Back in April, Judicial Watch released documents showing IRS officials, including former head of tax exempt groups Lois Lerner, discussing the possibility of bringing criminal charges against tea party groups for engaging in "political activity." In fact, the documents showed Lerner wanted to make an example out of someone with charges in order to chill all of the groups in the tea party movement.
"As I mentioned yesterday -- there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn't feel so comfortable doing the stuff," Lerner wrote in an email to staff. "So, don't be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity."
Now according to a release from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Lerner had a database of tax exempt organizations sent to the FBI just before the 2010 midterm elections. That database included legally protected taxpayer information. Emails show Lerner and DOJ Election Crimes Branch official Richard Pilger discussing what format the FBI prefers when it comes to receiving information for their investigation.
“Thanks Lois – FBI says Raw format is best because they can put it into their systems like excel,” Pilger wrote in an October 6, 2010 email to Lerner.
Issa and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan have sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen demanding more information about the database, which included 21 disks and 1.1 million pages of information about tax exempt groups.
“We were astonished to learn days ago from the Justice Department that these 21 disks contained confidential taxpayer information protected by federal law. We ask that you immediately produce all material explaining how these disks were prepared and transmitted to the FBI," the letter states. “The IRS’s transmittal of this information to the FBI shows that the IRS took affirmative steps to provide sensitive evidentiary material to law-enforcement officials about the political speech of nonprofits. At the very least, this information suggests that the IRS considered the political speech activities of nonprofits to be worthy of investigation by federal law-enforcement officials. The IRS apparently considered political speech by nonprofit groups to be so troublesome that it illegally assisted federal law-enforcement officials in assembling a massive database of the lawful political speech of thousands of American citizens, weeks before the 2010 midterm elections, using confidential taxpayer information.”
The IRS has been withholding information about the IRS working with the FBI in this particular way from Congress, despite multiple requests for transparency.
“Despite two Committee subpoenas, the IRS has not produced material relating to these 21 disks and all associated information… The subpoena [to the IRS] created a legal requirement on you, as the Commissioner of the IRS, to identify and produce all subpoenaed material in an expeditious manner," The letter to Commissioner Koskinen states. "Your choice to withhold this highly relevant material obstructs the Committee’s ongoing oversight obligations – especially when this information implicates violations of federal law.”
Koskinen has been asked to respond to previously issued subpoenas about the database and has been asked to provide additional information about the communication between Lerner and the Election Crimes Division at DOJ.