Democratic Senator Sought Justice Department and IRS Criminal Prosecutions of Conservatives in 2013
SEPTEMBER 13, 2016
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released 72 pages of Department of Justice documents revealing email conversations between Department of Justice officials and the staff of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) regarding the criminal prosecution of Tea Party groups for alleged violation of IRS rules.
The conversations were in preparation for a briefing by Justice Department officials for Sen. Whitehouse’s staff and for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on April 9, 2013. One internal agency email exchange indicates Sen. Whitehouse’s interest in seeking criminal prosecution of groups targeted by the IRS:
From: Erb, William (OLA)
Sent: Monday, April 08, 2013 4:54 PM
To: Raman, Mythill (CRM) [REDACTED] (CRM);Wroblewski, Jonathan (CRM); Hulser, Raymond (CRM); Smith, Jack (CRM); Burton, Faith (OLA); Levine, Doug (OLA); Suleiman, Daniel (CRM); Lenerz, Daniel J. (CRM); Shatz, Eileen M. (TAX); OBrien, Paul (CRM); [REDACTED] (CRM); [REDACTED] (CRM); Cimino, Ronald A. (TAX)
Cc: Buretta, John (CRM): Agrast, Mark D. (OLA); [REDACTED] (CRM)
Subject: RE: New Whitehouse question regarding Campaign Finance Investigation and Prosecution
All: New question from Sen. Whitehouse. Sen. Whitehouse is likely to ask AAAG Raman whether the Department of Justice is too deferential to IRS in deciding to prosecute 501(c) organizations that make false statements regarding their political activities in their IRS filings. Sen. Whitehouse is curious why, for example. if a 501(c) tax organization files were leaked, and they clearly showed that make false statements, why the Department of Justice wouldn’t prosecute the case by itself and not wait for the IRS. Looping in the Tax Division who also can help CRIM come up with a quick response. Thanks, Bill.
Later, at the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Whitehouse asked why the Department of Justice wasn’t prosecuting political groups on its own, independently of the IRS.
“I would urge that the Department and the Service get together and rethink whether in these two specific areas, which I think bear little resemblance to traditional tax violations and are in fact very plain-vanilla criminal cases, whether or not that deference to the IRS is actually serving the public interest at this point, or whether the Department could not proceed to… put together a criminal case showing a fairly straightforward false statement or a fairly [straightforward] shell corporation disclosure violation.”
The newly released emails show that following the hearing, at the request of Justice Department lawyers, Sen. Whitehouse’s staff sent over examples of the organizations Whitehouse had in mind for prosecution. They included American Future Fund, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, American is Not Stupid, Inc., RightChange.com II, and A Better America Now. All of these are conservative organizations.
The new emails also show collaboration in the Department of Justice with officials in the IRS in preparing for the hearing. The IRS sent a draft of its planned testimony for the hearing to the Justice Department. Judicial Watch previously exposed a plan by the Obama IRS and Justice Department prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the very Tea Party and anti-Obama groups that the IRS was targeting.
The Obama administration prosecution effort seemingly ended with the exposure of the IRS targeting in a May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). IRS official Lois Lerner did not reveal the targeting until just before the report’s release, in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association conference.
“The Obama IRS scandal includes abuse of power by Democrats in Congress who wanted to jail Obama’s political opponents to help secure Obama’s reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And Americans should know that the courts have recently concluded the Obama IRS abuses haven’t stopped – even as we approach another presidential election.”
A 2013 study by scholars from the American Enterprise Institute and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University found that, “had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 – 8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.”
In March 2010, the IRS decided to single Tea Party groups out for special treatment when applying for tax-exempt status by flagging organizations with names containing “Tea Party,” “patriot,” or “9/12.” For the next two years, the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups, delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive, intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership, contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts.