Weekly Update: JW Busts Open IRS Scandal
MAY 16, 2014
Judicial Watch’s IRS Investigation Leads Directly to Washington
Following on our tremendous Benghazi success, Judicial Watch uncovered stunning new documents detailing the extent to which the Obama IRS improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. And the news media is finally starting to stand up and take notice.
The latest batch of documents reveal that, contrary to claims by Lois Lerner and other top IRS officials, the handling of Tea Party applications was directed out of the agency’s Washington, DC, headquarters rather than out in the hinterlands. They show extensive pressure on the IRS by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to shut down conservative-leaning tax-exempt organizations. And they contain IRS emails directly contradicting Lerner’s misleading explanations, uncovered for the first time by JW, to investigators about the targeting of Tea Party organizations.
The new Judicial Watch revelations grabbed headlines not only in Washington, but worldwide. “New IRS emails describe Washington direction of Tea Party targeting efforts,” wrote the Washington Examiner’s Executive Editor Mark Tapscott. “New Emails Reveal IRS Targeting Coordinated from Agency’s Headquarters,” The Blaze trumpeted. And even the Daily Mailin far-off London advised its readers, “IRS’s tea-party noose tightens: Targeting campaign was directed by HQ in Washington, DC – not by a few ‘rogue agents’ in Ohio, documents reveal.”
On Fox News’ Special Report, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said the emails revealed by Judicial Watch “give lie to the administration claim that this had nothing to do with the election, nothing to do with targeting opponents of the administration.” And panelist Kristen Powers, acknowledging that once again Judicial Watch had obtained information the Obama administration had withheld from Congress, suggested that, “I think we are to the point now where Congress should just start doing FOIA requests.”
The new IRS documents came in response to an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013. And they directly contradict the story President Obama was peddling when he told Bill O’Reilly as late as February 2014 that the IRS targeting was entirely the fault of “bonehead decisions in local offices.”
One key email string from July 2012 confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that IRS’ Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Washington-based Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS headquarters lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.” Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office.
Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:
EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.
The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters.
Another email string, from February – March 2010, includes a message from a California EO Determinations manager discussing a Tea Party application “currently being held in the Screening group.” It, too, confirms the Washington IRS headquarters’ involvement in the targeting scandal. The manager urges, “Please let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially embarrassing political case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.” A co-worker responds: “I think sending it up here [DC] is a good idea given the potential for media interest.” It’s worth noting that, just as with Ben Rhodes’ Benghazi-related talking points email, Judicial Watch obtained a more complete version of this IRS email chain than was provided to a congressional committee.
The Judicial Watch documents also contain email correspondence to internal IRS investigators from Lerner, dated April 2, 2013, that tries to rationalize the “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) criteria used to select organizations for screening and scrutiny:
Because the BOLO only contained a brief reference to “Organizations involved with the Tea Party movement applying for exemption under 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)” in June 2011, the EO Determinations manager asked the manager of the screening group, John Shafer [IRS Cincinnati field office manager], what criteria were being used to label cases as “tea party ” cases. (“Do the applications specify/state ‘tea party’? If not, how do we know applicant is involved with the tea party movement?”) The screening group manager asked his employees how they were applying the BOLO’s short –hand reference to “tea party.” His employees responded that they were including organizations meeting any of the following criteria as falling within the BOLO’s reference to “tea party” organizations: “1. ‘Tea Party’, ‘Patriots’ or ’9/12 Project’ is referenced in the case file. 2. Issues include government spending, government debt and taxes. 3. Educate the public through advocacy/legislative activities to make America a better place to live. 4. Statements in the case file that are critical of the how the country is being run. . . “
So, we believe we have provided information that shows that no one in EO “developed” the criteria. Rather, staff used their own interpretations of the brief reference to “organizations involved with the Tea Party movement,” which was what was on the BOLO list.
It is significant that Lerner omits that her office was “developing” the applications for all Tea Party groups. Yet, in fact, the IRS documents we obtained also include a presentation entitled “Heightened Awareness Issues” with a red and orange “Alert” symbol identifying the “emerging issues” that trigger scrutiny for organizations seeking tax-exempt status. Page six of the presentation focuses on the Tea Party organizations due, in part, to the fact that these groups had become a “Relevant Subject in Today’s Media.”
