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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 763

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, Return of the Speech Police:

You won’t read much about it in the Beltway press corps, but a behind-the-scenes effort is under way to lobby the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department to stifle free political speech the way the Internal Revenue Service did in 2012. Don’t be surprised if the subpoenas hit Republican candidates at crucial political moments. ...

Criticism of the FEC is part of the left’s strategy to turn the commission into its agent to intimidate conservative groups and limit their political speech. The letter writing campaigns use the same accusations about “dark money” that the groups used to lobby the IRS in the 2012 election cycle.

In September 2011, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center wrote to then IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner requesting an IRS probe into whether “certain organizations are ineligible for tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4).” Around the same time, the IRS created its process that targeted conservative groups. The same outfits are back at it, filling the FEC’s docket with complaints that target Republicans or GOP-leaning organizations 75% or more of the time.

If these liberal outfits don’t like Super PACs, they should look in the mirror. Super PACs are the inevitable reaction to campaign-finance limits on candidates. Instead of unleashing another round of political targeting, this time corrupting the Justice Department, true liberals should deregulate politics.

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June 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 762

IRS Logo 2USA Today op-ed:  The IRS Can Still Silence Political Dissent, by Allison R. Hayward:

Two years ago, Lois Lerner of the IRS revealed that it unfairly targeted and delayed Tea Party applications for tax exemption. While the IRS has apologized and promised reform, the agency has not fixed the vague rules that allowed this scandal to happen. As we enter the 2016 election cycle, political activists remain in danger of selective IRS audits, penalties and approvals.

As troubling as this is, we have seen this before. The tax regulation of non-profit advocacy groups has not had a happy history. One pattern repeats: Congress passes a tax law, often to score short-term political points. The IRS then interprets the law aggressively, often against groups with controversial views. Federal courts may soften that blow case by case. Eventually, Congress passes another law and this cycle starts again. ...

We need to learn several lessons from this history. First, the IRS, while effective at collecting taxes, is a poor agency to task with regulating advocacy organizations, especially those, such as the advocacy groups covered under 501(c)(4), that cannot offer donors a tax deduction. At most, only trivial amounts of revenue are at stake from the activity. Whether a certain message, or viewpoint, or advertisement, or tone is proper should not be a concern of the revenuer.

Second, Congress must resist the temptation to even political scores through tax legislation. Not only is it poor governance, it rarely works.

Finally, the courts should remain vigilant in protecting groups from IRS overreach and congressional mischief. Courts should feel free to identify and excise laws, even tax laws, that abridge political freedom.

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June 10, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 761

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch Press Release, Federal Court Issues Ruling Compelling IRS to Provide Answers on Lerner IRS Emails:

Judicial Watch announced that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Judicial Watch request to issue an order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12, 2015, on the status of the Lois Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost.  Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing on June 2, 2015, demanding answers about Lois Lerner’s emails, which had been recovered from backup tapes.  Judge Sullivan issued the court order on June 4, 2015.

Judicial Watch has argued that the IRS misled the court and Judicial Watch by withholding the truth about the existence and content of the backup tapes.  In response to Judicial Watch’s litigation and pressure from Congress, some of Lerner’s emails had been recovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) despite testimony from the IRS Commissioner and representations to Judge Sullivan that Lerner’s emails had been irretrievably lost and destroyed. ...

“The Obama IRS obstructed and lied to a federal judge and Judicial Watch in an effort to hide the truth about Lois Lerner’s emails,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS, including its top political appointees IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and General Counsel William J. Wilkins, has much to answer for over its contempt of court and of Congress.  And the Department of Justice officials enabling this cover-up in court need to be held accountable, as well.  The IRS is out of control and Judicial Watch is happy that Judge Sullivan has taken this key step to remind the agency that it is accountable to the rule of law and the American people.”

 

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June 9, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 760

IRS Logo 2Forbes, IRS' Lois Lerner Got Pension, $129K Bonus, New Call For Criminal Charges, by Robert W. Wood:

 Many Republicans are still upset that Lois Lerner of the IRS got a pass from the Obama Justice Department. As the IRS scandal hit day 750, 24 Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who recently replaced Eric Holder as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. It seems unlikely that the new AG will upset the apple cart. Still, the 24 House members want the new AG to criminally prosecute Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center–if not the top–if the agency’s targeting scandal. ...

Ms. Lerner will probably not face any further action. Yet while she presided over alleged discrimination against conservative nonprofits, Ms. Lois Lerner received $129,000 in bonuses. Some people have asked but for what.

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June 8, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 759

IRS Logo 2Fox News op-ed:  More IRS Outrage: Agency Used 'Hundreds of Lawyers' to Hide Information from Congress, by Jay Sekulow:

It’s been a very bad week for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – which translates into a very bad week for the American people. ...

Now, we learn that as Congress began its investigation into the unlawful scheme targeting conservative and Tea Party groups the IRS used “hundreds of attorneys” to hide critical information from Congress.

