Connecting the dots of the IRS targeting scandal is complicated work. Yesterday, it was reported that, among other misconduct, the IRS's Lois Lerner had illegitimately provided confidential tax information about a conservative group, the American Issues Project, to a staff lawyer at the FEC seeking to build a case against AIP.
Commenting on this development, the Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel adds an invaluable reminder: The initial attack on AIP was launched by the Obama campaign:
By February 2009, an FEC attorney was asking Lerner to share "any information" on AIP -- and nine minutes after that request was made, Lerner directed IRS attorneys to comply with it. This occurred even though it is illegal for the IRS to share confidential information and despite the FEC staff lacking permission from the Commission even to conduct this inquiry.
In late summer of 2008, Obama lawyer Bob Bauer took issue with ads run against his boss by a 501(c)(4) conservative outfit called American Issues Project. Mr. Bauer filed a complaint with the FEC, called on the criminal division of the Justice Department to prosecute AIP, and demanded to see documents the group had filed with the IRS.
Earlier this week, all three Republican FEC commissioners released a statement detailing the extremes to which the FEC staff went to try to deliver a "win" for the Obama administration against AIP. These measures included producing three different reports with three different rationales for why the FEC should pursue AIP; conducting an unauthorized investigation into AIP; and wrongly withholding the results of its (unathorized) research from AIP. The report makes it clear that one of the staff's novel theories, on AIP's expenditures (advocated to force the conclusion that it violated the law), creates "the potential for . . . targeting" and concludes that "Due process should prevent such shenanigans." Indeed.
The entire sordid episode raises serious questions for the Obama administration. As Ms. Strassel succinctly puts it:
How long can The White House and its allies continue to claim this is all just a big coincidence?
The Obama campaign takes its vendetta against a political opponent to the FEC. The FEC staff, as part of an extraordinary campaign to bring down AIP and other 501(c)(4) groups, reaches out to Lois Lerner, the woman overseeing IRS targeting. [FEC Vice Chairman Don] McGahn has also noted that FEC staff has in recent years had an improperly tight relationship with the Justice Department—to which the Obama campaign also complained about AIP.