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House Republicans suspect election officials joined with the Internal Revenue Service in a strategy that curbed the effectiveness of conservative organizations in the 2012 election.
The allegations were revealed in a letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Report, which has been holding hearings and seeking evidence about the extent of the IRS targeting of conservative and Christian organizations.
Hundreds of self-described “tea party” and “patriot” organizations had applications for tax-exempt status delayed, in some cases for years. They also were subjected to invasive, improper and probably illegal queries into private matters such as the content of their prayers and how they will vote.
The committee’s letter, dated Wednesday, is addressed to Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission.
“Documents recently produced by the committee demonstrate that FEC personnel communicated with IRS personnel about tax-exempt groups engaged in political activities,” the letter says.
It cites as an example a Feb. 3, 2009, email from William Powers, an FEC official in the Office of the General Counsel, to Lois Lerner, then-director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, seeking information about the American Issues Project and the American Future Fund.
Powers asked about the status of the groups’ applications for tax-exempt status and the IRS review process. He referenced prior conversations with Lerner regarding American Future Fund.
The letter was signed by Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on behalf of the committee, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on behalf of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs.
The members of Congress also noted that in an interview with CNN, Donald McGahn, current FEC vice chairman, discussed the coordination between the FEC and IRS.
He described the “dealing” between Powers and Lerner, who refused to answer questions from Congress on the issue when called before the committee as “out of the ordinary.”
The letter points out McGahn went on to say: “The FEC has not had a good track record with calling balls and strikes. They’ve been criticized for not playing fair.”
The committee’s letter said McGahn’s reply raises “the prospect of inappropriate coordination between the IRS and the FEC about tax-exempt entities.”
The letter asks the FEC for documents and communications between or among FEC officials and IRS officials from 2008 to the present.
“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at ‘any time’ investigate ‘any matter’ as set forth in House Rule X,” the letter points out.