Party movement during the 2012 presidential campaign. These documents show how the Obama administration easily used the IRS to suppress an entire political movement threatening his reelection. The Obama IRS abuse is the epitome of election interference. Given this largely unchecked abuse by the IRS, the Biden administration’s massive new expansion of the IRS should concern all Americans.
Lois Lerner retired with full federal benefits in September 2013.
The original NorCal Tea Party Patriots lawsuit in which Lerner and Paz gave depositions was a class-action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of the Treasury and named individual officials claiming that:
Elements within the Executive Branch of the federal government, including Defendants, brought the vast powers, incomprehensible complexity, and crushing bureaucracy of the IRS to bear on groups of citizens whose only wrongdoing was their presumed dissent from the policies or ideology of the Administration. In other words, these citizens were targeted based upon their political viewpoints.
The lawsuit was settled in 2017 when the Justice Department awarded the plaintiffs over $3.5 million for “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, and incentive awards.” In settling the case, the DOJ admitted the IRS abused its power and the criteria it used to screen applications for 501(c) status was inappropriate. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated:
The IRS’ use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred. It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions. Any entitlement to tax exemption should be based on the activities of the organization and whether they fulfill requirements of the law, not the policy positions adopted by members or the name chosen to reflect those views.
We uncovered troves of documents about the Obama IRS scandal (see, for example, here and here). And we filed at least nine FOIA lawsuits about the IRS scandal. Much of what is known about the scandal resulted from our litigation and investigations.
Here is a partial summary of our disclosures:
- In September 2014, our FOIA lawsuit forced the release of documents detailing that the IRS sought, obtained and maintained the names of donors to Tea Party and other conservative groups. IRS officials acknowledged in these documents that “such information was not needed.” The documents also show that the donor names were being used for a “secret research project.”
- In April 2015, we released court ordered IRS documents that included an email from Lerner asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress. The documents also contain a Lerner email from 2013 in which she says she is willing to take the blame on some aspects of the scandal. She also indicates that she “understands why the IRS criteria” leading to the targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of the President Obama “might raise questions.”
- In July 2015, records showed the IRS scandal also included the Justice Department and FBI as well. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch under court order, in an October 2010 meeting, Lerner, Justice Department officials and the FBI planned for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity. As part of that effort, the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare groups as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department …”
- Also in July 2015, we released Obama IRS documents confirming that the agency used donor lists of tax-exempt organizations to target those donors for audits. The documents also show IRS officials specifically highlighted how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may come under “high scrutiny” from the IRS.
- In July 2016, we, through a federal court order in one of our FOIA lawsuits (Judicial Watch v Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01239)), obtained FBI “302” documents, which contain detailed narratives of FBI agent investigations, revealing that top Washington IRS officials, including Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, knew that the agency was specifically targeting “Tea Party” and other conservative organizations two full years before disclosing it to Congress and the public.
The FBI 302 documents also confirm the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) 2013 reportthat said, “Senior IRS officials knew that agents were targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny as early as 2011.” Lerner did not reveal the targeting until May 2013, in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association conference. The documents reveal that then-acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller actually wrote Lerner’s response, where she admits:
They [IRS staff] used names like Tea Party or Patriots and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate.
- In November 2016, after the IRSrefused to acknowledge its targeting of conservative groups, we forced the release of IRS records revealing the agency used “inappropriate political labels” to screen the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations. IRS agents were targeting organizations requesting tax-exempt status based on “guilt by association” and “party affiliation.” We brought to light that the IRS was going to require 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations to restrict their alleged political activities in exchange for “expedited consideration” of their tax-exempt applications. FBI “302” documents we uncovered also reveal that IRS officials stated that the agency was targeting conservative groups because of their ideology and political affiliation in the summer of 2011.
- We also separately uncovered in its lawsuit Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559) that Lerner was under significant pressure from both Democrats in Congress and the Obama Justice Department and FBI to prosecute and jail the groups the IRS was already improperly targeting. In discussing pressure from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to prosecute these “political groups,” Lerner admitted, “it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”
- In March 2017, we obtained IRS documents through our FOIA lawsuit Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00220) that contain admissions by IRS officials that the agency used “inappropriate political labels” to screen the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations. Other records uncovered reveal that the IRS was going to require 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations to restrict their alleged political activities in exchange for “expedited consideration” of their tax-exempt applications.
- In June 2018, we obtained internal IRS documents through one of its FOIA lawsuits (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)) revealing that Sen. John McCain’s former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.” Kerner was appointed by President Trump as Special Counsel for the United States Office of Special Counsel.
Also, in an echo of the Clinton email scandal and in response to our litigation, the IRS initially claimed that emails belonging to Lerner were supposedly missing. Later, IRS officials conceded that the “missing” emails were on IRS back-up systems.
The Obama IRS scandal serves as a warning – that keeping a watch on our government is essential – as those in power are always willing to abuse government power for political ends.
Boston Targeted COVID-Policy Protestors Outside Mayor’s Home
When and how can citizens protest the rules imposed on them by their elected officials? That is at issue in Boston, where an ordinance proposed by the mayor and adopted by the city council led to the wrongful arrest of a protestor.