The documents Judicial Watch obtained also include a chilling series of letters between Senator Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, and top IRS officials throughout 2012 discuss how to target conservative groups the senator claimed were “engaged in political activities.” In response to a March 30 Levin letter citing the “urgency of the issue,” then-Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller assures the senator that IRS regulations were flexible enough to allow IRS agents to “prepare individualized questions and requests” for select 501(c)(4) organizations – that is, conservative groups. The “urgency” was clearly the upcoming Obama re-election campaign.
The newly released IRS documents contain several letters and emails revealing an almost pathological obsession by Levin and IRS officials with determining what, if any, existing IRS policies could be used to revoke the nonprofit exemptions of active conservative groups and deny exemptions to new applicants. In a July 30, 2012, letter, Levin singles out 12 groups he wants investigated for “political activity.” Of the groups – which include the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, the 60 Plus Association, and the Susan B. Anthony List – only one, Priorities USA, is notably left-leaning.
As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, Levin sent a series of letters to the IRS intensifying his campaign against predominantly conservative nonprofit groups:
- September 27, 2012: Levin asks for copies of the answers to IRS exemption application question 15 – a question about planned political expenditures – from four specific groups: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA.
- October 17, 2012: Miller informs Levin, “As discussed in our previous responses dated June 4, 2012, and August 24, 2012, the IRS cannot legally disclose whether the organizations on your list have applied for tax exemptions unless and until such application is approved.” Miller, however, then informs Levin that Americans for Prosperity and Patriot Majority have been approved, but the IRS has no records for Crossroads and Priorities USA.
- October 23, 2012: Levin writes to again express his dissatisfaction with the IRS handling of “social welfare” (501(c)(4) organizations insisting that IRS guidance “misinterprets the law” by allowing any political activity. He again demands an answer as to whether the four organizations he listed in his previous letter were primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare. He also seeks copies of tax exempt revocation letters sent due to c4 political activities, as well as statistics on how many c4s have been notified that they may be in violation due to political activities.
In perhaps the most revealing letter from the IRS to Levin, Miller on June 4, 2012, takes 16 pages to carefully outline for Levin what IRS regulations and policies may and may not be used to evaluate political groups – and assures him that the agency has considerable leeway in picking and choosing which groups the IRS could subject to additional scrutiny by tailoring its investigations:
There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization . . . Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .
Let me make it clear: These new documents show conclusively that officials in the Washington IRS headquarters were responsible for the illegal delays of Tea Party applications. And they also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents. So, the IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress. In mid-April, you will recall, Judicial Watch released a batch of IRS documents (produced earlier in this litigation) revealing that Lerner had communicated with the Department of Justice about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities.
As a result of the Judicial Watch revelations in the Benghazi scandal, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has now convened a special Select Committee to investigate the matter. I would suggest another Select Committee should be convened to get to the bottom of the Obama IRS’ abuse.
In the meantime, your Judicial Watch will do the job that Congress, the media, and all of Washington can’t and won’t do – hold our government accountable to the people. And as with all of our successes, this latest victory would not be possible without the generous support of our steadfast members.
So stay tuned, there is much more to come …
Obama Releases 36,000 Illegals Immigrant Criminals on the Unsuspecting Public
“This would be considered the worst prison break in American history, except it was sanctioned by the President and perpetrated by our own immigration officials … The Administration’s actions are outrageous. They willfully and knowingly put the interests of criminal immigrants before the safety and security of the American people.” – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
In what the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-TX) called “the worst prison break in American history,” we now know that the Obama administration last year freed tens of thousands of illegal immigrants convicted of violent and serious crimes, according to the government’s own records. And this, of course, comes on top of the administration implementing a flagrant amnesty plan that defies Congress and the rule of law.
Make no mistake about it, the crimes committed by the tens of thousands of illegal aliens who Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) freed from federal custody in just one year were not minor miscreants or mere traffic law offenders. The freed felons included murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and brutal thugs. In all, ICE freed 36,007 aliens convicted of 88,000 crimes from detention centers throughout the United States, according to the breathtaking agency recordsobtained this month by a nonpartisan research center dedicated to studying immigration issues.
As Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said on the floor of the Senate, “These are serious crimes, and criminals, if you’ll recall and kept up with news, are the only group this administration says we are deporting. They don’t even deny that they’re not deporting others who have violated our immigration laws but they promised faithfully they are faithfully removing people who commit crimes unrelated to immigration. Well, that’s being proven not to be so.”
The Washington, DC-based group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), published a chart with a breakdown of the crimes committed by the illegal aliens who now freely roam the streets in unsuspecting U.S. neighborhoods. Of note is that the majority of the releases from ICE custody were discretionary, CIS found. That means they weren’t required by law. In fact, in some instances the releases were actually contrary to law. And local illegal immigrant sanctuary policies did not play a role in the vast majority. This indicates that it’s part of the Obama administration’s broader amnesty policy, which has favored letting illegal aliens live outside detention centers while their cases get resolved.
A quick look at the breakdown of crimes committed by this latest batch of freed illegal aliens is enough to make any law-abiding American citizen fear for their safety. The records show that:
- Over 9,000 had dangerous drug convictions
- 1,075 were convicted of aggravated assault
- 426 had committed sexual assault
- 1,160 of had stolen vehicle convictions
- More than 16,000 were convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- A stunning 193 of the freed illegal aliens had been convicted of murder.
Thousands of others were convicted of lesser crimes that are nevertheless serious enough to merit detention if you’re already in the country illegally. Those offenses include extortion, embezzlement, arson, domestic violence, property crimes, larceny, burglary, intimidation, obstructing police, weapon offenses, forgery, obstructing the judiciary and a variety of fraud. Those who take the time to read the entire list may find it difficult to imagine that the government would even consider freeing these offenders. And yet, now, thanks to the Obama administration, they are all out on the streets, free to continue their criminal behavior. As Rep. Smith said, the Obama administration, “willfully and knowingly put the interests of criminal immigrants before the safety and security of the American people.”
Incredibly, it’s not the first time this has happened. The feds previously released 68,000 other criminal aliens encountered by ICE officers in jails rather than processing them for deportation, according to records obtained by CIS. This latest batch of 36,007 is a group of aliens who had actually been processed for removal and were freed while awaiting the final disposition of their cases. Despite their serious criminal convictions, they were released by means of bond, order of recognizance, order of supervision, parole or alternative detention such as an ankle bracelet.
In its report, CIS logically concludes, “The document raises questions about the Obama administration’s management of enforcement resources, as well as its enforcement plans and priorities.” As examples, the group offers a recent ICE directive (prosecutorial discretion) and policy (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which make broad categories of illegal immigrants immune to enforcement. “These policies have forced ICE officers in the field to avoid or cease deportation action in thousands of cases, even in cases of aliens charged with or convicted of crimes,” CIS reveals.
As regular readers of the Weekly Update will recall, this is hardly the first time the government has rewarded illegal immigrants with serious criminal records. Last summer Judicial Watch reportedthat legislation crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in the U.S. Senate would grant amnesty to illegal aliens with drunk-driving, domestic violence, aggravated assault and child abuse convictions. In our report, we noted that groups that would normally be vocal on these sorts of issues remained silent, apparently for fear of not being politically correct. For example we offered the nation’s largest organization working to stop drunk driving and support victims of the violent crime – Mothers Against Drunk Driving(MAAD) – the opportunity to speak out. They refused even though it will essentially reward those convicted of driving drunk. MADD said it “doesn’t get involved in immigration matters.”
Last year’s wholesale release of convicted illegal alien criminals is part and parcel of the Obama administration’s relentless attempts to curry favor with those who support illegal amnesty. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch in June 2013 revealed that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) abandoned required background checks in 2012, adopting, instead, costly “lean and lite” procedures. The documents also revealed that, contrary to administration claim that Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) policies applied only to minors who came to this country illegally “through no fault of their own,” the directive actually created a new avenue of chain migration, whereby immediate relatives of DACA requesters could be approved for amnesty. As a result, according to an agency memo from District 15 Director David Douglas, “some of the districts closer to the U.S./Mexico border have been inundated.”