According to new bombshell testimony, the IRS set up a previously unknown “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two politically appointed positions at the IRS).

The “special project” this team was given?  Concealing information from Congress.

The IRS’s director of privacy, governmental liaison, and disclosure division, Mary Howard, testified that soon after the IRS targeting scandal was revealed, the IRS “amassed hundreds of attorneys to go through the documents [requested by Congress] and redact them.” She told Congress that once the “special project team” was created and operational, she never saw requests for information.

Her testimony is clear: As soon as the IRS targeting scandal broke, the IRS set up a special team of hundreds of attorneys, including President Obama’s political head of the Chief Counsel’s office, to keep requests for publicly available information away from the person who would normally review those documents and turn them over to Congress and the public.  That “special” team then overly redacted, delayed, and determined which documents it wanted Congress to see.

After setting up a special “group” to target and delay applications by Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status, the IRS set up a new “special project team” to delay and redact information from Congress about that targeting.  Talk about a cover-up.

When asked about these revelations and the ongoing investigation by Congress into the IRS and former top IRS official Lois Lerner’s involvement, Howard testified, “I think that Lois Lerner was the tip of the iceberg.”

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June 7, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 758

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  The Clinton ‘Charity’ Begins at Home, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

The scandal of the century at the IRS was that agency’s secret targeting of conservative nonprofits. Perhaps a close second is the scandal of what the IRS hasn’t been investigating: the Clinton Foundation.

The media’s focus is on Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and whether she took official actions to benefit her family’s global charity. But the mistake is starting from the premise that the Clinton Foundation is a “charity.” What’s clear by now is that this family enterprise was set up as a global shakedown operation, designed to finance and nurture the Clintons’ continued political ambitions. It’s a Hillary super PAC that throws in the occasional good deed.

That much is made obvious by looking at the foundation’s employment rolls. Most charities are staffed by folks who have spent a lifetime in nonprofits, writing grants or doing overseas field work. The Clinton Foundation is staffed by political operatives. It has been basically a parking lot for Clinton campaign workers—a comfy place to draw a big check as they geared up for Hillary’s presidential run. ...

This is typically Clinton, which means it is typically on the edge of legal. The foundation operates as a nonprofit, raising hundreds of millions as a “charity.” We know from foundation tax filings that it spends an extraordinary portion of its funds on travel and staff. How many donors are unaware that their money is going to keep Clinton friends in full employment? How many are aware and give precisely for that reason—to help elect a new president, one who will gratefully remember their help?

Lucky for the Clintons, nobody looks. As a charity (and unlike a super PAC), the foundation is subject to almost no oversight. The IRS in the past has stripped charities of their tax-exempt status when they are shown to be operating for a purpose other than benevolence. The agency has shown no real interest in the Clinton Foundation. Go figure.

Clinton allies are insisting to all who listen that the foundation exists to do good. It does. It exists to do very good things for Hillary and Bill and all their longtime allies. And in that, it has succeeded beautifully.

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June 6, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 757

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, IRS Sends Congress Unsigned Form Letter to Brush Off Demands for Clinton Foundation Investigation:

The IRS responded to a Republican request for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation's tax-exempt status with a one-page form letter that starts with "Dear Sir or Madam."

In May, more than 50 House Republicans asked the IRS to review the Clinton Foundation's tax-exempt status, after it became clear that the foundation had failed to report millions of dollars in grants from foreign governments.

That letter, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, said a review was "appropriate" given that this money was accepted and not reported while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state.

In response, the IRS sent Blackburn a form letter, which Blackburn received late Wednesday. The letter thanked her for submitting the request, and said the IRS has an "ongoing examination program" to ensure tax-exempt groups comply with tax law.

"The information you submitted will be considered in this program," it said. The letter was from Margaret Von Lienen, director of exempt organizations examinations, but she didn't sign it.

Blackburn said the perfunctory response is far below the level of customer service members of Congress should be getting.

"The IRS response is not acceptable and lacking in the requisite tact that should accompany a congressional inquiry," she said. "It is unbelievably disrespectful that Margaret Von Lienen couldn't even take the few extra seconds needed to sign the letter."

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June 5, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 756

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, IRS Official: ‘Lois Lerner Was the Tip of the Iceberg’:

The IRS’s director of privacy, governmental liaison and disclosure division testified Wednesday that the tax agency set up a special team with hundreds of lawyers to handle the probe into whether Tea Party groups were targeted, but repeatedly said she had no idea how it operated.

Mary Howard, who also works as the head Freedom of Information Act officer in the IRS, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that once the “special project team” was created and operational, she never saw requests for information. ...

Republican Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz also asked about the information requests after news broke that the IRS was targeting conservative groups, holding up their requests for tax-exempt status. Those requests “went to the commissioner, and it went to the general counsel,” he said. “There’s only two political appointees in all of the IRS, the commissioner and the general counsel. Those are the only two out of 90,000.”…

“I think that Lois Lerner was the tip of the iceberg,” Howard said.

