TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1657: Lois Lerner Fears Retaliation If Her Tea Party Targeting Deposition Is Made Public 

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, Lois Lerner Doesn’t Trust You: “You Can’t Handle the Truth,” the Former IRS Official Tells the American People:

In his courtroom apologia in the film “A Few Good Men,” Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan Jessup made the words famous. Now, in her bid to keep her testimony in a recently settled tea-party lawsuit against the IRS secret, Lois Lerner has picked up the Jessup argument: “You can’t handle the truth!”

They used different words but the meaning is the same. Here’s how lawyers for Ms. Lerner and her former IRS deputy, Holly Paz, put it in a filing aimed at persuading a judge to keep their testimony from becoming public: “Public dissemination of their deposition testimony would expose them and their families to harassment and a credible risk of violence and physical harm.” They’re not just thinking of themselves, they add. Young children, family members, might be hurt too.

That’s quite an argument. So enraged would the American public become upon learning what Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz said that they and those around them would be in physical peril. Which probably makes most people wonder what the heck must the two have said that would get everyone so agitated? ...

[W]hat a crippling precedent it would be if government officials from powerful agencies such as the IRS were permitted to keep their abuses secret on grounds they fear that the people whom they are supposed to serve might be upset if they found out.

There can be good reasons to keep a deposition sealed, from ensuring the privacy of the innocent to protecting the life of a mafia informant. But Ms. Lerner is no innocent. Indeed, given all the falsehoods that have been spread in an effort to whitewash what the IRS had done, the case for transparency becomes even more compelling here. ...

[I]n this case the plaintiffs, the government and a newspaper all say they are for disclosure. Is a judge really going to buy Ms. Lerner’s argument that the American people can’t handle the truth?

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November 21, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, October 27, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1632: Department Of Justice Settles Tea Party Targeting Cases For Millions And An Apology

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, Administration Agrees to Settle Tea-Party Suits Against IRS:

The Trump administration on Thursday said it has agreed to pay between $1 million and $10 million to settle lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service for targeting tea-party groups in the Obama era, saying in court documents that the IRS “admits that its treatment...was wrong.”

The Justice Department entered into proposed settlements with groups that alleged in 2013 they had been subject to discriminatory treatment in applying for tax-exempt status. The move largely puts an end to a saga that had engulfed the IRS for years.

In a settlement filed in federal court in Washington, which still must be approved by a judge, the Justice Department said the IRS “expresses its sincere apology” and was “fully committed” to not subjecting groups for additional review “solely on the name or policy positions of such entity.”

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October 27, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1630: The Real Scandal Is The IRS's Budget

IRS Logo 2Philip Hackney (LSU), The IRS Targeting Scandal Was Fake, but IRS Budget Woes Are a Real Problem:

Conservatives have been seething since 2013 over what they say was an unfair and imbalanced effort by the IRS to scrutinize right-leaning organizations more closely than other groups seeking nonprofit status.

As a new report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration shows, the IRS did flag some conservative groups out of concern that they might be problematic. But it also paid the same kind of extra attention to liberal organizations with words like “occupy” and “progressive” in their names between 2004 and 2013.

So it’s now official. There was extra scrutiny but there was no liberal bias among the federal employees who determine whether new organizations that want to operate as nonprofits are legitimate – and therefore eligible for the tax-exempt status that goes with that designation.

As a former IRS lawyer who now researches nonprofit regulation, I am relieved to see the claim that the government exclusively targeted conservative organizations officially debunked. I believe this new report ought to usher in a serious discussion about a very real problem: The IRS is too cash-strapped to conduct its oversight of nonprofits of all kinds. ...

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional agency, recognized in 2014 that the tax agency’s budget and staff were too small to handle its nonprofit oversight responsibilities. The situation has only deteriorated since then.

The overall IRS budget fell by about 18 percent in inflation-adjusted terms from 2010 to 2017, from US$14 billion to roughly $11.5 billion. Today, the agency employs fewer people than it did in 2010. The number of its employees dedicated to auditing and vetting the nonprofit sector fell about 5 percent from 2010 to 2013, the GAO found.

This long-term trend, which began two decades ago, has eroded oversight. The number of aspiring nonprofits gaining tax-exempt status rose over the past decade as rejections fell. The number of denials plummeted from 1,607 in 2007 to merely 37 in 2016.

Hackney

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October 25, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1612: Inspector General Debunks Ideological Targeting Of Conservative Groups By The IRS

IRS Logo 2New York Times, In Targeting Political Groups, I.R.S. Crossed Party Lines:

A federal watchdog investigating whether the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status said that the agency also scrutinized organizations associated with liberal causes from 2004 to 2013.

The findings by the Treasury Department’s inspector general mark the end of a political firestorm that embroiled the I.R.S. in controversy, led to the ouster of its commissioner and prompted accusations the tax collection agency was being used as a political weapon by the Obama administration.

The exhaustive report, which examined nine years worth of applications for tax-exempt status, comes after a similar audit in 2013 found that groups with conservative names like “Tea Party,” “patriot” or “9/12” were unfairly targeted for further review.

The new report found that the I.R.S. was also inappropriately targeting progressive-leaning groups. While the investigation does not specify the political affiliations of the groups, names that were flagged included the words “Progressive,” “Occupy,” “Green Energy,” and Acorn — the acronym for the now defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ...

Ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans regularly used the scandal to bludgeon Democrats and paint the Obama administration as corrupt. But now it appears that the I.R.S. was an equal offender. “This report shows the I.R.S. deep scrutiny of political groups is in fact bipartisan, it is liberal and conservative groups that the I.R.S. has been targeting,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

Rather than condemn the I.R.S. actions, Democrats on Thursday celebrated the findings as evidence that Republicans were wrong to claim bias at the I.R.S. Democrats had previously been critical of the 2013 Treasury report since it only looked at two years of applications. “After years of baseless claims and false accusations it is my hope Republicans will finally put an end to this witch hunt and admit that their attacks on the I.R.S. were nothing but political grandstanding on behalf of special interests at the expense of American taxpayers,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Republicans, however, are not prepared to let the I.R.S. off the hook and seized on the report as evidence that the agency must be reformed. “This report reinforces what government watchdogs and congressional investigators have confirmed time and time again: Bureaucrats at the I.R.S., such as Lois Lerner, arbitrarily and haphazardly administered the tax code and targeted taxpayers based on political ideology,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “It’s no wonder the American people have lost faith in the I.R.S.”

The controversy over political targeting at the I.R.S. was the genesis of many congressional hearings and probes, and it has continued to haunt its current commissioner, John Koskinen, whom Mr. Obama tapped to stabilize the agency. As recently as April, House members called for the firing of Mr. Koskinen for the “gross mishandling” of its investigation into the targeting of political groups. Despite the uproar from Republicans, President Trump has not taken any steps to fire Mr. Koskinen, whose term ends next month.

Washington Post, Four Years Later, the IRS Tea Party Scandal Looks Very Different. It May Not Even Be a Scandal:

It all seemed to add up. At least it did then.

The Internal Revenue Service, according to outraged Republicans and many media accounts at the time, targeted tea party organizations and other conservative nonprofit groups that were seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012. Critics said the tax agency had subjected the targeted groups to extra scrutiny, questioning and long delays, largely because their names suggested they would be political opponents of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

The allegations formed one of the best-known scandals of former president Barack Obama’s administration and led to months of congressional hearings, official investigations and damning news coverage.

Now, it seems, it wasn’t so simple. ...

The new finding suggests Republicans and the media provided an incomplete or even misleading account of what the IRS was up to when it was reviewing political organizations that sought tax-exempt status. While not of the order of the news media’s credulous (and flawed) reporting about supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003, the report offers a check on the prevailing narrative of the time.

It may also offer a measure of vindication to Obama, at least according to one of his senior advisers. “The Obama administration was often accused of Nixonian wrongdoing,” Eric Schultz, the former president’s spokesman and a deputy White House press secretary under him, said Thursday. “At some point, I lost track of how many Watergates we had. But we live in an environment where the more hyperbolic your allegation is, the more likely it will get headlines, no matter its veracity. This report substantiates our argument that our White House did not politicize the IRS, but those allegations, A1 material at the time, have lived online for four years and now that the public has moved on, they’re proven false.” ...

The issue might have become part of what Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan has called the “scandal attention cycle” — the rapid surge of attention as reporters race to cover an issue followed by a similar decline as the news media loses interest. “The problem is that it often takes time for the full set of facts to come out,” Nyhan has written. “By that time, the story is old news and the more complex or ambiguous details that often emerge are buried or ignored.”

Philip Hackney (LSU), IRS ‘Targeted’ Liberal Organizations and After All These Years TIGTA is Still Wrong:

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) just issued a new report four years and five months after rebuking the IRS for using “inappropriate” criteria to select applications for tax exempt status for scrutiny. In the first report, TIGTA rebuked the IRS for pulling the applications of conservative leaning organizations for greater scrutiny.

This time it considers the fact that the IRS over a period of 10 years used liberal leaning names such as ACORN, Emerge, and Progressive as criteria for pulling applications for greater scrutiny. This resulted in the IRS applying greater scrutiny to these organizations. Some might say the IRS targeted these organizations. Those organizations appear to have faced long wait times as well, and sometimes some questions of limited merit.

I write this piece to make two points: (1) had this information been in the initial report, I don’t think we would have had the “scandal” that shook the IRS and the political world of the time; and (2) the TIGTA report built its primary claim on a garbled faux legal postulate. The original report did terrible damage to the IRS and individuals by failing on both of these fronts.

Leandra Lederman (Indiana), The Real IRS Scandal:

[T]he new TIGTA report “identified 146 cases in which the IRS examined groups for suspicion of engaging in disallowed political activity using those criteria.” This finding is not a surprise. The fact that IRS employees were using keywords to identify progressive as well as conservative organizations doing too much political activity to qualify under 501(c)(4) should have been clear to anyone who dug into the public documents. But it wasn’t the message that the House Oversight Committee — and thus many media stories — disseminated. The real scandal was the d amage the resulting witch hunt did to the IRS. I wrote about that in [IRS Reform: Politics As Usual?, 7 Colum. J. Tax L. 36 (2016)] and in a related, short article I published in Tax Notes, The IRS, Politics, and Income Inequality, [150 Tax Notes 1329 (Mar. 14, 2016),] focused in part on IRS underfunding. I hope that TIGTA’s new report helps set the record straight.