So, the bottom line is that the Obama administration has rolled out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants. And once they arrive, they are allowed to stay – even if they have been convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable.
The U.S. Navy Department: Stonewalling its Own Stonewall
For more than a century, the unofficial motto of the United States Navy has been “Non sibi sed patriae” – “Not for self, but for country.” It is inscribed above the doors of the chapel at the United States Naval Academy, where it has inspired incoming cadets since the cornerstone was laid in 1904. It speaks to the Navy’s longstanding commitment to put patriotism above personal gain and the public good above political expediency.
That makes it all the more troubling that the U.S. Department of the Navy is providing cover for the Obama administration’s continual stonewalling of attempts to ferret out the truth about its apparently politically motivated actions at home and abroad. In recent years, the top brass at the Navy Department have turned the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on its head, seemingly far more determined to find ways to circumvent it than to fulfill its legal mandate.
That’s why on April 22, 2014, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the United States Department of the Navy seeking information about procedures for answering FOIA requests. The lawsuit was filed following the Navy’s failure to respond for more than three months to a January 13, 2014, FOIA request seeking:
Any and all records concerning or relating to procedures for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. Such records include, but are not limited to handbooks, guidelines, policies, rules or memoranda.
The Judicial Watch FOIA request, sent to the Navy’s FOIA public liaison Robin Patterson, specifically called attention to President Obama’s January 21, 2009, memorandum concerning the Freedom of Information Act, in which he stated:
All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodies in the FOIA … The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.
The request came on the heels of a January 7 news report, revealing that Patterson had mistakenly sent an internal memo to reporter Scott MacFarlane at WRC-TV, NBC 4 in Washington, DC, detailing a strategy for stonewalling his FOIA request for information concerning the Navy Yard shooting in September 2013. McFarlane tweeted out the Patterson memo.
In the memo, Patterson flippantly refers to the McFarlane request as a “fishing expedition,” recommending several methods for FOIA staff to stymie his query, including “negotiating with requester” to limit his search for photos. Patterson also suggests that staff convince McFarlane that his search would be “costly” adding, “Just because they are media doesn’t mean that the memos would shed light on specific government activities.”
In perhaps the most striking statement in the Patterson memo, she advises her colleagues that she is also working on a separate response that could completely block MacFarlane’s request for Navy officials’ emails concerning the Navy Yard shooting. “This one is specific enough that we may be able to deny,” Patterson writes.
Ironically, just hours after MacFarlane tweeted out the Patterson FOIA memo, the Navy’s Twitter feed published a message reading, “The #USNavy remains committed to transparency & responding to FOIA requests in a timely and professional manner. CC @politico @Gawker 4:20 PM – 7 Jan 2014.” That commitment has apparently been consigned to the same “File 13” as the century-old commitment to put the good of the country above personal gain or political expediency.
The truth of the matter is that it’s a travesty that Judicial Watch had to file a FOIA lawsuit against the Navy to get information about how it responds to FOIA requests. Simply put, the U.S. Navy under President Obama is now stonewalling us about its own stonewall. And that is nothing short of theatre of the absurd.
The FOIA procedures lawsuit is not the first time Judicial Watch has been forced to file suit to compel the Navy to comply with a FOIA request. In March 2011, we filed a FOIA request with the Navy for records detailing “any funeral ceremony, rite or ritual” for Osama bin Laden prior to the terrorist’s burial at sea. After the Navy failed to respond for 17 months, Judicial Watch in July 2012 filed a FOIA lawsuit to force compliance. In November 2012, the Navy finally produced 31 pages of heavily redacted emails confirming that the slain terrorist was given full Islamic burial honors.
The third stanza of the Navy Hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save asks that in times of trouble “Bid its angry tumult cease / And give, for wild confusion, peace.” The U.S. Department of the Navy can help calm some of Washington’s “wild confusion” by following the law – which requires a truthful and timely response to FOIA requests and honors the public’s right to know what its own government is up to.
Until next week . . .