Weekly Update: IRS Scandal Widens
Judicial Watch Continues to Expose Lois Lerner’s Political Witch Hunt
If there is any single name that has become synonymous with Barack Obama’s corruption of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it is Lois Lerner. Few can forget her stern visage as the then-IRS top official took the Fifth Amendment before California Congressman Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee on May 22 in order to cover up her key role in targeting conservative groups for IRS harassment.
A week earlier, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) had released a report revealing that, under Lerner’s leadership, the IRS Exempt Organizations Division had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles in applications for tax-exempt status. The TIGTA 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).” The illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.
Judicial Watch immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the IRS for records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) nonprofit status since January 1, 2010. And we followed that with a second request specifically seeking all records of communications by Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process. As I said at the time, the Obama IRS suppressed the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection. And one of the most pressing questions is “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” The IRS, as expected, has stonewalled that FOIA request, which forced us on October 9 to file a FOIA lawsuit against the agency in the District Court for the District of Columbia. We’ll keep you posted on that critical lawsuit.
Eventually, of course, long after Lerner’s disastrous congressional testimony, the IRS finally admitted that while Lerner was in charge, its agents had, indeed, improperly targeted Tea Party groups. At which point, they promptly rewarded her by putting her on paid leave and allowing her to spend several months relaxing at home. Lerner then retired from the IRS on September 23 with full benefits, even after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was preparing to call for her firing, according to news reports. And that, folks, is how Washington works.
But, I am pleased to tell you that the story doesn’t end there – because Judicial Watch is now hot on the trail of yet another Lerner-IRS scandal, this one involving her collusion with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to carry out her vendetta against conservative groups.
Last week, Judicial Watch obtained 176 pages of email exchanges between Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicating that she had provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC in violation of federal law.
The emails came from 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 (we sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking the same information, but they are still stonewalling):
- 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 an FEC attorney (whose name is redacted) 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 and Avenger, Inc.
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 Judicial Watch obtained consists 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 (Form 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and legal correspondence between the non-profit 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). And a third was the clearly collusion between government agencies with an apparently anti-conservative bias.
It should be noted that Lois Lerner has a long track record of using her position to go after targets of interest for the Left. During the Clinton administration, when she was head of the FEC’s enforcement division previous to joining the IRS, she oversaw an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. Though the Coalition was thoroughly exonerated, Lerner had taken her toll.
These new documents show that the suppression of the Tea Party and conservatives wasn’t necessarily limited to the IRS. Any criminal and congressional investigations need to be expanded beyond the IRS to the FEC. I have the feeling that these documents are just the beginning.
The Ravens Need to Go to the Video
This coming week, when the Baltimore Ravens sit down to review game tapes, they might want to include the C-SPAN video of Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius’ stilted, stultifying, cynical, and deceptive attempt to defend the (Un)affordable Health Care Act (aka: Obamacare) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on October 30. In so doing, they may quickly learn that when they decided to join team Obama in order to help promote his now thoroughly discredited government health care takeover, they handcuffed themselves to a loser.
The reigning Super Bowl champion has tarnished its name by helping Barack Obama and his minions impose Obamacare on the American people. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch this past week, the Ravens organization is getting $130,000 from taxpayers to wave the Obamacare banner.
The deal was secured on September 9 between the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL) and Maryland state Obamacare officials. The White House has tried recruiting professional sports leagues—especially the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA)—to help promote the president’s healthcare law, but they have declined.
In fact, the NFL confirmed months ago that it would not participate in the Obamacare public relations campaign, offering the media this written statement: “We have responded to the letters we received from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about [the health-care law’s] implementation.” Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper called it a “blow to the administration.”
But Maryland officials evidently appealed directly to the home team, announcing in early September that the Ravens would help market the state’s Obamacare exchange known as Maryland Health Connection. Both parties refused to offer specifics when the deal was initiated, and Judicial Watch filed a Maryland Public Information Act request for details.
In a “Sponsorship Agreement” between the Maryland Health Connection and the Ravens, the state will pay the Super Bowl champs $130,000 to push Obamacare on television, radio, the team’s official website, its newsletter and in social media. This includes the Ravens Report Show on cable TV and a number of pre and post-game radio segments, as well as Facebook and Twitter plugs.
Taxpayers and football fans alike should be outraged by this propaganda deal. The Super Bowl champion Ravens have enough problems this season, and allowing their name to be linked with the Obamacare debacle is going to further disappoint many fans. Sure enough, the Maryland Obamacare exchange is a massive failure. And this shows why Obamacare is a failure, as the government seemed more interested in spending money on ads rather than making it work. As a longtime Ravens fan, I still have hope that Ravens can recover this season – which is more than I can say for Obamacare.
The truth is, before continuing with their outrageous sell-out to the Maryland’s political powers that be, the Ravens really should take just a few minutes to watch Secretary Sebelius’ performance before Congress. Icily indifferent to the devastating impact of the program she helped cobble together and now oversees, at one point she went so far as to respond to one congressman’s serious questions by shrugging her shoulders, staring vacantly, and simply replying, “Whatever.”
While Sebelius at one point offered a perfunctory mea culpa for the massive failures of the Obamacare website, she very tellingly showed a deep-seated misunderstanding of the program she is charged with administering. When asked by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) about the provisions of Obamacare covering abortions, Sebelius appeared clueless. Here was the exchange:
Rep. Shimkus: “… Another transparency issue: Um, if someone – a constituent of mine or someone in this country has strongly held pro-life views, can you commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer that is clearly identified, and so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not? Because right now, you cannot make that determination.”