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October 7, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, October 6, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1611: TIGTA Report, Review Of Selected Criteria Used To Identify Tax-Exempt Applications For Review

IRS Logo 2Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Agency Statement On Audit Report: “Review of Selected Criteria Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review”:

In May 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) published an audit report in which we reported that between May 2010 and May 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used inappropriate criteria to identify for review organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status. TIGTA’s 2013 audit found that the IRS inappropriately selected organizations for scrutiny based on their names or policy positions, instead of indications of significant potential political campaign intervention. Further, TIGTA found that the IRS made requests for unnecessary information and delayed, in some cases for years, making decisions on the organizations’ applications.

This audit was initiated based on bipartisan interest expressed by Members of Congress regarding the IRS’s use of other criteria to select tax-exempt applications for further review. Today, we are releasing a 115-page audit report that provides a historical account of the IRS’s use of 17 additional selection criteria going back as far as 2004. These 17 selection criteria were chosen based on bipartisan input from congressional committees of jurisdiction over the IRS, input from the IRS, and training materials that were not provided to TIGTA during the 2013 audit.

TIGTA found that, between 2004 and 2013, the IRS potentially used more than 250 criteria to identify for further review the applications of organizations seeking tax-exempt status. In our 2013 audit, we found that the process for review of applications for potential political advocacy from May 2010 to May 2012 involved the IRS’s use of a tracking sheet identifying the potential political cases selected for further review; however, the IRS was unable to identify what specific cases, if any, were selected for further review under 16 of the 17 criteria in our current report. Without case selection tracking sheets for the 16 criteria, TIGTA used various other sources to identify 146 cases related to the 17 criteria with indications of political activity, and confirmed that 83 of them were selected for review based on the 17 criteria.

This report is divided into 17 sections, one for each of the 17 criteria. Due to the unique nature of the 17 criteria, it is difficult to compare the criteria to each other, or to compare in aggregate to the criteria reviewed in the 2013 audit. However, TIGTA did find that, while the number of organizations impacted is significantly less than the number detailed in the 2013 report, some organizations in the current report also experienced significant delays and received requests for unnecessary information. In addition, in the 2013 report the majority of cases we reviewed were from organizations applying for I.R.C. § 501 (c)(4) status. In contrast, the majority of the 146 cases in the current report were organizations applying for I.R.C. § 501 (c)(3) status.

Our 2013 report made several recommendations for process improvements and all of them were implemented by the IRS, which we verified in a follow-up audit in 2015. As a result of our 2013 report, the IRS completely revamped the process for reviewing tax-exempt applications, including the elimination of criteria listings, known as “Be On the Lookout” listings, in June 2013. According to the IRS, the revamped process has totally eliminated the backlog of applications and reduced processing cycle times for cases. Since the review process in place when the 17 criteria were potentially used by the IRS is no longer in effect, TIGTA did not make any recommendations for improvement in this audit report.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Review of Selected Criteria Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review (2017-10-054) (Sept. 28, 2017):

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
In a prior audit, TIGTA determined that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to select tax‑exempt applications for further review. Moreover, ineffective management resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications and allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued. It is critical that tax laws are administered in a fair and impartial manner.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
In the prior review, TIGTA audited criteria that the IRS stated it used to select potential political cases for additional review from May 2010 through May 2012. The overall objective of this audit was to provide a historical account of the IRS’s development and use of 17 select criteria from 259 criteria used to identify tax‑exempt applications for review. The 17 criteria discussed in this report were selected based on input from staff of various congressional committees of jurisdiction and the IRS as well as from training documents that were not provided to TIGTA in the prior audit.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND
TIGTA found that, from August 2004 through June 2013, the IRS potentially used 259 criteria to identify tax-exempt applications for further review. Most of these criteria involved issues besides political campaign intervention, such as potential fraud, abuse, and links to terrorism.

In the prior audit, TIGTA found that the IRS used a tracking sheet to show which potential political cases were selected for further review; however, IRS management stated that case listings such as the one provided in the prior audit were not required. Due to the lack of case listings for all but one of the 17 criteria, TIGTA used various sources to identify more than 900 cases that could potentially have been selected for review based on the 17 criteria. However, TIGTA could not verify whether all relevant cases were identified.

Based on TIGTA’s review of case documentation, 181 of the more than 900 cases had evidence of political activities or indications of significant potential political campaign intervention (the subject of the prior audit). Thirty-five of these cases were not processed while the applicable criteria were in use and did not appear to be processed based on the criteria. For the remaining 146 cases, TIGTA determined that 83 were processed based upon the criteria and 63 were processed while the criteria were in use, but TIGTA could not confirm these 63 cases were selected based upon the criteria. Analysis of the 146 cases is shown in each of the 17 sections of the report with information for each of these unique criteria.

Figure 4

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October 6, 2017 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1610: Inspector General Says IRS Gave Extra Scrutiny To Liberal Groups, Undermining GOP Claims Of Ideological Targeting Of Conservative Groups By IRS

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, Liberal Groups Got IRS Scrutiny, Too, Inspector General Suggests:

A federal watchdog has identified scores of cases in which the Internal Revenue Service may have targeted liberal-leaning groups for extra scrutiny based on their names or political leanings, a finding that could undermine claims that conservatives were unfairly targeted under President Barack Obama.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reviewed cases between 2004 and 2013, which includes the period TIGTA previously examined in a 2013 report that faulted the IRS for using inappropriate political criteria to select groups for heightened scrutiny.

That earlier report found that 96 groups with names referencing “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12” were selected for intensive review between May 2010 and May 2012, and the House Ways and Means Committee later identified another 152 right-leaning groups that were subjected to scrutiny. Those findings fueled accusations by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration engaged in politically motivated targeting of conservatives.

But Democrats have long challenged those claims, arguing that liberal-leaning groups were given close scrutiny alongside the conservative groups. The 2013 TIGTA report, they argued, was based on selective criteria that omitted numerous nonconservative groups that were also subjected to close IRS review.

The new report examines a broader range of criteria used by the IRS. It does not characterize the politics of the groups that were selected for scrutiny, a TIGTA spokeswoman emphasized Wednesday. But many of the 17 criteria the report examined had obvious political overtones — including affiliation with the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as names referencing “Progressive,” “Green Energy,” “Medical Marijuana,” and “Occupy.”

Together, the watchdog identified 146 cases in which the IRS examined groups for suspicion of engaging in disallowed political activity using those criteria. Eighty-three of those were definitively chosen for scrutiny because of the selection criteria, the inspector general found; the report could not definitively determine how the other cases were chosen.

The Washington Post reviewed a version of the TIGTA report dated Sept. 28 that has been circulated to various lawmakers and committees on Capitol Hill. The full report is set to be released to the public Thursday.

The new report reiterates the inspector general’s earlier criticism of the IRS review process at the time, calling it “inappropriate” to target groups for scrutiny based on their names rather than on actual evidence of illicit political activity that would leave them ineligible for tax exemptions.

Groups that were selected for review waited months — years, in some cases — for their applications to be reviewed and were subjected to onerous and, in some cases, improper requests for information on their donors and activities. ...

Brady said in a statement Wednesday that the new TIGTA report “reinforces what government watchdogs and congressional investigators have confirmed time and time again: bureaucrats at the IRS, such as Lois Lerner, arbitrarily and haphazardly administered the tax code and targeted taxpayers based on political ideology.” He pledged to “continue holding the IRS accountable for their actions.”

Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), who served as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee during the height of the IRS scandal, said Wednesday that the report confirmed “political manipulation by the Republicans.” “They were trying to squeeze whatever political juice they could out of this,” he said. “Incompetence is different than a political witch hunt. There never was one, at least one that anybody could identify.”

DeBonis

Brunson

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October 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Days 1501-1600

October 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1597: New Details Of Targeting Of Conservative Groups Emerge In Tea Party Lawsuits

IRS Logo 2Cincinnati Enquirer, New Details Emerge in Tea Party Suit Against IRS:

The IRS used the political views of conservative "tea party" groups trying to get nonprofit status as a reason for extra scrutiny and continued delaying applications until 2013 — long after they said they'd stopped — new federal court filings allege.

The new accusations counter previous IRS claims that agents did not consider political beliefs when slowing down tax-exempt applications from right-leaning groups in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

The IRS had instead argued that it was merely monitoring whether the groups were conducting more political activity than was allowed.

The filings by conservative groups suing the IRS also state the agency continued the practice after IRS officials said it had stopped in 2011. ...

"By trying to make this about whether this was done to help Obama win is setting the goalpost artificially too high," Eddie Greim, a lawyer representing conservative groups in the class-action suit, said in an interview with The Enquirer. "All we have to prove is whether they had the intent and if they indeed treated a set of groups differently based on their ideology. ...

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrrace Park, who was one of the first in Congress to publicly complain in 2012 about the IRS' possible discrimination against conservative nonprofit groups, said that the practice was "an appalling abuse of power" in a statement to The Enquirer. “It’s clear that the Obama administration’s IRS illegally and intentionally targeted conservative groups for their ideological beliefs, and those responsible ... need to be held accountable," Portman said. ...

[O]thers testified in depositions that Lerner ordered IRS agents to send requests for additional information from the affected groups following that 2011 meeting. That included requests for donor information, normally considered off-limits. Lerner "wanted everyone to know that we are handling the cases as we should," testified Cindy Thomas, the top nonprofit official in Cincinnati at the time.

"So after they were told that this was possibly improper, they doubled down and kept going," Greim said. "This goes well beyond the narrative of what's been reported before."

Greim also said that the IRS removed two Washington agents who had raised questions about the extra scrutiny on the tea party cases. "These two found that ideology was indeed being used, raised questions about it and told their superiors about it and that it was going to cause delay," Greim said. "And wouldn't you know it, they were moved off the matter soon thereafter."

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September 22, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1589: The Better IRS Reform

IRS Logo 2

Wall Street Journal editorial, The Better IRS Reform:

The long saga of Lois Lerner is coming to a close. Ms. Lerner was the infamous Obama Administration cat’s paw at the Internal Revenue Service, which harassed conservative political groups in the Tea Party era. Now the Trump Justice Department has decided there is no cause to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Lerner, and Congressional Republicans are howling. ...

Republicans are furious. But this mess happened because the Obama Administration used federal bureaucracies for raw political purposes. If Mr. Sessions’s Justice Department has found no way to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, Republicans could begin the road back to accountability by respecting that decision.

What House Republicans should do now is create a structure that will stop assaults by bureaucrats on political activity. They’ve been putting riders in spending bills to bar the IRS from imposing restrictions on nonprofit speech. But this thumbs-in-the-dike approach does nothing about powers that IRS functionaries already have over political activity.

