IRS’s Lerner Illegally Sent Conservative Group Data to FEC: Watchdogs
Emails sent between the Internal Revenue Service’s Lois Lerner and attorneys at the Federal Election Commission revealing that the IRS gave the FEC confidential information regarding conservative groups, especially those calling themselves Tea Party organizations were released on Halloween by a Washington, D.C., public-interest group that investigates government corruption.
According to officials at the nonpartisan Judicial Watch, included with the Lois Lerner-FEC emails were the IRS questionnaires submitted to a conservative organization, which legally sought tax-exempt status, that contained “questions of a hostile nature.”
The emails were turned over to Judicial Watch by the FEC as a result of an Aug. 9, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) application that sought access to the following documents and records for the timeframe Jan. 1, 2009, to the present:
* 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 IRS also received a FOIA request from Judicial Watch for the same information and but officials at the IRS continue to be unresponsive.
According to Judicial Watch, before her becoming the IRS’s Director of Exempt Organizations, Lois Lerner worked at the FEC where she developed a reputation for wielding her power against a conservative candidate and Christian-based political groups.
The revealing email chain shows a redacted FEC attorney 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 (CFTR) and Avenger, Inc.
In her response email sent to the FEC, Lerner stated that she would make it mandatory for her underlings to cooperate fully, something that smacks of an anti-conservative conspiracy, according to political strategist Mike Baker.
Lerner stated in her responding email: “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 majority of documents obtained by Judicial Watch analysts consists of extensive materials from IRS files sent from Lerner to the FEC containing detailed, confidential information about the conservative or vilified Tea Party organizations.
The items include annual tax returns and request for exempt recognition forms, Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, as well as correspondence between the conservative organizations and the IRS.
Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code stipulates that it’s a felony for an Internal Revenue Service official to disclose either “return information” or “taxpayer return information” to any individuals or organizations including government agencies.
Initial news reports, such as a story in the Washington Post, when word of some of these IRS-FEC emails first surfaced, raised a variety of legal issues. One legal issue was the fact that Lerner was supplying confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status of conservative organizations to an agency that had no right to receive such information.
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). A third legal issue was the appearance of political collusion between government agencies with a seemingly anti-conservative bias.
Lerner resigned her position at the IRS in early October. In May, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in her, some say, arrogant appearance before Chairman Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to Caroline May, political reporter for the Daily Caller.
“These latest IRS-FEC emails obtained by Judicial Watch seem to confirm that there was probable collusion between the IRS and the FEC that might have been far more extensive than was first indicated, particularly in view of allegations that, prior to joining the IRS, Lerner’s tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) also was marked by what appeared to be politically motivated harassment of conservative groups,” state Judicial Watch officials.
According to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, “These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies: the IRS and FEC.”
“And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime,” Fitton added.
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