Paper trails in the IRS scandal

It has long been suspected – well, frankly, pretty much known, without a critical mass of corroborating evidence – that IRS scandal kingpin Lois Lerner passed confidential tax data about conservative groups to her old colleagues at the Federal Election Commission.  This is a felony violation of federal law.

We might be a good deal closer to learning whether such laws still apply to anyone affiliated with the Obama regime, because Judicial Watch used the Freedom of Information Act to wrestle away some FEC documents, and they include a chain of emails that provide details about the illicit transfer of information:

The revealing email chain obtained by Judicial Watch begins with a February 3, 2009, email from 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. (AIP).

In her response sent ten minutes later from her 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 obtained by Judicial Watch consist 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 (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 6013 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.

The same FOIA request applies to the IRS, but according to Judicial Watch, they have not yet responded.  That’s a shocker.

Another uncomfortable fact revealed by these emails is that the FEC reached out to Lerner before the commissioners had formally on whether to investigate the American Future Fund… and when they did vote, they voted no.  That’s… I hate to overuse the word “outrageous,” because it has already lost much of its flavor while stuck to the Obama Administration’s bedpost overnight, but… wow.

The new in-depth emails obtained by Judicial Watch seem to confirm that the possible collusion between the IRS and the FEC may have been far more extensive than 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.

“These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies:  the IRS and FEC,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime.”

Is there really all that much question about it?  This sure does look like indictment material.  A normal citizen facing comparable evidence of a felony offense would probably be awaiting jury selection.  “Innocent until proven guilty” and all that, but isn’t it time for some people to get into a courtroom and put their innocence to the test?

This actually isn’t the only IRS scandal news bubbling through the grisly remains of ObamaCare today.  Another, related IRS scandal concerns the distribution of confidential information about the National Organization for Marriage to its political opponents, namely the Human Rights Campaign, in March 2012.  The HRC was able to immediately attract the kind of media swarm that no conservative group will ever be capable of summoning, because one of the donors revealed by this illegal leak of confidential information was presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  (Just try to imagine what the reaction would be if this happened to a liberal group that had received a donation from the Democrat challenger to a sitting Republican president.)

Eliana Johnson at National Review reports that the House Ways and Means Committee has identified the perp in this case, but it cannot release the name of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations operative who handed NOM’s information over to the HRC, or say whether this person has been disciplined, or even if they still work for the IRS as a living, breathing security risk to American citizens… because the perp is protected by the very same law that he, or she, broke:

That’s because of a peculiarity of the Internal Revenue Code’s section 6103, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information. The law makes it a felony to disclose tax returns or related information to the public, but in an odd twist, the results of investigations conducted by congressional committees or by inspectors general are considered the confidential tax information of the alleged perpetrator.

Having committed a felony by disclosing NOM’s donor list, the perpetrator is protected by the same law he broke. “I am astounded at the ease by which an individual was able to obtain and release confidential information including private citizens’ names and addresses,” House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) tells National Review Online. “What makes the situation even worse is that the law, intended to protect taxpayers, is being used as a shield for those that perpetrate this wrongdoing.”

The middleman in this illegal exchange was Matthew Meisel, who was a former employee of… Bain & Company, from which was born Bain Capital, which is both the fountain of evil according to Barack Obama, and the old stomping grounds of the crisis manager he brought in to fix the ObamaCare launch disaster, Jeff Zients.  I guess Meisel wasn’t a fan of Romney’s management work.  He didn’t want to discuss his history, or anything else, with National Review.  Neither did anyone from the Human Rights Campaign.

National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman has some ideas for loosening their tongues:

The document leaked by the anonymous IRS employee contained the names and addresses of all those who gave money to NOM in 2007. In testimony before Congress, NOM chairman John Eastman accused the IRS of publicizing the list “to facilitate the intimidation of donors.” He talks of a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” against the organization’s financial backers that has included boycotts of their business, physical assault, and the vandalizing of private property.

[…] He wants the Department of Justice to prosecute both the unnamed IRS leaker and Meisel, the recipient of the leaked documents. “This should be a relatively simple matter,” he says. Also a professor of constitutional law, Eastman is point-blank. As if reading from the statute itself, he tells me, “Any person who inspects or discloses a tax return and knowingly is not authorized to have it is guilty of a felony, and we expect the Department of Justice to seek an indictment.” Only if Eric Holder’s DOJ does take up the case will the veil of privacy and the protection afforded by section 6103 be lifted.

Eastman also told National Review that the NOM incident had a chilling effect on donors, who say they are “fearful” to make donations because they believe their “businesses and family are at risk.”  In other words, the tactic worked.  It’s past time to find out if this Administration is as good at punishing lawbreakers as it is at crushing dissidents.  What say you, Attorney General Eric Holder?  (That really should not be interpreted as sarcasm, but I won’t blame anyone who does so.)