The solution is to get the IRS out of the political arena by limiting its role to the most basic administrative task of giving initial approval to nonprofits. Transfer to the Federal Election Commission the job of deciding whether a nonprofit is abiding by the existing rules governing political spending. The FEC’s commissioners would decide if complaints against the political activities of nonprofits had merit.

Democrats will rebel because the design of the FEC makes it difficult to sic the commission on political enemies. That’s why they made the IRS their political enforcer. Legislators designed the FEC to prevent partisans from turning it into a political weapon.

It takes a majority vote among its six bipartisan FEC commissioners to proceed with a judgment. Commissioners are confirmed by the Senate and operate in the open. The status quo gives this job—and power—to the IRS’s unconfirmed, unseen federal bureaucrats.

Campaign-finance fights make Republicans nervous, but they’ve got a political self-interest in permanently transferring this job to the FEC. Once back in power, Democrats will mobilize a crackdown against their single biggest obsession—“dark money.” Meaning the conservatives who fund their opposition.

Lois Lerner’s IRS operation was the swamp at its worst. The GOP would do the country’s politics a favor by draining these bureaucrats of partisan political power.

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September 14, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1587: Judicial Watch Says Trump Should Overrule His DOJ And Order A Full Review Of The IRS Scandal

IRS Logo 2

Town Hall, Judicial Watch: DOJ Giving Lerner a Pass is Bogus and Trump Should Order a Full Review of the Scandal:

Last week the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced prosecutors will not pursue charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner. Lerner is infamous for her deliberate targeting of conservative tea party groups between 2010 and 2012 while leading the tax exempt department inside the agency.

The news was immediately met with outrage by House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, who said the failure to reopen the case against Lerner (which was closed without charges under the Obama administration) only proves that Washington bureaucrats are held to a much lower standard than every day Americans living outside the protective D.C. bubble. ...

Judicial Watch, which is still pursuing documents related to the IRS targeting scandal and has for years, proving Lerner was at the heart of the targeting, is buying none of it and calling on President Trump to intervene.

"I have zero confidence that the Justice Department did an adequate review of the IRS scandal. In fact, we’re still fighting the Justice Department and the IRS for records about this very scandal. Today’s [Friday's] decision comes as no surprise considering that the FBI collaborated with the IRS and is unlikely to investigate or prosecute itself," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton released in a statement. "President Trump should order a complete review of the whole issue. Meanwhile, we await accountability for IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who still serves and should be drummed out of office."

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September 12, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1584: Trump’s DOJ Won’t Pursue Criminal Charges Against Lois Lerner

IRS Logo 2

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September 9, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1582: Is The IRS Scandal About To Break Wide Open?

IRS Logo 2PJ Media, Is the IRS Scandal About to Break Wide Open?:

Lost emails, destroyed hard drives, foot dragging, stonewalling, and a smirking, sneering IRS commissioner doing his best to obscure the truth -- this has largely been the response by the Internal Revenue Service to investigations by Congress and FOIA requests from conservative groups trying to discover the truth about the IRS targeting scandal.

But one federal judge appears to be just as curious as the rest of us about what exactly the IRS was up to when it targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny in approving their tax-exempt status. ...

Although the arrogance of the IRS is breathtaking, it looks like they may have more than they can handle with Judge Walton. With the agency already proving that it tried to hide documents directly related to a FOIA request, how much nonsense will Walton put up with? He better have a low tolerance for word games and shenanigans by the IRS.

More names means more witnesses to be deposed under oath. Perhaps some promises of immunity are in order so that the truth can be wrung out of an agency that has been used to target the political opponents of a president and materially affect the ability of conservative groups to exercise their rights.

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September 7, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1580: Conservative Group Hoping For 'Perp Walks' After Breakthrough In IRS Lawsuit

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Conservative Group Hoping for 'Perp Walks' After Breakthrough in IRS Lawsuit:

One of the groups that sued the Internal Revenue Service over its targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups believes there has been a breakthrough that will help them draw a more complete picture of what went on behind the scenes at the agency, four years after it took its case to court.

In a lawsuit involving True the Vote, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the IRS last week to release the names of employees involved in targeting conservative and Tea Party groups. Walton also told the IRS to explain why groups were targeted and search for additional records in agency databases from May 2009 to March 2015.

The IRS has until Oct. 16 to complete its records search.

Walton's order was a turning point for True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht in her legal battle with the IRS that began in 2013.

"We've come so far, and I believe that we are going to bring this thing to a head," Engelbrecht told the Washington Examiner. "I believe we will see the IRS correct its ways, and as to accountability, I'd love to see some perp walks." ...

Engelbrecht ... said just learning the names of those involved isn't enough for her. Instead, she wants the IRS to enact a policy prohibiting viewpoint discrimination. "That's our whole goal — it's to make sure this viewpoint discrimination can never occur again. It is procedurally prohibited," Engelbrecht said. "That they admit what they did was unconstitutional and won't happen to an organization, an individual, doesn't matter your political party preference. The IRS has been weaponized and needs to be put back in the box."

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September 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, September 1, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1576: Will Justice Come For IRS Lawbreakers At Last?

IRS Logo 2Investor's Business Daily editorial, Will Justice Come For IRS Lawbreakers At Last?:

The IRS scandal seemingly has lain dormant now for months, all but forgotten amid the spate of recent anti-Trump media spasms, the ongoing violent antics of the antifa leftists and, now, Hurricane Harvey's devastation. But even if much of Washington has forgotten about it, a Washington judge hasn't.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the Washington, D.C., District Court last week revived legal attention to the scandal, telling the IRS it has to reveal the names of IRS employees who targeted conservative, libertarian and Tea Party groups.

But Walton didn't stop there. He also gave the IRS until Oct. 16 to find all the records in IRS databases from May 2009 to March 2015 that are relevant to the case and to explain just why these groups were targeted.

All of this is the result of a suit against the IRS brought in 2013 by True the Vote and 38 other groups. The groups have doggedly pursued the IRS for four years after the tax agency held up their tax-exempt status before and during the 2012 election year for what appear to be blatantly political reasons. In their search for justice, the groups have had little help from the mostly apathetic, left-leaning media that wish conservative groups would just go away. ...

Paul Caron, dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and himself a tax lawyer, has kept a lonely vigil at his blog on the IRS' questionable actions in all this, running a virtually day-by-day account of the news behind the scandal, which as of Monday by his count was in its 1,572nd day (and counting).

With so little action, on Monday Caron wondered plaintively, "Why did it go away?" Well, we've wondered that too.

Caron quotes a piece from the Nonprofit Quarterly that notes that since May 2013 there have been "several congressional and other investigations but no criminal indictments or known personnel actions against  anyone involved in the targeting. ... The U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation, but in the midst of that investigation, they announced there would be no indictments." ...

By seeking maximum disclosure, Walton is doing yeoman's duty in making the IRS accountable. We wish him success in prying open the IRS' chest of dirty secrets.

But that's not enough. At the very least, it's time the U.S. Department of Justice stopped defending the indefensible, and started forcing the rogue tax-collection agency and its former executives to answer for its politically motivated crimes. As the old saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

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September 1, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1574: Why Are Trump’s Justice Department Appointees Protecting The IRS?

IRS Logo 2The Daily Signal, Why Are Trump’s Justice Department Appointees Protecting the IRS?

Various media sources have reported that federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton has ordered the IRS to finally respond to various legal requests for information and documents made by the conservative tea party organizations that sued the agency.

But the question that no one is asking is why that order was even necessary, and why the Justice Department, which is now supposedly under the control and authority of the new administration, hasn’t reversed its obstinate, inflexible, and stubborn defense of the IRS. ...

[T]he Tax Division of the Justice Department, which is currently headed by acting Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert, has put up a mulish fight defending the IRS, including doing everything it can to prevent the IRS from having to provide any of the information and documentation that the plaintiffs are seeking about the targeting.

[T]he IRS — after four years of delays — is going to finally have to tell us who (in addition to Lerner) planned, organized, and participated in the abuse of the government’s tax power to target Americans for their participation in the political process, their opposition to Obama and liberal policies, and their support for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Walton’s order is a significant victory for the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. But why were this hearing and this order even necessary in the first place?

As soon as President Donald Trump was inaugurated and the first members of the Trump transition team landed at the Justice Department, one of the first steps they should have taken was to order the Tax Division to stop its deliberate litigation strategy of fighting all attempts to ferret out what exactly happened at the IRS, and who was responsible for it.

Instead, the Justice Department has continued to obstruct discovery in this lawsuit that has been going on for four long years, resulting in Walton’s Aug. 17 order against the IRS and the Justice Department. ...

What are the political appointees at the Justice Department doing? Why are they continuing to protect the IRS? Why are they trying to stop the efforts to find out who at the IRS was responsible for this abusive behavior?

And while we are on the subject of the IRS scandal, why haven’t Trump’s political appointees at the Justice Department reversed the refusal of Ronald Machen, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, (who was an Obama appointee) to enforce the contempt citation issued by the House of Representatives against Lerner for her refusal to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating this abusive conduct?

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August 30, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, August 28, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1572: Why Did It Go Away?

IRS Logo 2Nonprofit Quarterly, Whatever Happened to the IRS Tax Exemption Scandal?:

On Friday, May 10, 2013, IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner told a stunned audience of tax attorneys in Washington that the IRS had delayed and obstructed the tax exemption applications from conservative-sounding organizations. Later that month, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General made public a report confirming and detailing the nature of the targeting. What began as a governmental investigation had become a legal battle between nonprofits seeking what they believed to be information and resolution on the one hand and the federal government asserting claims of protecting taxpayer and employee confidentiality on the other.

As NPQ has chronicled in dozens of articles, the ensuing four years and counting since May 2013 have included several Congressional and other investigations but no criminal indictments or known personnel actions against anyone involved in the targeting. ... The U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation, but in the midst of that investigation, they announced there would be no indictments. Various Congressional committees attempted to ferret out what happened and who did it but were stymied by the IRS’s slow responses to records requests and, in some cases, destruction of computer media which might have contained important information.

The Congressional investigations rapidly became partisan, with Republicans insistent that crimes had been committed and that senior officials had to be held accountable for actions which affected hundreds of organizations and may have even affected the conduct of the 2012 elections. Democrats saw the GOP-led investigations as a partisan witch hunt targeting career IRS employees and used as a political talking point to harass President Obama specifically. Democrats also objected to the continued use of the IRS budget as a coercive tool to force IRS officials to cooperate in the investigations, and justifying decreasing funding for IRS operations by pointing to what Republicans said was obstruction. The investigations didn’t so much end as they petered out as politicians moved on to other topics. ...

Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations like Judicial Watch, Cause for Action, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), and others have used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and legal challenges to aggressively pursue the facts and circumstances surrounding the actions of IRS personnel. In addition, many of the targeted nonprofit organizations (most were eventually approved for tax exemption after awaiting a decision for up to seven years) have pursued their own legal cases in federal court.

Bloomberg BNA recently published a status report on the litigation. The text of the article has since been removed in favor of an audio report, but Paul Caron’s TaxProf Blog includes snapshots of the key cases: ...

Détente in this intergovernmental cold war will likely come only when change and accommodation comes from the IRS or when Congressional control switches parties. In the meantime, the continuing lawsuits and the long memories (not to mention political interests) of some elected officials portend more budgetary and regulatory stress at the IRS for the indefinite future.

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August 28, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1568: (Still) Seeking IRS Accountability

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, (Still) Seeking IRS Accountability:

The Obama Justice Department dismissed the IRS political targeting scandal as no big deal, and the Trump Administration hasn’t been any better. At least the judiciary is still trying to hold someone to account for this government abuse.

In a little noticed decision last week, federal Judge Reggie Walton ordered the IRS to answer a series of questions by Oct. 16. Notably, the tax agency must finally explain the specific reasons for the specific delays in approving each of dozens of conservative nonprofit applications—delays that stifled free speech during a midterm and presidential election. Judge Walton is also requiring the IRS to name the specific individuals that it holds responsible for the targeting.

These are basic questions of political accountability, even if the IRS has stonewalled since 2013. President Obama continued to spin that the targeting was the result of some “boneheaded” IRS line officers in Cincinnati who didn’t understand tax law. Yet Congressional investigations have uncovered clear evidence that the targeting was ordered and directed out of Washington. ...

The Trump Administration also has a duty to provide some answers. The Justice Department and IRS have continued to resist the lawsuits as doggedly as they did in the Obama era. Attorney General Jeff Sessions can change that by ordering government attorneys to quickly and fully comply with Judge Walton’s orders. Seven years is too long to wait for answers over abuses of the government’s taxing power.

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August 24, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1563: Judge Orders IRS To Disclose Names Of Employees Who Targeted Conservative Groups And To Prove That It Has Stopped The Practice

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, Lay It on the Line’: Judge in Tea Party Case Orders IRS to Disclose Employee Names, Reasons:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the IRS to name the specific employees the agency blames for targeting tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny and said the government must prove it has ceased the targeting.

Judge Reggie B. Walton also said the IRS must explain the reasons for the delays for 38 groups that are part of a lawsuit in the District of Columbia, where they are still looking for a full accounting of their treatment.

Judge Walton approved another round of limited discovery in the case and laid out six questions that the IRS must answer, including the employees’ names, why the groups were targeted and how the IRS has tried to prevent a repeat.

At a hearing earlier this week, Judge Walton said it was time to get everything on the table. “Lay it on the line. Put it out there,” he told attorneys for the IRS, who are continuing to fight some tea party groups’ demands for full disclosure. ...

Judge Walton came down in the middle, writing his own set of inquiries for the IRS. “Why hide the ball?” he asked the tax agency. “If there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there.” Mr. Walton told the IRS to go beyond searching a basic agency database for records and ordered it to scour “other relevant resources containing documents from the relevant time period.”

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August 19, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1561: Why Hasn't Trump Drained The IRS/DOJ Swamp?

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Trump’s IRS Swamp: Obama-era Lawyers Are Still Obstructing Lawsuits to Hold the Agency Accountable, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, and here’s a seven-month progress report: The Washington bog is still as wide and fetid as ever. Consider that Mr. Trump’s Justice Department has inexplicably continued to defend the IRS’s misdeeds under President Obama.

Voters put a Republican in the White House in part to impose some belated accountability on the scandal-laden Obama administration. And the supreme scandal was the IRS’s assault on tea-party groups—a campaign inspired by congressional Democrats, perpetrated by partisan bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, and covered up by Mr. Obama’s political appointees. This abuse stripped the right to political speech from thousands of Americans over two election cycles. To this day, no one has answered for it.

The groups targeted are still doggedly trying to obtain justice through lawsuits that have dragged on for years. They believed Mr. Trump’s election would bring an end to the government obstruction. It hasn’t. “The posture of the DOJ and the IRS under the Trump administration is identical to the posture under the Obama administration,” Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance, tells me. “Nothing has changed.” ...

The problem is that the same old Obama-era lawyers have been left to run these cases in the same old hostile ways. Who are these people? Laura Beckerman, one of the lead lawyers defending the IRS in the Ohio class action, left government only this month. Her LinkedIn profile says she is now pro bono coordinating counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW is among the most liberal outfits in the capital, fanatically devoted to taking down conservatives. That’s the type still calling the shots in Mr. Trump’s bureaucracy.

The Justice Department’s job is to defend the government, but it is also supposed to pursue justice. And there is no question the IRS did wrong. It has been documented by the Treasury Department’s inspector general and admitted by the IRS itself. It’d be one thing if the plaintiffs were demanding a billion-dollar payout, but they aren’t. Their main request is that the IRS come clean on what happened, and the government is resisting with all its power. The real question is why the Justice Department is even fighting this suit, when it ought to be leading a renewed investigation into what happened and how it got covered up.

It’s time for some judgment. Senior leaders in the Justice Department may be wary of replacing or redirecting attorneys on the IRS cases, fearing it might provoke another round of media caterwauling. The White House may be wary of canning Mr. Koskinen, thinking it would be cast as another high-profile firing. But Mr. Trump was hired to impose exactly that sort of accountability. If he’s going to get rapped for dramatic moves, it might as well be for doing something that serves justice.

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August 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1559: Checking In On IRS-Tea Party Lawsuits

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg BNA, Checking in on IRS-Tea Party Lawsuits:

Republicans continue to call for restricting IRS funding and restructuring the agency to ensure there isn’t a repeat of a scandal caused when IRS employees stalled some applications of conservative groups seeking tax exemptions. The IRS has said it worked to resolve the issue.

Still, several lawsuits are pending between the agency and conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. The IRS declined to comment on them. As part of occasional updates on the status of the disputes, here is where some high-profile cases stand now:

NorCal Tea Party Patriots  The IRS Aug. 2 defended its actions in the class action, saying it was within its rights to review exemption applications carefully, but it also acknowledged that it delayed some applications inappropriately (NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. IRS, S.D. Ohio, No.1:13-cv-00341, 8/2/17). ... A trial is set for Feb. 5, 2018.

True the Vote   ... True the Vote in April withdrew two discovery requests: evidence of the IRS using viewpoint-based criteria in tax administration and evidence of the political positions of IRS employees (True the Vote, Inc. v. IRS, D.D.C., No. 1:13-cv-00734, 4/5/17).

Linchpins of Liberty  An Aug. 15 hearing is scheduled on a motion requiring the government to release documents the Linchpins groups requested (Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, D.D.C., No. 1:13-cv-00777, 7/26/17). ...

Freedom Path  The Freedom Path case is set for a June 18, 2018, trial (Freedom Path, Inc. v. IRS, N.D. Tex., No. 3:14-cv-01537, 8/9/17). ... The IRS initially said Freedom Path didn’t qualify as a social welfare group, exempt under Section 501(c)(4) because it didn’t operate just to promote social welfare. The group applied for its exemption in 2011 and sued the IRS in 2014.

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August 15, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1554: Why Is Trump's Justice Department Still Fighting Disclosure Of Documents Revealing IRS Targeting Of Conservative Groups?

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Obama IRS Abuse Should Unite Trump and Sessions, by Jerome Marcus:

[H]ere’s an issue on which Messrs. Trump and Sessions should be able to find common ground: The Justice Department should stop defending Obama administration corruption.

I’m referring to the cases, still on file today, challenging or seeking to expose Internal Revenue Service policies that delayed applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups. That’s viewpoint discrimination, a clear First Amendment violation.

The Obama Justice Department fought these cases intensely. It tried to get them thrown out of court before the plaintiffs had the chance to gather evidence. When that failed, Justice lawyers resisted discovery, to prevent disclosure of documents showing what the Obama administration was really doing.

That’s normal behavior for a defendant in a lawsuit. But since Jan. 20, the Justice Department has reported to Mr. Trump, who denounced each of the corrupt policies at issue in these cases.

So why is the department handling the cases as if it were still run by Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch? Because many of the career lawyers who were put on these cases by Obama Justice Department officials continue working on them, with no supervision from this administration. Those lawyers are still doing now what they have always done: fighting as hard as they can to prevent disclosure of what the Obama IRS, and the rest of the Obama administration, was doing to the country. ...

The government lawyers in all these cases are working hard to prevent anyone from finding out what the Obama administration was doing. Cleta Mitchell, who has represented tea-party organizations in the IRS viewpoint-targeting scandal, says Justice Department lawyers “have been stalling, obfuscating and doing all they can in these cases to avoid holding the IRS accountable.”

That’s true even though all these lawyers now work for President Trump. And it’s true even though Mr. Trump knows full well that the Obama IRS violated the Constitution by discriminating against opposing viewpoints. ...

Messrs. Trump and Sessions, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, should all be able to agree on this. The executive branch, through the Justice Department, can on its own agree to release the desired information and end these cases, without any permission from Congress or CNN. That would lighten the workload at Justice and shine sunlight on clearly improper Obama policies.

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August 10, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1552: The IRS's Email Retention Policies Still Do Not Ensure That Emails Are Retained And Produced When Requested

IRS Logo 2Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Electronic Record Retention Policies Do Not Consistently Ensure That Records Are Retained and Produced When Requested (2017-10-034):

IRS policies do not comply with certain Federal requirements that agencies must ensure that all records are retrievable and usable for as long as needed. For example, IRS e-mail retention policies are not adequate because e-mails are not automatically archived for all IRS employees. Instead, the IRS’s current policy instructs employees to take manual actions to archive e-mails by saving them permanently on computer hard drives or network shared drives.  

This policy has resulted in lost records when computer hard drives are destroyed or damaged. In addition, a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails from specific executives, was not implemented effectively because some executives did not turn on the automatic archiving feature.

