June 12 2014
The IRS scandal has almost been forgotten in the press of more recent scandals.
But I want to belatedly take note of a real shocker that came to light earlier this week: the IRS, according to a letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen from Reps. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) of the House Oversight Committee, was sending the Justice Department confidential information about conservative groups.
It is almost impossible to overstate the seriousness--and illegality--of this. The Wall Street Journal explains what reportedly happened:
In October of 2010, apparently without a court order, the IRS sent 21 computer disks containing 1.1 million pages of tax-return documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the Justice Department, the massive data dump included public returns from non-profit groups but also taxpayer information that by law the IRS is required to keep confidential. …
How did these documents wind up at the FBI? In September of 2010, IRS officials including Lois Lerner and Sarah Hall Ingram helped the New York Times NYT +0.38% prepare a story about non-profit policy groups which "heavily favored Republicans" in their purchases of issue advertising.
The day after the article appeared, Justice Department Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith noted the story in an email to colleagues and asked whether they could charge the groups with conspiracy to violate U.S. laws. Mr. Smith also suggested scheduling a meeting with Ms. Ingram, who like Ms. Lerner was a senior official overseeing tax-exempt organizations at the IRS.
By early October [former IRS official Lois] Lerner was e-mailing Richard Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Branch at Justice, about "getting you the disks we spoke about" and asking in which format Justice would prefer to receive the data.
Mr. Pilger responded, "Thanks, Lois—FBI says Raw format is best because they can put it into their systems like excel."
This appears to be nothing short of the repression of politcal speech.
So now presumably we know why Ms. Lerner refused to answer questions when hauled before Congress to talk about targeting conservative groups.
At one time, congressional committees would have been able to get to the bottom of this affair.
But with widespread lawlessness in the government, I'm not so sure Congress (the part of it that wants to bring to light what happened) will be able to do this.