Sec. Sebelius: “Sir, I – I don’t know… I – I know exactly the, the, uh, um issue that you are talking about, I will check and make sure…”
Later, Sebelius showed an even deeper misunderstanding of the law she administers when she wrongly informed Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) that she is ineligible to enroll in Obamacare. As the online publication Mediaite reported:
Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius engaged in a heated exchange with a Republican representative about whether or not she plans to enroll in the insurance exchanges associated with the Affordable Care Act like the members of Congress have done. Sebelius said that she already had health insurance and insisted that she believed it was illegal for her to enter the exchanges.
As even the Obamacare-supporting Washington Post was forced to admit, according to HealthCare.gov, Sebelius is legally allowed to get insurance on the exchange. She would simply not receive her employer’s contribution to her premiums. As Business Insider observed, “This is a kind of shocking oversight from the top official overseeing implementation of Obamacare. It’s not a minor technical point; one of the key issues in the law’s design is how to deal with workers who might choose exchange coverage over their offers of work-based coverage.”
The bottom line on all of this is that America is in deep trouble over the Obama administration’s insistence upon forcing a mortally flawed government health care contrivance on the American people that even its own top lieutenants don’t understand and can’t defend. It goes far beyond disastrous bugs in the program’s website; it goes to the very heart of a free people’s right to protect their lives, limbs, and liberty.
As many as seven million Americans may lose their health care coverage because of Obamacare. The program will increase health care spending by more than $7,000 per year for a typical family of four. And, according to Gallup, 41 percent of businesses already have frozen hiring because of the health care law. Unlike the Baltimore Ravens, Americans aren’t going to “take a knee” in the face of the destructive Obamacare law.
Judicial Watch Obtains 57,000 Pages of Records Relating to Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Reform Task Force
Regular readers of the Weekly Update will recall that Judicial Watch has long been on the trail of the corruption and deceit that were part and parcel of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s National Taskforce on Health Care Reform. I’m pleased to report to you that this past week we scored another breakthrough, pulling back more the veil of secrecy in which the Clintons have long shrouded their most famous policy failure.
On October 17, 2013, thanks to Judicial Watch litigation, the public gained access to more than 57,000 pages of previously withheld documents from the Clinton Presidential Library related to the “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first term of the Bill Clinton presidency. The release of records came more than seven years after Judicial Watch filed an April 4, 2006, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for “any and all” records pertaining to the Taskforce on Health Care Reform. On November 2, 2007, Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the records (Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (No: 1:07-cv-07-1987)).
And finally, on October 17, after nearly a decade, the Supervisor Architect of the Clinton Presidential Library sent a letter to Judicial Watch conceding, “We have completed processing, according to the provisions of FOIA, the approximately 57,234 pages of Clinton Presidential records responsive to … your FOIA request ….”
One thing we already know for certain is that Hillary Clinton was the power behind the throne, given unbridled authority to direct and dictate the entire effort. According to Clinton Presidential Library records, “The cabinet-level Task Force, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was given primary responsibility for providing advice and making recommendations to the President regarding the national health care reform package,” which everyone knew as Hillarycare.
The release of the Task Force records marks another milestone in our long and relentless effort to obtain the information, dating back to the original 2006 FOIA request. Following the 2007 FOIA lawsuit, in February 2008 we asked the federal court to deny a National Archives motion to delay the release of any records indefinitely. In May 2008, the court granted the Archives motion, prompting us to note at the time, “The Archives processed requests for information about UFOs, while refusing to process requests for important information about a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator. This delay benefits no one but bureaucrats who refuse to do their jobs and politicians running for office.”
In September 2008, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled against the National Archives and refused their motion to dismiss our lawsuit. In his ruling, the judged declared, “[The National Archives] argues that [Judicial Watch’s] request is inadequate because it is overbroad…otherwise valid FOIA requests are not overbroad or unreasonable simply because they seek a very large number of documents,” while noting that the Archives “should have been better prepared” to process open records requests related to the Clinton Presidential Library. And now, five years later, the National Archives has finally acceded to the law of the land.
What will Judicial Watch attorneys find as they dig into the stacks of previously withheld documents? Well, if the past is prologue, the revelations could be interesting. In January 2008, as our lawsuit against the National Archives was proceeding, we obtained an earlier batch of records from the Clinton Presidential Library that were stunning in their revelations. Among the highlights of those documents were the following:
- A June 18, 1993, internal Memorandum entitled, “A Critique of Our Plan,” authored by someone with the initials “P.S.,” makes the startling admission that critics of Hillary’s health care reform plan were correct: “I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy…Is the public really ready for this?… none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all…”
- A “Confidential” May 26, 1993, memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, “Health Care Reform Communications,” which criticizes the Task Force as a “secret cabal of Washington policy ‘wonks'” that has engaged in “choking off information” from the public regarding health care reform. The memorandum suggests that Hillary Clinton “use classic opposition research” to attack those who were excluded by the Clinton Administration from Task Force deliberations and to “expose lifestyles, tactics and motives of lobbyists” in order to deflect criticism. Senator Rockefeller also suggested news organizations “are anxious and willing to receive guidance [from the Clinton Administration] on how to time and shape their [news] coverage.”
- A February 5, 1993, draft memorandum from Alexis Herman and Mike Lux details the Office of Public Liaison’s plan for the health care reform campaign. The memorandum notes the development of an “interest group database” detailing whether organizations “support(ed) us in the election.” The database would also track personal information about interest group leaders, such as their home phone numbers, addresses, “biographies, analysis of credibility in the media, and known relationships with Congresspeople.”
You can see how things haven’t changed much in DC! The concerns and machinations over Hillarycare are virtually no different for the ongoing Obamacare disaster. Our investigators are preparing to fly down to Little Rock to review the new Hillarycare documents, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what they find.