For certain cases that TIGTA reviewed, IRS policies were not implemented consistently to ensure that all relevant documents were searched and produced when responding to external requests for records. TIGTA’s review of 30 completed Freedom of Information Act requests found that in more than half of the responses, the IRS did not follow its own policies that require it to document what records were searched. TIGTA also found that IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees were not adequate.

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August 8, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, July 31, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1544:  How Lois Lerner Begat Robert Mueller

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Mueller Is Trumping Congress, by William McGurn:

Did Congress learn anything from Lois Lerner? Judging from Capitol Hill’s self-abasing deference to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the answer is no.

You remember Ms. Lerner. She was the official at the center of an Internal Revenue Service effort that denied conservative political advocacy groups tax-exempt status, or at least held up approval long enough that these groups could not be a factor in the 2012 election.

Back when Republicans were holding hearings on the matter, time and again they were lectured not to do anything that might affect the FBI’s investigation — which eventually ended with no charges against anyone. Though Ms. Lerner was found in contempt by the House for her refusal to testify, it proved all for show.

The tip-off came when then-Speaker John Boehner, rather than use Congress’s inherent contempt power to jail Ms. Lerner until she talked, opted for classic swamp symbolism — by passing the buck to an Obama Justice Department everyone knew would never prosecute her.

The result? Ms. Lerner avoided having to answer any hard questions. The IRS merrily continued to lose or destroy crucial documents. And John Koskinen, the awful replacement IRS commissioner who stonewalled and misled, remains in office.

The Lois Lerner fiasco offers a sobering lesson for a Congress whose various committees are holding hearings on Russia’s intervention in last year’s elections as Mr. Mueller investigates the same. While Mr. Mueller’s office is a watered-down version of Ken Starr’s or Lawrence Walsh’s , it remains true that special prosecutors corrupt even if they don’t corrupt as absolutely as independent counsels. The main headlines of the past week — Is Donald Trump attempting to undermine Mr. Mueller? Will Trump Fire Mueller? — all speak to the challenge a special prosecutor poses to the constitutional authority of the president.

Far less scrutiny has been devoted to the challenge Mr. Mueller poses to the authority of the legislative branch. In this case, ironically, the challenge stems less from the aggressiveness of the special prosecutor than from the meekness of Congress. In between their public tributes to Mr. Mueller’s sterling character, too many in Congress seem to worry more about how they might be affecting his investigation than about what his investigation might be doing to theirs.

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July 31, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1456:  The Impact Of The Sixth Circuit's Decision In NorCal Tea Party Patriots

IRS Logo 2Haley A. Stence (J.D. 2017, Cumberland), Comment, United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots: Has the IRS's Ability to Engage in Political Activities, Negatively Target Nonprofit Organizations, and Hide Behind 26 U.S.C. § 6103 Ended?, 40 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 201 (2016):

In the wake of the 2016 United States presidential election, it is difficult to think that debates, billboards, and television commercials are not the only sources of political uproar. Although it is common knowledge that the media can often times portray and even promote a political agenda, it is disturbing to uncover litigation accusing government entities of promoting their own positions on public policy and hiding behind statutory law to protect those decisions. In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its employees were accused of improperly targeting conservative political organizations that apply for tax-exempt status as nonprofit organizations. To protect its internal actions regarding the alleged improper targeting, the IRS invoked 26 U.S.C. § 6103 in order to keep controversial documents confidential and out of the hands of disgruntled plaintiffs. Section 6103 asserts that tax returns and the information contained within them are confidential and that no representative of the government can disclose this information unless one of the specific and limited exceptions within the statute has been met. Using 26 U.S.C. § 6103 as a shielding device, the IRS claimed the information disgruntled plaintiffs sought-mostly applications and internal documents- was taxpayer "return information" and thus "protected from disclosure by § 6103."' Giving deference to tax courts, circuit courts have historically upheld this determination in similar situations.

Nonetheless, on March 22, 2016, in the case of United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed with this interpretation and determined that tax exempt application information is not "return information," and thus not protected from § 6103 disclosure. The Sixth Circuit's ruling directly contravenes a previous District of Columbia Circuit ruling on the issue and is likely to expose attempts by the IRS to intervene in United States politics via the tax-exemption application process and 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3). This Comment discusses the basics of §§ 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), the attempts by the IRS to engage in politics using § 501(c), the conflicting holdings and United States circuit courts' various interpretations of § 6013 protection for the IRS, and the future implications of the circuit split created by the Sixth Circuit's holding in NorCal. ...

Conclusion:  The Possible Impact of the Sixth Circuit's Interpretation of "Return Information
"The fervent hope of many is that the Sixth Circuit's decision in United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots will force into the light any possible wrongdoing on the part of the IRS. Although the Sixth Circuit's holding is considered a narrow interpretation, some believe practitioners should not get the impression that much has changed outside the Sixth Circuit. An important item of note is that the holding would apply only to documents already in the possession of the IRS that include upon submission "names, addresses, and taxpayer-identification numbers of applicants for recognition of exemption, not to other information included in their applications." IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has expressed concern that such personal and identifying information on other types of IRS filings might not be covered by § 6103 after the Sixth Circuit's holding. "Additional filings with the IRS that may not be returns under section 6103 include requests for taxpayer advocate service assistance (Form 911) and applications for filing extensions...."

Admittedly, it is possible that additional information that had previously been determined confidential under § 6103, may not remain confidential, even if the taxpayer would prefer that it did. Primarily, the interpretation of the Sixth Circuit was in regards to information provided on applications for tax-exempt status. "[F]ormer IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Marcus Owens has suggested ... the decision should not reach identifying information for applicants under section 501(c)(3) because such applicants are required to file to claim tax-exempt status .... Thus, it is possible the information provided within a 501(c)(3) application would have been information previously filed in a tax return, and thus considered return information protected from disclosure by § 6103. Additionally, the Sixth Circuit's interpretation "only applies to identifying information for the applicant, not the rest of the information contained in the application." Lastly, NorCal arguably only applies within the Sixth Circuit, and the many cases from other jurisdictions may instead follow the D.C. Circuit's precedent or may undertake the issue as a matter of first impression.

All things considered, for plaintiffs hoping to bring IRS political activity into the public light, the Sixth Circuit appears ready to take on in-depth analysis in order to help shine light into the dark recesses of historical targeting by an agency that should not be engaging in politics.

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May 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1445:  'True The Vote v. IRS' Lawyer: 'The Deep State Is Still Operating'

IRS Logo 2PJ Media, 'True the Vote v. IRS' Lawyer: 'The Deep State Is Still Operating':

A prominent constitutional attorney is sounding the alarm over Obama administration-style behavior by attorneys in President Trump's new administration. Jim Bopp, Jr., the attorney for the plaintiff in the landmark Citizens United suit, told PJ Media that he has seen no change in the attitude of government attorneys since Trump's inauguration:

The Deep State is still operating, no question. ...

I see no evidence the attitude of the IRS has changed. We have a new attorney general, and the Department of Justice is providing the lawyers to defend the IRS in this case. We've seen no change.

Bopp is currently involved with two similarly high-profile suits against the federal government and he says the Trump administration's defense attorneys are presenting arguments indistinguishable from those he faced during Obama's tenure.

In True the Vote v. IRS, election integrity watchdog True the Vote sued the federal government in 2013 over its targeting of pro-liberty non-profit groups for extra scrutiny. This case has wide implications for all non-profits that claimed their tax status was denied or delayed by Lois Lerner and a rogue IRS. ...

It boggles the mind that the IRS in a Trump administration would still be defending the actions of Lois Lerner and the notorious branch in Cincinnati. They had burdened groups with "Tea Party," "Liberty," "Constitution," and other related words in their title with mountains of extra paperwork to affirm their non-profit tax status. Yet, according to Bopp, that is indeed the case. ...

Bopp's observations come amid a renewed push by House Republicans to reopen the case against Lerner for possible prosecution. On April 9, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Tax Policy Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting he reopen the probe.

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April 23, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1444:  Judicial Watch Sues IRS Over Email Preservation

IRS Logo 2Press Release, Judicial Watch Sues IRS Over Email Preservation:

Judicial Watch today announced that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010. (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No.1:17-cv-00596)). The suit was filed as part of Judicial Watch’s continuing efforts to gain information about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and citizens during the Obama administration.

Judicial Watch filed the complaint after the IRS failed to respond to a November 15, 2016, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records concerning the preservation and/or retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees upon their departure from the IRS; and
  • All records related to any changes, updates, or modifications to IRS policies and procedures for the retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees.

The timeframe for the request is for records from January 1, 2010, to the present.

“Judicial Watch doesn’t trust the IRS, especially given its dishonesty about Lois Lerner’s emails,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS was used by Obama and his allies to suppress his political opposition in a way that helped guarantee his re-election. Now we need to make certain that the IRS is not continuing to try to cover its tracks by destroying records.”

Judicial Watch’s litigation forced the IRS first to say that emails belonging to Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, were supposedly missing and later declare to the court that the emails were on IRS back-up systems.  Lerner was one of the top officials responsible for the IRS’ targeting of President Obama’s political opponents.

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April 22, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1442:  Editorial Calls For Firing IRS Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Fire IRS chief John Koskinen:

President Trump needs a win. The public would benefit from reassurance about the institutions of government. Luckily, both can be achieved with a single action. Trump should dismiss IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

By telling the taxman he's fired, the president would re-energize his young administration. More importantly, he would also significantly reform the most loathed agency in Washington. Tax Day provides a perfect chance for this sort of principled populism. ...

So long as Koskinen stays in his job, taxpayers have no such assurance. He was brought in by President Obama to clean up the IRS in 2013, but has succeeded only in making the agency more corrupt. A political crook and a liar, Koskinen has no place working in the Trump administration. ...

But Koskinen set himself above the rules. Trump vows to drain the swamp, and the IRS boss is an especially capable and devious swamp monster. House Republicans have tried shaming, censuring, and even threatening to impeach him. But each time, he's found a way to survive.

The failure of past lawmakers provides Trump a perfect opportunity. As the head of an administrative agency, Koskinen serves at the pleasure of the president. A word from Trump would send him packing and bring closure to the controversy.

A principled power move, firing Koskinen would also provide the White House with a needed influx of political capital. What's more, it would signal the beginning of a new era of good government during the Trump era.

