November 1 2013
Patrice J. Lee
If you thought the IRS scandals are behind us, think again.
Newly obtained emails confirm allegations that Lois Lerner, chief of the nonprofit division at the IRS, shared confidential tax information of targeted conservative groups with agents at the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC).
This summer, IRS misbehavior dominated the headlines. To refresh your memory, IRS agents –from low-level workers all the way up the food chain to leadership- were involved with and/or knew about the partisan treatment of conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption. These groups were forced to provide extensive information on their internal operations, finances, donors, and supporters, while their applications were held up for years (in some cases).
Now, our fears of illegal behavior and nefarious motives behind the collection of all of this information have been confirmed. Emails obtained through a simple FOIA request find that Lerner and FEC agents shared private information of targeted groups. And that’s a felony. IRS agents are prohibited from disclosing taxpayer information, even to another government agency.
Here’s what’s going on:
The emails obtained by Judicial Watch show that the IRS, which was considering the tax status of the groups, gave the FEC the tax returns of the groups, including income, expenditures and staff pay. The emails also revealed the exact working of the prying political questions the IRS wanted the groups to reveal, such as their goals and the requests for brochures and ads.
The information, sent via email, to the FEC came in response to the organization’s questions about whether the IRS had granted tax-exempt status to the Tea Party groups. It is unclear how the information the IRS sent was going to help the FEC, since the IRS hadn’t determined the tax status of the groups yet.
According to Judicial Watch, the materials “from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC containing detailed, confidential information about the organizations. These include annual tax returns (Forms 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and correspondence between the nonprofit 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.”
Why is this a big deal? Well, reports surfaced during the summer that the IRS and FEC were in a cozy relationship sharing pillow talk about conservative groups –pointing to potential collusion between government agencies. One of the FEC agents who sought and received information about a targeted group (the American Future Fund) then recommended that the commission prosecute the group for violations of campaign-finance law. Nice strategy, huh?
As a regular American, I am sickened to think that government agents will abuse their power and access to our confidential information as well as violate federal law to pursue their agendas simply because they disagree with what I do or believe in. That’s what happened to the American Future Fund and likely other groups. Had these scandals not come to light, we may never know how many more organizations would suffer at the hands of politically motivated federal agents run amok.
Remember, this goes beyond who is in Congress or the White House. These culprits are deeply entrenched civil servants who can perpetuate their illegal misbehavior for decades untouched by the electoral cycle. One person whose name constantly appears is Lois Lerner.
The saying goes “one bad apple spoils the bunch,” but what happens when you keep transplanting that bad apple from bushel to bushel? You get a network of tainted agencies. Before her tenure at the IRS, Lerner worked at the FEC for almost two decades where she was known for aggressive investigation of conservative groups.
Where is this bad apple now? Retired, so there’s probably no going after her. Even worse, who knows how many other apples she grew while in public service?