IRS official Lois Lerner handed over emails that contained confidential taxpayer information about a targeted tea party group to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., according to reports released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today.
Lerner, the former director of the agency’s tax-exempt unit, could face up to five years in prison if she is found guilty of disclosing confidential taxpayer information to the Democrat lawmaker’s staff, according to federal privacy laws referenced by the committee.
As WND reported, after reviewing confidential information about the case, the House committee voted Wednesday to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder referring Lerner for criminal prosecution for using her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations.
The letter to Cummings states Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements. Further, it contends Lerner risked exposing confidential taxpayer information and may already have done so.
The newly exposed internal IRS emails between Lerner and other IRS employees show that House Oversight minority staff, working for Cummings, began contacting the IRS in August 2012 about targeted non-profit applicant True the Vote.
Contradict previous denials
Cummings, the committee’s ranking member, received a letter today from the chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and five subcommittee chairmen demanding an explanation for his staff’s queries.
The Republican lawmakers want to know why the minority hid the efforts of Cummings’ staff from the majority and why the ranking member denied such actions at a February subcommittee hearing.
The IRS handed over on April 2 copies of communications between Cummings staff and IRS officials, only days after Oversight Committee members had taken new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to task for withholding relevant communications.
The letter to Cummings said: “Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise.”
The letter said that as the committee is scheduled “to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
Lerner offered job with Obama group?
Emails between Lerner and her staff show that while she was engineering a denial and audit of Crossroads GPS, a conservative group, she was possibly being considered for a position at Organizing for Action, the group that funneled millions of dollars to Obama’s campaign efforts.
Lerner professed excitement at the prospect of obtaining a position at Organizing for Action’s D.C. office when she told an IRS Exempt Organization employee in an internal email: “Oh, maybe I can get the D.C. office job.”
“The documents were really damning so I wondered why we hadn’t done something with this org,” Lerner said to a colleague asking why Crossroads GPS had not been audited.
Organizing for Action’s website actively promotes “Truth Teams” to rebut Obamacare opponents. The teams are a “dedicated group of supporters who want to push back against the lies, myths, and misinformation out there with cold, hard facts.”
Targeting True the Vote
The letter to Cummings notes:
- The IRS and the Oversight minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Cummings’ staff.
- Five days after Cummings contacted True the Vote seeking “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” the IRS sent True the Vote a letter requesting it provide “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed … following the training they receive by you.”
- On or before Jan. 25, 2013, Cummings’ staff requested more information from the IRS about True the Vote. The head of the IRS Legislative Affairs office emailed several IRS officials, including Lerner, saying that House Oversight Committee minority staff sought information about True the Vote. On Jan. 28, Lerner wrote to her deputy, Holly Paz: “Did we find anything?” When Paz informed her minutes later that she had not heard back about True the Vote’s information, Lerner replied: “[T]hanks – check tomorrow please.”
- On Jan. 31, 2013, Paz attached True the Vote’s Form 990s, which she authorized the IRS to share with the minority staff. Neither Cummings nor the IRS shared the requested documents with the Oversight majority. None of the minority’s communications about True the Vote with the IRS were shared with the committee majority even though ranking member Cummings frequently has complained about the committee majority contacting individuals on official matters without the involvement of minority staff.
At a Feb. 6 subcommittee hearing, Cummings denied that his staff “might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies.”
Cummings asked to respond to a statement by lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who represents many of the conservative groups who allege they were targeted by the IRS.
Mitchell: We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out whether any – if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these federal agencies. We don’t know that, but we – we’re going to do everything we can do to try to get to the bottom of how did this all happen.
Cummings: Will the gentleman yield?
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.: Yes.
Cummings: I want to thank the gentleman for his courtesy. What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.
Urging Holder to act
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the letter “sets forth evidence that tends to show intentional wrongdoing, including targeting specific taxpayers for adverse treatment, making misleading statements to law enforcement, and the possible disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.”
Camp urged Holder to act on the matter.
“The Committee requests that you act on the findings within this letter and the attached documentation to ensure the rights of law-abiding taxpayers are protected,” he said.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, called the voted Wednesday “a significant step in holding former top IRS official Lois Lerner accountable for an unlawful scheme that violated the constitutional rights of our clients.”
Sekulow said the charges by the House committee “are very troubling and represent a blatant disregard for the law and the agency’s own rules and regulations.”
“We’re hopeful this action will lead to true disclosure of the depth of her involvement in this unlawful targeting scheme,” he said.
ACLJ says it has heard from more than 60,000 people in just two days calling on Congress to hold Lerner in contempt.
As reported by WND yesterday the Democrat defense claiming both progressive and conservative groups were targeted equally is not true, according to a congressional.
WND broke the story that the IRS – the agency also tasked with enforcing penalties for failure to comply with Obamacare – is officially directing all U.S. nonprofits whose annual gross receipts are $50,000 or less to file their annual financial information electronically through the progressive Urban Institute.