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April 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1438:  Sessions Is Noncommittal On GOP Request To Reopen DOJ Probe Of Lois Lerner

IRS Logo 2WND, Sessions 'Will Evaluate' Request to Probe IRS Boss: GOP Lawmakers Charge Lois Lerner Criminally Targeted Tea Party:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was noncommittal when asked in an interview whether he would fulfill a request by Republican lawmakers to review evidence that former IRS official Lois Lerner engaged in criminal misconduct by targeting tea-party and conservative groups for their political beliefs.

“Are you inclined to open an investigation of Lois Lerner and the IRS?” asked Boston talk-radio host Howie Carr Thursday.

Sessions hesitated.

“Well, I would, I’m, uh, interested in that letter,” he said.

“We’re going to respond to it, and I think it would be appropriate to review certain cases, and we’ll evaluate this one for possible review,” the attorney general said.

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April 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1437: Lois Lerner Fears For Her Life, Asks Federal Court To Seal Her Upcoming Deposition Testimony

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, Lois Lerner Demands Secrecy, Blames Death Threats Over IRS Tea Party Targeting:

Former IRS senior executive Lois G. Lerner told a federal court this week that she faces the possibility of death threats if her role in the tax agency’s tea party-targeting becomes public, and asked a judge to forever seal her upcoming deposition in a class-action lawsuit brought by hundreds of groups that were targeted.

Mr. Lerner and Holly Paz, another figure from the IRS tea party targeting, told the judge they’ve already faced “harassment and death threats” before, and said they fear another media firestorm if their version of events from the tea party targeting were to become public.

The two women said they are willing to testify, but said they could be putting “their lives in serious jeopardy.”

“Mss. Lerner and Paz have demonstrated that the public dissemination of their deposition testimony would expose them and their families to harassment and a credible risk of violence and physical harm,” they said in documents submitted by their lawyer to Judge Michael R. Barrett. ...

The class action lawsuit involves 428 groups who were snared by the IRS targeting procedures. That case, which is being heard in a federal court in Ohio, is in the discovery phase, and Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are supposed to give testimony. ...

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., two cases brought by tea party groups are proceeding. A judge on Wednesday granted limited discovery in those cases, ordering the IRS to detail its past and current approval processes for tax-exempt organizations. Judge Reggie B. Walton also said the groups could depose Tamera L. Ripperda, a former IRS employee who ran the Cincinnati office that processed the applications. The groups also can depose the unnamed IRS employee who currently holds that same post.

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April 15, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1435: House GOP Tax Writers Ask Attorney General To Reopen Criminal Investigation Of Lois Lerner

IRS Logo 2Letter from Kevin Brady (Chair, Ways & Means Committee) & Peter Roskam (Chair, Subcommittee on Tax Policy) to Attorney General Sessions (Apr. 12, 2017):

On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution.  As indicated in the attached letter, the Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner.  Despite this fact, and for what many believe were purely partisan reasons, the prior Administration refused to review Ms. Lerner’s misconduct.  For the reasons described below, I respectfully request the Department of Justice to take a fresh look at the evidence presented in the attached referral in order to restore taxpayers’ trust in the IRS.

In particular, the Committee found that Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence IRS action against conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  The Committee also found she impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Finally, Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business. 

As you know, your predecessor brought no charges against Ms. Lerner or any other IRS employees involved in the improper targeting of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. 

Disturbingly, in February 2014, while the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was ongoing, President Obama stated there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS, preempting a fair investigation in which he had political equities.  It is clear that when the DOJ announced in October 2015 that it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner, the agency was following President Obama’s signal on how he wanted the investigation to be handled. 

Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics.  Again, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice to take a fresh look at the evidence presented in the attached referral in order to assure the American people that DOJ’s prior investigation was handled fairly and to restore taxpayers’ trust in the IRS.

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April 13, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1434:  How To Prevent The Next IRS Targeting Scandal

IRS Logo 2Tax Revolution Institute, How to Prevent the Next IRS Targeting Scandal:

We now know beyond a doubt that the Internal Revenue Service targeted and denied the nonprofit status of hundreds of organizations — mostly Tea Party and constitutionalist groups, but also those across the spectrum like Coffee Party USA — just in time for the 2012 presidential election. What we don’t know is whether anyone will be punished for this grand-scale corruption. ...

The 695-page release (PDF) of documents on April 4 — acquired thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch — is the final nail in the coffin, if there were any doubters still around. The fact that these documents remained under wraps during congressional hearings is itself worthy of condemnation.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says there is no wonder why the IRS was reluctant to release these files: “The new smoking-gun documents contain admissions by the Obama IRS that it inappropriately targeted conservative groups.” Further, even when coming under scrutiny, “the abuse continued — as the Obama IRS tried to force conservative applicants to give up their First Amendment rights in order to finally get their applications granted.” ...

Not only will going after a few visible individuals not root out the bad faith, “American taxpayers are at risk for similar treatment in the future” — as noted by the Cause of Action Institute, another DC-based watchdog. CAI asserts that the targeting of politically relevant nonprofits with Special Case Reports (PDF) was and remains standard procedure. Their case rests on the little-known nonprofit red flags from Part Seven of the Internal Revenue Manual for IRS employees, which include whether the group might “generate significant publicity or controversy.” ... [W]e have to change incentives for the IRS and find solutions that go beyond the normal partisan brinkmanship. ...

What is politically plausible remains to be seen, be that a reworking of IRS procedures by the Congress or a more fundamental tax reform that places revenue collection in the hands of state governments. Perhaps the former can be an intermediate step before the latter.

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April 12, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1433: House Oversight Committee Republicans Call On President Trump To Fire Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Townhall, House Oversight Committee: President Trump, Remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen:

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, including Chairman Jason Chaffetz, have sent a letter to the White House demanding IRS Commissioner John Koskinen be removed from office.

"By applying additional rigorous scrutiny and unjustifiable, interminable delays to their applications for tax-exempt status, our own government betrayed the fundamental principles of liberty, free speech and democracy for partisan political reasons," the letter states. "So long as the IRS commissioner is a man who has misled the people, destroyed evidence, and failed his legal duties to the people's representatives in Congress, the IRS is not 'controlled by the people.'  For that reason, we request you immediately remove Koskinen." 

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April 11, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1430: At Least 1 Top Republican in Congress Really Likes Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Salt Lake City Tribune, At Least 1 Top Republican in Congress Really Likes IRS Head: Orrin Hatch:

At least one powerful Republican in Congress really likes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Utah's Orrin Hatch might be the only one.

Hatch gave Koskinen a warm welcome at a Senate hearing Thursday, a day after House Republicans asked President Donald Trump to fire him. "I personally appreciate the work that you have done over the years," Hatch, the Senate's senior Republican and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, told Koskinen. "I appreciate the service you have given to this wonderful country."

At the other end of the spectrum is another Utah Republican. Rep. Jason Chaffetz has been Koskinen's most fervant detractor, repeatedly seeking his resignation and even calling for his impeachment. Chaffetz not only relentlessly pursued the IRS leader from his perch as House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, but he even testified against him as a witness before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming Koskinen has misused his power, lied and withheld records.

Unprompted, Hatch said he has a good relationship with Koskinen. It's an influential statement of support because Hatch serves as Senate president pro tem — making him third in line to succeed the president. Hatch also led the Senate Finance Committee investigation of allegations the IRS targeted conservative groups for audits, and said Koskinen cooperated.

But Hatch's backing may not be enough to counter the ire against Koskinen from other Republicans, some of whom want him to step down before his five-year-term ends in November.

On Wednesday, 15 GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee said trust in the IRS has hit rock bottom. They said that under Koskinen, the IRS destroyed evidence when Congress was investigating the tax agency for inappropriately singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny. ...

Koskinen said he has not heard from anyone in the Trump administration about stepping down.

But in tense exchange at Thursday's hearing, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., asked Koskinen if he intends to finish his term. "It gives me no pleasure and some degree of sadness," Roberts said. "I have been disappointed in your record at the agency."

Koskinen replied, "I regret that you're disappointed in the performance." Koskinen went on to defend his record. He said the IRS has implemented every recommendation from every investigation into the IRS handling of conservative groups. He said no one at the tax agency hindered any of the investigations.

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April 8, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, April 7, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1429:  Commissioner Koskinen Says He Will Finish Term Despite GOP Calls To Step Down Immediately

IRS Logo 2The Hill, IRS Chief Says He's Committed to Finishing His Term:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Thursday said he is committed to finishing his term, one day after Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee called for his removal.

“I signed up for a term that ends in November,” Koskinen said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. “Where I come from, if you sign up for a commitment, you complete that commitment.”

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April 7, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1428:  Fifteen Ways & Means Committee Republicans Urge Trump To Fire Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Letter From 15 House Ways & Means Committee Republicans to President Trump (Apr. 5, 2017) (press release):

As members of the House Ways and Means Committee, we believe it is imperative that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) work for the best interest of all taxpayers, and that the taxpayers in tum have confidence in the IRS's ability to fairly administer the tax code. This trust is at the core of our system of voluntary tax compliance . Trust in the IRS is hitting rock-bottom under IRS Commissioner John Koskinen . Not only was key evidence relevant to this Committee's investigation destroyed under his watch, but he also misled Congress in the process, intentionally degraded customer service at the agency, and has since lost the trust of the American people. We believe that trust cannot be fully restored under Commissioner Koskinen's leadership. For this reason, we are writing to request the removal of John Koskinen as Commissioner of the IRS and to request that a new leader be put in place as soon as possible.

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April 6, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1427:  54 Applications For Tax-Exempt Status Were Rejected In 2016; One Conservative Group Has Been Waiting For An Answer Since 2009

IRS Logo 2Washington Free Beacon, IRS Denied Tax-Exempt Status to 37 Religious, Charitable Groups in 2016: One Group Has Been Waiting For Tax-Exempt Status For More Than Seven Years:

The Internal Revenue Service denied tax-exempt status to 37 religious, charitable, and educational organizations in 2016, according to recent data from the agency.

The IRS rejected a total of 54 applications for tax-exempt status in 2016. Groups applying for 501(c)3 status, which applies to non-profits whose mission is religious or charitable in nature, comprised 69 percent of denials.

Nearly 85,000 groups applied for 501(c)3 status in 2016. Of those applications, 79,545 were approved, 37 were denied, and 5,006 were not adjudicated. According to the IRS, the 5,006 applications that were not adjudicated in 2016 were either withdrawn by the organization, did not include required information, were incomplete, or were IRS correction disposals. ...

As early as 2010, the IRS began targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on their political ideology, delaying the applications of some Tea Party and conservative groups before the 2012 presidential election. To this day, some groups are still waiting for their tax-exempt status to be approved.

