Newly recovered emails show taxpayer records emailed between the White House and the IRS. Why won’t the agency release the documents to the public?
The Internal Revenue Service continues to be embroiled in scandals related to inappropriate access to taxpayer records and a lack of oversight that may lead all the way to the White House. In May 2013, the IRS revealed that between the 2010 and 2012 elections they had made “mistakes” by giving extra scrutiny to liberal, and conservative groups seeking to obtain 501(c)(4) status.
Groups were profiled for further review for use of the words “patriot”, “tea-party”, “occupy”, “9/12 Project”, “progressive,” “occupy,” “Israel,” “open source software,” “medical marijuana” and “occupied territory advocacy”. Initially the scandal was painted as a partisan issue, Republicans looking to take a shot at the Obama Administration and nothing more.
Since that time it has become obvious that there was illegal activity and zero transparency within the IRS and possibly White House officials. When the news first broke, Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff at the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, told CNN, “Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets.”
Shortly after the revelations, the non-profit group Cause of Action began investigating the claims and whether or not the IRS had been sharing these taxpayer records with the White House. The group filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking any communication between the IRS and the White House regarding tax returns. The IRS refused, Cause of Action sued and a judge forced the IRS to turn over all relevant documents.
At that point the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) claimed that 2,043 pages of documents were available but could not be released because they would violate federal privacy laws since they contain confidential taxpayer information. The government is making the argument that the public cannot see the documents because of privacy, which in itself is an admission that taxpayer data was sent to the White House. The Department of Justice reportedly told Cause of Action some documents would be released on December 1st, with more to follow on December 15th.
The TIGTA also recently revealed that up to 30,000 missing emails sent by former IRS official Lois Lerner have been recovered. Over the summer the IRS had claimed the emails were lost forever when her Lerner’s computer crashed. The TIGTA said the emails were found among “disaster recovery tapes” used to back up the IRS email system. Lerner has retired since news of the scandal broke and has refused to testify in front of Congress. In May the House voted to hold her in contempt for her refusal.
Since that time Lerner has increasingly become the focus of wrongdoing. Since the TIGTA’s May 2013 report first exposed Lerner’s role in the profiling more evidence has appeared which indicates she encouraged IRS employees to watch what they were saying through emails. An email sent April 9, 2013 between Lerner, Hooke, and IRS Director for Exempt Organizations Exam Unit Manager Nanette Downing, highlights Lerner’s efforts to put a lid on the controversy.
Most recently, Lerner has been connected to an email sent in September 2010 to an unnamed official from the Department of Justice. The Watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained the email following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS. Judicial Watch requested all relevant communications. The government sent two emails, claiming more than 800 pages were exempt.
The email shows Lerner referencing a meeting with attorneys from the election crimes unit of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and the IRS to “discuss 501(c)(4) issues.” If the profiling took place between 2010 and 2012 the email fits the timeline. What was discussed at that meeting? Was the White House, maybe even President Obama aware of the existence of the program?
Despite the “mainstream” media attempt to paint the issue as nothing more than partisan bickering between the Republicans and Democrats, this incident is a scandal of the highest proportions that indicates an abundance of illegal, and likely unconstitutional, activity.