We have an obvious interest in the case, and we stepped in, suing in August under Massachusetts Public Records Lawafter the city failed to respond to our April request for records concerning the enforcement of City of Boston Ordinance Section 16-63 (An Ordinance Regarding Targeted Residential Picketing) (Judicial Watch, Inc. v City of Boston (No. 2284-cv-01782)). We are represented in the case by attorney Ilya I. Feoktistov.
We received 525 pages of records from the City of Boston revealing the police department specifying criminal complaints, as opposed to civil citations, for protestors picketing outside of the home of Mayor Michelle Wu over her COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
On January 15, 2022, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu began a program, B Together, which required people to “show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor spaces … including indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment venues.” Protests began outside of her home shortly thereafter. The Boston City Council then passed an ordinance that prohibited – and enforced with civil fines – protests outside residences during certain hours. On Monday, April 25, 2022, Shannon Llewellyn was arrested outside the mayor’s home and criminally charged for violating the ordinance that only allowed for civil enforcement such as fines.
On September 6, a Boston judge ruled that Llewellyn was “wrongfully arrested.”
Among the newly obtained records is a February letter to the city councilors from Mayor Wu proposing restrictions on “residential picketing,” in which she declares that the city is committed to protecting the right to protest.
On March 21, former Boston Police Captain Darrin Greeley writes to members of the police department: “NEW POLICY regarding Mayor’s HOUSE. CRIMINAL COMPLAINT – HEARING – DISREGARD THE CIVIL CITATION-THE COURT WANTS CRIMINAL COMPLAINT HEARING.” [Emphasis in original]
On March 23, Lieutenant John Flynn writes to Superintendent Gerard Bailey with the subject line “municipal law” regarding “city ordinances and rights of arrest.” Flynn includes a November 2015 email he wrote explaining how civil ordinance violations can be treated as misdemeanors.
On March 30, Ordinance 16-63 was adopted by the City Council, limiting protesting between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. outside of a residence.
On April 4, five days after the ordinance was adopted, Greeley sends an email to several officers with the subject line “Response for Protest 17 Augustus Ave Roslindale:”
POLICY regarding the Mayor’s HOUSE.
COMPLAINT – Civil HEARING – DISREGARD THE CIVIL CITATION-THE COURT WANTS CIVIL COMPLAINT HEARING. If second subsequent time then add Mass 272.s 59 for Willful Violation of City Ordinance.
If we have protestors show up at the Mayor’s house the Patrol Supervisor will respond. Please have Area E EDT’s [Emergency Deployment Team] every morning and release if no protestors show up.
PUT ON BODY CAMERAS!
TARGETED PROTESTING 16.63 – 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM
The District 5 Patrol Supervisor will utilize the sound meter. There is a brand new one in the District 5 DS office. VIOLATION IS ABOVE 70 decimals. PLEASE MAKE SURE IT IS WELL ABOVE 70 decimals AND HAVE IT RECORDED ON AN OFFICERS BODY CAMERA.
The Patrol Supervisor will notify protestors with Officers present with their body cameras on and video the Patrol Supervisor give an oral warning to protestors – READ CITY ORDINANCE TARGETED PROTESTING and to not use amplified devices and if it is before 9:00 AM that it is in violation of City Ordinance 16.63 for protesting before 9:00 AM. If the protestors fail to comply with his oral warning to leave and to not use bull horns, drums etc then please have the officers with their body cameras activated, ask for the protestors identification. The COMPLAINT FORM will be FILLED OUT, City Ordinance Violation – 16.63 Targeted residential picketing and 16.26.8 – loud amplification device in public space. The Civil hearing will be at West Roxbury District Court. The Patrol Supervisor will make sure the incident report has all elements of violation and tag all body cameras and attempt to identify all suspects. We have a master list of protesters that will help with identification.
If the protestors fail to give identification, then please have them on body camera decline. We will identify through previous encounters and booking photos etc.
West Roxbury Court will handle all civil complaints in Clerks Hearing and issue fines, warnings etc. We will follow the policy and guidelines of the Court and if an arrest is to be determined it will be by the Court for violations of the ordinance.
On April 15, 2022, Officer Paul Joseph of the Internal Affairs Division emails Officer John Ezekiel:
I’m reaching out to you because it is my understanding that you teach the City Ordinance class at the academy. I’m interested in what your thoughts are on if a person could be arrested for a willful violation of the Ordinance regarding targeted residential picketing Chapter XVI Section 16-62: See attached document. Also what chapter and section grants that power to arrest.
Further, regarding the use of an amplified device, what Law grants the power of arrest for that city Ordinance violation.
On April 16, Joseph responds:
Any individual may be arrested for a City of Boston Ordinance violation if they remain in wilful violation of that ordinance. I always recommend that a citation (whether money or warning), report, FIO, be written as proof that you have given the offender a warning. Once that is done and the individual continues to violate that ordinance, they would be considered in wilful violation. Typically you may see the violation again at a future date and again the individual may be subject to arrest. I always talk about reasonableness when deciding how long is too long between violations. Generally a year is a good measuring point.