Attorney Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, represents 37 conservative and pro-life nonprofit organizations encountered opposition from the IRS in getting their tax-exempt status approved. One of these groups is still waiting for determination after filing for tax-exempt status in December 2009, which means it has been waiting for more than seven years. ...

Sekulow said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who has led the agency since 2013, needs to be replaced by someone who Congress and the American people can trust. "We've had a very firm position at the ACLJ, we believe that there needs to be total reform at the IRS, and the institution is incapable of self-correcting," Sekulow said. "That means people like Koskinen and a lot of the bureaucrats like Lois Lerner that run the [exempt organizations division] and the different departments within the IRS need to be changed."

Sekulow said Koskinen missed an opportunity to clean up the IRS and was too protective of the agency and its officials. Koskinen's term ends at the end of November 2017, though he said late last year he would resign at the request of President Donald Trump. Sekulow said added pressure from Congress to impeach the commissioner could encourage Trump to take him up on his offer. ...

"You shouldn't have to be afraid that the IRS will target you because of your political beliefs or your religious beliefs," he said. "So that's why we believe continued pressure from Congress, I think, President Trump would appreciate that because it would give him the momentum to make that decision and it would work in tandem. You would have Congress calling for it and the president taking action on it."

The IRS did not respond to requests for comment.

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April 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1426: Obama’s IRS Chief Who Dodged Impeachment Continues Under Trump

IRS Logo 2Daily Signal, Obama’s IRS Chief Who Dodged Impeachment Continues Under Trump:

In the heart of tax season, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will address the National Press Club next Wednesday even as many members of Congress question why someone who dodged impeachment during the Obama administration continues to be the face of the tax collecting agency under President Donald Trump.

“It could be partly that for the checklist of the Trump administration, they don’t yet have a full Cabinet and this isn’t a priority. External pressure, from what I picked up, should continue,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group, told The Daily Signal. “If we saw more pressure from Congress, I think Koskinen would be gone.”

Koskinen’s five-year term ends in November, unless he is removed. Though Koskinen wasn’t in office when the IRS targeted tea party and conservative groups, House Republicans said he was repeatedly uncooperative and misled congressional investigators. Koskinen has said he acted in good faith to cooperate with the investigation. ...

In January, shortly after Trump took office, 53 House Republicans—led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina—asked Trump to remove Koskinen.

Walker spokesman Jack Minor told The Daily Signal Thursday the congressman stands by the letter, which House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C.; also signed. ... Chaffetz’s opinion hasn’t changed that Koskinen should not only be removed from office, but should forfeit his government pension, M.J. Henshaw, spokeswoman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told The Daily Signal Thursday.

Last week, Cause of Action Institute, a conservative government watchdog group, issued a report asserting the IRS can engage in politicized targeting again under a section of the internal revenue manual. The report called for the Trump administration to roll back the rule.

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April 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1424:  Conservatives Demand IRS Commissioner’s Head In White House Meeting

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller, Conservatives Demand IRS Commissioner’s Head In White House Meeting:

An off-the-record White House meeting with roughly two dozen conservative leaders Wednesday included explicit calls for President Trump to fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, according to a source in the room.

White House conservative liaison Paul Teller organized the meeting Wednesday between Trump staffers and leaders of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch.

Talk of Koskinen’s firing was part of a larger discussion on clearing out Obama-era personnel from the executive branch where possible, the source said. The broad consensus among attendees was that Trump needs to clean out Obama-era bureaucrats if he is going to be successful in pushing through his agenda.

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April 2, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1421: More On A Hidden Cause Of The IRS Scandal

Cause of ActionFox News, IRS Still Allowed to Target Political Groups, According to Watchdog Org:

The IRS is still able to target certain political groups despite being publicly exposed for the unfair practice more than five years ago, according to a new report by a watchdog group.

A rule in place at the IRS allows the federal agency to delay the applications of non-profit groups looking for tax-exempt status, claims the Washington-based Cause of Action in its report, A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal. The IRS admitted in 2013 that leading up to the 2012 election the agency unfairly targeted right-leaning groups as well as those with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name. More than five years after the practice was exposed, Cause of Action says the IRS has not made changes to end the practice. “The regulation that allows them to do this is still there,” John Vecchione, executive director of Cause of Action told Fox News. “It’s bureaucratic inertia until someone makes a change.”

The findings claims the IRS is able to target these groups while still complying with its own rules. Cause of Action claims changing this practice would be a simple and quick fix. “The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion,” the authors of the report said in their findings. “Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure than enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.”

Officials for the IRS refute the report’s claims. “The IRS strongly disputes the report and any suggestion or allegation that Exempt Organizations is targeting taxpayers,” reads a statement provided to Fox News. “The IRS emphasizes that this point has been confirmed by independent third parties, including the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.”

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March 30, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1420: A Hidden Cause

Cause of ActionCause of Action, Sensitive Case Reports: A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal:

Executive Summary:
Beginning in February 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS’) singled out certain non-profit organizations for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Numerous subsequent congressional investigations and media reports demonstrated that the targeting involved invasive questioning and years-long delays, and focused disproportionately on right-leaning groups, especially those with “Tea Party” in their name. These reports, however, have almost entirely overlooked a hidden cause of the targeting scandal,which remains in effect today. As a result, American taxpayers are at risk for similar treatment in the future.

Contrary to the conventional storyline, there exists an institutional policy that was the first impetus in prompting IRS employees to target groups based on their political viewpoints. That policy is embodied in an internal IRS rule—which is still on the books—that singles out applications from any group interested in issues that might garner attention from either the media or Congress. In such cases, the merits of the application are ignored as IRS employees develop “Senstive Case Reports” for consideration by those above them in the IRS hierarchy. The result is a process that interferes with the unbiased review of applications for tax-exempt status designed to apply to all eligible organziations, regardless of their political viewpoints or affiliations.

Seven years after the targeting scandal began, the rule that enabled this inexcusable behavior still exists. Until that rule is removed from the internal manual used by all IRS employees, targeting of politcal opponents will remain a very real threat. Fortunately, removing the offending provisions is a simple process that can be started at any time and completed without the need for new legislation or formal notice-and-comment rule-making.

Findings:

  • Targeting was—and is—IRS policy, not a violation of it.
  • The employees who initiated the targeting cited an internal “Sensitive Case Report” process that singled out applications that might attract media or congressional attention.
  • Sensitive Case procedures remain in effect today.
  • The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion. Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure that enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.

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March 29, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1417:  Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS

IRS Logo 2Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS:

Did you hear that the IRS granted a Satanic cult tax-exempt status in ten days?!? Meanwhile, Tea Party groups’ exemption applications languished for months or even years?!?

I know, it sounds pure conspiracy theory: the IRS loves Satan and hates conservatives. But it’s true! Or, at least, kind of! But it needs to be contextualized, because comparing the exemption application of Reason Alliance, Ltd. (the putative Satanic cult) and Tea Party groups is inapposite.

First things first, though: the framing of this “controversy” is purely a product of the Outrage Industrial Complex, as represented by Fox News and Judicial Watch. And I’m sure the invocation of “Satanic cult” is going to get them clicks and shares. But Satanic cult? The Reason Alliance is the tax-exempt offshoot of The Satanic Temple, which strikes me as basically a relatively-clever piece of performance art meant to object to religions enjoying tax-exempt status, and which otherwise functions as a much funnier, and more self-aware, version of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Because The Satanic Temple objects to religions’ exemption from taxation, it has chosen not to pursue tax-exempt status itself. Apparently, though, in the interest of facilitating donations from individuals whose charitable giving is more elastic, it created the Reason Alliance to permit deductible charitable giving.

But the substance of the outrage here isn’t Satan; rather, it’s that Satan could essentially bypass the line (of Tea Party groups, probably) in getting his exemption from tax. ...

But did Satan bypass the line? In a word, no. ...  The Reason Alliance filed a Form 1023-EZ. ... [T]he Reason Alliance merely chose a faster route to exemption.

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March 26, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1416:  The Root Problem Is The Law, Not The IRS

Hackney (2017)Philip Hackney (LSU) delivered the Norman A. Sugarman Memorial Lecture in Nonprofit Law at Case Western yesterday on Improving IRS Charity Oversight: Responsible Congressional Delegation, Responsive IRS Rulemaking:

Whether you think it fair or unfair, there is a large segment of American society who believes the IRS targeted conservative groups trying to obtain tax-exempt status from at least 2011-2013, leading to explosive accusations on the professional integrity and political bias of the agency.

In this lecture, Professor Hackney, James E. & Betty M. Phillips Associate Professor of Law, LSU Law Center, will clarify how this charge is unfair or at the least deeply misguided, explaining that root problem is not the alleged political litmus test by the IRS in considering tax exempt status in the charitable sector, but rather the law — both in its construction and implementation.

Congress has provided vague legal standards for the IRS to implement in the tax exempt arena, resulting in costly enforcement attempts that have undermined the public’s confidence that the laws are being enforced in a fair and impartial manner. To solve this issue, Congress should enact standards in this arena, but that the Treasury Department and the IRS ought to implement rules.

This lecture will consider the political, legal, and technical challenges to adopting such a rule-based regime for charity oversight.

See Philip Hackney, Charitable Organization Oversight: Rules v. Standards, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 83 (2015).

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March 25, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, March 24, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1415:  ‘Media Attention’ And IRS Abuse

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: ‘Media Attention’ and IRS Abuse: A Simple Rule Fix Could End Partisan Targeting Tomorrow, by John J. (President & CEO, Cause of Action Institute):

The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Americans for their political views may have ended with the Obama administration — or even with its exposure in 2013. But it could easily recur. Even now, an internal IRS rule singles out applicants for nonprofit status who might be tied to anything newsworthy.

The genesis of the targeting scandal was Section 7.29.3 of the Internal Revenue Manual. As noted in a report my organization is issuing Wednesday, this manual dictates how IRS employees handle everything from customer service to criminal investigations. This particular section tells them to flag for further review any application for tax-exempt status that might “attract media or Congressional attention.”

That’s a broad, vague and subjective command that career IRS employees are nevertheless required to follow. Emails between IRS personnel make clear that low-level employees were guided by this rule throughout the targeting scandal. They repeatedly cited “media attention” on the Tea Party as the reason to single out and delay applications from conservative groups.

This rule means that IRS enforcement reflects the ideological biases of the media. Aside from a small number of groups related to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the defunct advocacy group Acorn, libertarian and free-market groups were almost exclusively targeted.

