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For weeks now Americans have been outraged by the developing scandal over the federal government accessing, monitoring, searching and archiving personal emails among Americans, following whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations that the National Security Agency and others have been tapping into your online activity.
But Americans might not be so upset at the latest demand from Congress for such access. In fact, Americans might just find a little humor in the fact that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is demanding access to IRS official Lois Lerner’s personal MSN.com email account.
Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Lerner Tuesday seeking emails related to her official duties that apparently went through her non-government email account.
“Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official duties from your official IRS email account to an msn.com email account labeled ‘Lois Home,'” the letter sent to Lerner states. “This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official email account to conduct official business.”
The letter continued, “The use of non-official email accounts to conduct official business implicates federal records requirements. It also creates difficulties in fulfilling the IRS’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation requests. Your use of non-official email account also frustrates congressional oversight obligations.”
So, the members of Congress explain, they want “all documents and communications housed in Lerner’s msn.com account or any other non-official account that reference her official IRS duties by August 27, 2013.”
Members of Congress explain that Lerner has been at the center of the scandal over the strategy adopted by the IRS to target tea party, conservative and Christian organizations who applied for tax status with the agency.
She was summoned before Congress to answer questions about the fracas, and after protesting her innocence, refused to answer further questions. She’s on administrative leave now.
At the same time, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, wrote an opinion piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer warning that the scandal already “runs all the way to the highest levels of the IRS an maybe beyond.”
“What began as what the Obama administration said was a handful of ‘rogue agents’ in a local Cincinnati office has turned into a scandal that runs all the way to the highest levels of the IRS and maybe beyond. The question every American should be asking is this: Just how far does this story go, and when is President Barack Obama going to do something about it?”
He noted what WND previously has reported, that even an IRS whistleblower has confirmed that the misconduct involved not only Lerner and the Washington office generally, but specifically included the IRS chief counsel.
“With each new revelation we discover more incompetence, and more examples of politicized enforcement of the law – all enemies of good governance,” he said. “And while the Obama administration has voiced outrage about government misconduct, it has failed to provide the American people and congressional investigators with critical information and promised transparency.”
Hundreds of self-described “tea party” and “patriot” organizations had applications for tax-exempt status delayed by the IRS strategy, 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 federal agency actions effectively limited their influence leading up to and during the 2012 election, which Obama eventually won.
WND also recently reported that House Republicans suspect election officials joined with the Internal Revenue Service in the strategy that curbed the effectiveness of conservative organizations in the 2012 election.
A Oversight letter addressed to Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, and states, “Documents recently produced by the committee demonstrate that FEC personnel communicated with IRS personnel about tax-exempt groups engaged in political activities.”
It cited as an example a Feb. 3, 2009, email from William Powers, an FEC official in the Office of the General Counsel, to 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 asks the FEC for documents and communications between or among FEC officials and IRS officials from 2008 to the present.