This particular ordinance allows for an ascending fine, so the officer may use his/her discretion and continue to fine as opposed to making the arrest. Please note that the ordinance must be in presence to cite and/or arrest. That said the knowledge of one, knowledge of all applies. Example: If the individual is cited for their first offence on Friday, April 15, 2022 by PO [police officer] Smith and then commits the same offence in the presence of PO James on Monday, April 18, 2022, and PO James is aware that PO Smith cited the individual on the 15th, then PO James may arrest for this violation or continue to fine.
M.G.L 272 sec. 59 allows a police officer to make an arrest for an ordinance violation.
On April 25, Sgt. Pete McCarthy sends an email to fellow officers:
Just wanted to make sure that you were all aware that a protester was arrested this morning outside the Mayor’shouse. Going forward anyone who violates 272/ 59 (Wilful Violation of a City Ordinance) is going to be subject to possible arrest. E-5 wanted us to make sure that the last half and day EDT’s [Emergency Deployment Teams] are aware that they will be called out and will be there in a timely fashion.
These documents, which had to be forced out through a lawsuit, show that Boston officials were, contrary to law, desperate to jail protestors opposed to Mayor Wu’s draconian vaccine and mask mandates.
Record Amounts of Fentanyl Entering Via Mexico, 323% Spike in One Region
Fentanyl overdoses have become the No. 1 cause of death among U.S. adults aged 18-45. More adults between 18 and 45 died of fentanyl overdoses in 2020 than COVID-19, motor vehicle accidents, cancer and suicide.
Contributing to this is the tsunami amounts of this coming across our unsecured southern border, as our Corruption Chronicles blog reports.
American federal agents have seized more than 10,500 pounds of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl along the Mexican border this fiscal year with one U.S. border region seeing an astounding 323% increase in the last three years. The most recent Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures also show that more than 148,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 54,000 pounds of cocaine, and 1,500 pounds of heroin have also been seized this fiscal year which ends in September. At this rate fentanyl is set to surpass last year’s seizures of 11,203 pounds, a stark reminder that illegal immigration is hardly the only threat along the southwest border.
CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) already shattered last year’s fentanyl record, snatching 1,108 pounds compared to 786 in all of 2021. The CBP division has about 1,800 federal agents, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels. The maritime and aviation law enforcement branch has also confiscated more than 151,000 pounds of cocaine, 51,000 pounds of marijuana 7,300 pounds of methamphetamines and 373 pounds of heroin this year. The record loads of fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. by Mexican drug cartels are especially worrisome because the synthetic opioid is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the federal agency of around 10,000 charged with enforcing the nation’s controlled substances laws and regulations. “Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said recently. “From large cities to rural America, no community is safe from the presence of fentanyl.”
The agency also warns that Mexican drug cartels are driving up addiction among kids and young adults with“rainbow fentanyl,” pills and powder that come in bright colors and shapes similar to candy and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk. Just a few weeks ago, federal agents in the Nogales, Arizona port of entry seized more than 15,000 colored fentanyl pills “with the appearance of candy.” CBP Nogales Director Michael Humphries said the candy appearance is a trend that targets youth. Most of the nation’s 107,622 drug overdoses in 2021 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the Centers of Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC). The DEA says the majority of fentanyl in the U.S. is supplied by Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
Border crossings in San Diego take the prize, earning the region the title of “national epicenter for fentanyl trafficking.” More deadly fentanyl is being confiscated by border agents in the area than at any of the nation’s more than 300 ports of entry, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A few weeks ago the agency disclosed that in the first nine months of fiscal year 2022 (October through June), CBP seized 5,091 pounds of fentanyl, which at the time amounted to about 60% of the 8,425 pounds of fentanyl seized around the entire U.S. The seizures involved ports of entry in San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate Andrade, Calexico, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista Brown Field El Cajon, Campo, Boulevard, San Clemente and Murietta. The area’s top federal prosecutor said the “amount of fentanyl we are seizing at the border is staggering,” and that the number of fentanyl-related deaths in his district is unprecedented.
The U.S. government has long documented that Mexican drug cartels are the greatest criminal threat to the country. Federal authorities classify them as Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) and not even a global pandemic could slow them down. Cartels found a way to adjust to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 to flood the country with illicit drugs. Huge loads still reached communities around the nation as deaths and seizures rose sharply and Mexican TCO’s increased drug availability, according to the DEA’s National Drug Threat Assessment(NDTA). Nine Mexican TCOs have the greatest drug trafficking impact on the U.S., according to the DEA. Among them are the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacána, Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos. The TCOs maintain drug distribution cells in cities across the U.S. that report to leaders in Mexico and dominate the nation’s drug market. In a Homeland Threat Assessment the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explains that Mexican cartels pose the greatest threat to the U.S. because of their ability to control territory and co-opt parts of government, particularly at a state and local level. “They represent an acute and devastating threat to public health and safety in the Homeland and a significant threat to U.S. national security interests,” the DHS writes in the document.
Until next week …