These provisions of the IRS manual have nothing to do with the merits of a nonprofit application and everything to do with keeping the agency from looking bad. It is inappropriate for a group’s tax-exempt status to be deep-sixed because of negative publicity. In the targeting scandal, this approach allowed partisan concerns to overtake the application process, resulting in the unfair treatment of political viewpoints at odds with the Obama administration.

Equal justice under the law demands that the IRS abandon the “newsworthy” criterion. To date, however, the agency has promised only to stop making lists of targeted groups “until further notice.” Even if the halt were permanent, it wouldn’t be enough. IRS officials are still required to follow the manual and pull high-profile applications for enhanced scrutiny.

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March 24, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 20, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1411: Why Did Donald Trump Fire Sally Yates And Preet Bharara, But Not John Koskinen?

IRS Logo 2

Washington Examiner, Why Is Trump Afraid of Draining the Swamp at the IRS and Firing John Koskinen?:

Political cartography in Washington can be difficult. After three months in office, it's clear President Trump doesn't believe the D.C. bog includes the federal building at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. He won't drain the swamp at the Internal Revenue Service.

Famous for firing people, Trump has disrupted the status quo in the nation's capital with his personnel decisions. He quickly terminated Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, then sacked 46 federal prosecutors. But he won't ax IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Conservatives have been gunning for the tax chief's scalp for years. To no avail, they've tried shaming, officially censuring, and impeaching Koskinen. But now that Trump's in the White House, they're wondering why the president is sheltering the taxman. ...

The Trump White House keeps dodging the question. On Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer referred curious reporters inquiring about Koskinen's fate to the Treasury Department, even after it came to light that the agency still has 7,000 unreleased documents related to the scandal. ...

Trump has every reason to dismiss the tax agent. With Koskinen at the helm, the IRS was able to cover up its targeting scandal. Brought in by President Obama to clean up the agency's image, he turned a blind eye as the IRS covered up its scandal and continued to violate citizen's First Amendment rights.

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March 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1410: Judicial Watch Forces Disclosure Of New Documents

IRS Logo 2

Breitbart op-ed: Obama IRS Scandal Continues – Judicial Watch Forces IRS to Disclose New Documents, by Tom Fitton (President, Judicial Watch):

We have no intention to allow the extra-legal activities of former President Obama’s administration to fade into the sunset now that he is out of office. Particularly egregious was his use of the might of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target groups that disagreed with his political views.
And heel-dragging at the IRS continues.

Last week, Judicial Watch reported that the agency informed the U.S. District Court that it located “an additional 6,924 documents of potentially responsive records” relating to our 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit regarding the Obama IRS targeting scandal.

The lawsuit at issue sought records about the IRS selection of individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications requesting non-profit tax status filed by Tea Party and other 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00220)). ...

The corruption at the IRS is astounding. Our attorneys knew that there were more records to be searched, but the Obama IRS ignored this issue for years.

Remember that in July 2015, we released Obama IRS documents confirming that the agency used donor lists of tax-exempt organizations to target those donors for audits. The documents also show that IRS officials specifically highlighted how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may come under “high scrutiny” from the IRS.

In September 2014, another JW FOIA lawsuit forced the release of documents detailing that the IRS sought, obtained, and maintained the names of donors to tea party and other conservative groups. IRS officials acknowledged in these documents that “such information was not needed.” The documents also show that the donor names were being used for a “secret research project.”

The Obama IRS scandal continues, and President Trump needs to clean house at the IRS as quickly as possible.

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March 19, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1409:  'After School Satan Club' Granted Tax-Exempt Status In 10 Days While Conservative Groups Waited Years

IRS Logo 2

Judicial Watch Press Release, IRS Gives “After School Satan Club” Tax-Exempt Status in 10 Days:

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes conservative groups wait years for tax-exempt status an “After School Satan Club” launched to hinder Christian-based counterparts got its nonprofit ranking in just ten days, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The classification is offered to charitable, religious and educational organizations that operate as nonprofits. Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

In the meantime, leftist groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the process of establishing an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma. The entity behind the club is a nonprofit called Reason Alliance, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and operates in Washington State as the Satanic Temple of Seattle. Its director, Lilith X. Starr, established the Point Defiance Elementary Satanic club, the records show. In its application the club states that its purpose is “character development” and that adult instructors are vetted by the Satanic Temple’s “Executive Ministry.” Children ages 5-12 will develop basic critical reasoning, character qualities, problem solving and creative expression, according to the Satanic Temple filings included in the documents. The club logo is a pencil with devil’s horns. Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.

The parent permission forms ask for the name of the child’s church and pastor, the records show. They also reveal that Starr, the Seattle Satanic Temple director, told Tacoma School District Superintendent Carla Santorno that the clubs are led by “caring Satanists” and each child receives a membership card. Starr also tells the superintendent that the effort to establish after-school Satan clubs in Tacoma schools is in direct response to the Christian-based Good News Clubs operating in campuses throughout the district. This ignited concern among some Tacoma district officials, the records show. In one electronic mail exchange, Tacoma Schools official Andrea O-Brien-Henley sends colleague Paul Koch a citation from the Satanic Temple’s website noting that the temple only wants to establish after-school Satan clubs in school districts with Christian Good News Clubs. O’Brien-Henley notes that it’s odd that the Satanic Temple only targets schools that have Good News Clubs, writing to hear colleague: “If they really want to get their message out to kids it seems kind of odd that they would only be targeting schools with a Good News Club; one would think that they would want to start clubs anywhere there is an *interest* in them.”

Here’s the citation that O’Brien-Henley forwarded to fellow school district official Koch from the Satanic Temple’s website: “How do I start an After School Satan Club in my school district? If there isn’t a chapter of The Satanic Temple near you, but you’re interested in starting and After School Satan Club in your school district, please contact The Satanic Temple. Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented.”

In another exchange, the Executive Director of Communications for the Tacoma School District, Dan Voelpel, expresses concern to colleagues that people will confuse the school district’s message of tolerance toward the Satan Club with tolerance toward alleged “hate-related activities around the country in the wake of the presidential election.” In the records the principal of Point Defiance Elementary reveals that, two weeks after the Satan club was launched, no one had signed up for it. The fact remains however, that the IRS fast-tracked a deranged Satanic cult to operate as a nonprofit in taxpayer-funded elementary schools.

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March 18, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, March 17, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1408: Why Won't The Media Cover It?

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The Hill op-ed: Why Won't the Media Cover IRS Scandals?, by Jenny Beth Martin (President & Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Sometimes the most insidious attack on our individual liberty arises not from the government’s wholesale trampling on those rights, but instead from a widespread chilling effect, in which individuals “self-police” or regulate their behavior out of fear of the government’s retaliation.

The years-long IRS scandal surrounding its abuse of power when it engaged in a systematic targeting of conservatives is a powerful example of the government’s ability to initiate a chilling effect on free speech.

It has been nearly four years since the IRS admitted in May of 2013 to singling out and targeting conservative groups, especially tea party groups, for additional scrutiny, onerous paperwork, and even audits. The IRS’s abusive targeting, which lasted for years, was entirely motivated by political animus and caused untold — incalculable, even — devastation to conservatives and to conservative groups. ...

After meeting with, and speaking with, hundreds of local tea party organization members in 2013, I was convinced of three key points: 1) the IRS’s targeting scandal had had a profound impact on organizations’ abilities to attract new members, fundraise, and engage on important policy battles; 2) the chilling effect of the federal government’s actions was real, devastating, and impossible to calculate; and 3) the American public needed to know the full extent of the targeting scandal so we could ensure it would never happen again.

When news of the targeting became public, the media was completely disinterested. And, now, four years later, it seems, not much has changed with the media’s interest levels.

Just this past week, the IRS revealed that it had found nearly 7,000 documents potentially related to the targeting of tea party groups. Yes, the agency that has stone-walled Congress for four years, lost computers and hard drives and tens of thousands of emails, just discovered 6,924 documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Judicial Watch.

Mainstream media outlets have barely reported on this latest revelation at all. And why should they? It’s only the latest chapter in a tome the media has made clear it has no intention of sharing with the American public. ...

Two hallmarks of a free society are that individuals do not have to live in fear that their political views or activities will cause them to be subjected to abuse by the federal taxing agency, and that the press holds government accountable when it becomes abusive to its citizens. It seems, in both areas, we have a lot more work to do.

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March 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Days 1401-1500

March 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1407: NY Post Editorial, Fire The IRS Chief Already, Mr. President

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New York Post Editorial, Fire the IRS Chief Already, Mr. President:

Why is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen still in office? A growing number of Capitol Hill Republicans want to know — and they have good reason to be troubled.

When he took over in 2013, Koskinen was supposed to “fix” the IRS — and in particular get to the bottom of the scandal in which the agency deliberately held up approvals for 75 conservative and Tea Party groups that had applied for legitimate tax exemptions.

Instead, what Congress and the public got from him was obstruction, open defiance and a refusal to discipline anyone at the agency. Indeed, he seemed most concerned with running interference to shield the Obama administration from any embarrassment.

Nor was he alone: The Obama Justice Department refused to bring criminal charges against anyone at the IRS. To date, no one has been held accountable for what even liberal legal icon Laurence Tribe has called “inexcusable abuse.” ...

It’s clear there’ll be no IRS reforms while Koskinen is in office. He’s the No. 1 candidate in Washington for President Trump’s signature line: “You’re fired.”

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March 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 13, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1404: Attorney General Sessions Weighs Appointing Special Counsel To Investigate Obama's Justice Department Scandals

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Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

Hugh Hewitt:  Now let me switch to the Department itself, Mr. Attorney General. It had a bad eight years. I’m a proud veteran of the Department of Justice, as you are. But the IRS case, the Fast and Furious case, Secretary Clinton’s server, the Department of Justice came under great criticism. How about an outside counsel, not connected to politics, to review the DOJ’s actions in those matters with authority to bring charges if underlying crimes are uncovered in the course of the investigation, and just generally to look at how the Department of Justice operated in the highly-politicized Holder-Lynch years?

Jeff Sessions:  Well, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to restore the independence and professionalism of the Department of Justice. So we would have to consider whether or not some outside special counsel is needed. Generally, a good review of that internally is the first step before any such decision is made.

Hugh Hewitt:  Will you be looking at the IRS investigation specifically, because that left many of us thinking that the Department of Justice had laid down for a terrible abuse of political power?

Jeff Sessions:  It does. That circumstance raised a lot of questions in my mind, and when I was in the Senate. So it is a matter of real concern to me.

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March 13, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)