“Really?” Chaffetz said. “So do we.”

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June 4, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 755

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Watchdog: Lerner Report by End of Month:

A federal watchdog investigating the missing Lois Lerner emails said Tuesday he expects to give lawmakers a final report by the end of the month. 

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, said at a Senate Finance hearing that his office conducted almost 150 interviews as it sought to track down the former IRS official's emails. ...

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told George that he hoped to have the inspector general’s report by the middle of this month.

George, while insisting his office would do his best, also stressed that he needed to be extra careful with an investigation this sensitive. He said the office still had to interview some people important to the case.

“As you can imagine, with each interview, that leads to more information that needs to be tracked down,” George told Hatch. “Given the nature of this matter, we need to be as thorough as possible, and we’re endeavoring to do just that.” ...

GOP lawmakers have said little so far about what was in those emails, though one Republican aide has said there appeared to be little new in the documents.

Hatch told reporters Tuesday that he believed the Finance Committee would be able to quickly wrap up its own bipartisan investigation into the IRS once it got the inspector general’s report.

“The entire delay has been we kept getting more and more emails, after they said that was it,” said Hatch, who had previously stated that he wanted to get his committee’s report out this month. “We’ve had to go through them all.”

Hatch and committee aides had previously said that the Finance report was all but done when the panel found out last year that the IRS couldn’t recover some of Lerner’s emails.

But Finance aides have declined to put out a timeline for when their report could be released, noting that committee investigators will have to square what the inspector general uncovered with their own findings.

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June 3, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 754

IRS Logo 2Newmax, GOP Calls on AG to Prosecute Lois Lerner in IRS Scandal:

Republican lawmakers are petitioning the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to criminally prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner over the agency's targeting scandal, having failed to convince her predecessor to do so.

According to The Hill, 24 Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Lynch asking for her to take up the panel's 2014 request to charge Lerner for possible crimes.

The allegations include using her position at the agency to pursue heightened scrutiny of conservative groups; obstructing investigations by giving misleading information; and disclosing confidential taxpayer information, The Hill said.

Before former Attorney General Eric Holder stepped down from his post, House Speaker John Boehner was informed by the department that Lerner would not be prosecuted for refusing to testify at a congressional hearing.

The letter, which was circulated by the committee's chairman, Paul Ryan, also prompted statements of support from Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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June 2, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, June 1, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 753

IRS Logo 2U.S. News & World Report, House Committee Chairman Subpoenas IRS Official to Hearing on Freedom of Information Act:

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena Friday for an IRS official to testify at a hearing on the Freedom of Information Act.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he issued the subpoena after the IRS declined to provide the official who oversees information requests. Instead, the IRS offered to have IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testify.

In a letter to Koskinen, Chaffetz said he wanted to hear from the agency's expert on responding to information requests. Chaffetz issued the subpoena for Mary Howard, the IRS director of privacy, governmental liaison and disclosure. She reports to a deputy commissioner.

The IRS said Friday it will send Howard to the hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Officials from several government agencies are scheduled to testify.

"In order to conduct effective oversight we must hear from the individuals with the greatest insight into the issues we are exploring," Chaffetz said in a statement. "When an agency attempts to undermine the role of Congress by refusing to allow a witness to testify, issuing a subpoena is not only necessary but appropriate."

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June 1, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 752

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Get the IRS Out of the Speech-Police Business, by Scott Blackburn (Center for Competitive Politics): 

In May 2013, an inspector general’s report detailed the politically motivated targeting of nonprofit groups by the IRS for harassment. Two years later, despite continuing Republican outrage and Democratic complaints about Republican anger, the agency continues to stick its nose where it does not belong.

Some agency defenders have claimed that nothing was amiss in the IRS harassing hundreds of conservative and tea party groups. Since the agency also went after a few liberal groups, what’s the problem? The problem is that Americans deserve better than equal harassment under the law.

The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.

The solution is to get the agency out of the business of policing political speech. ...

The IRS ... should not decide whether an organization is a political committee or a social-welfare group. As National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson advised Congress in 2013, that decision should be made by the FEC. This agency is set up to assure that neither major political party can use the determination of the organization’s status as a weapon against political opponents.

It is a bad idea to have a tax-collection agency monitoring the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Worse still that it would do so without any expertise. And silly when the job is already done by another agency.

The treatment of tea party groups is not the first time that the IRS has been used as a political cudgel to beat some organizations into silent submission. But this has been one of the most systematic efforts to do so. If we want to ensure that such abuse does not happen again, we must, and rather easily can, take the agency out of the speech-police business.

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May 31, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 751

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  One More Chance for Justice at the IRS, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Paul Ryan on Thursday sent his first official letter to Loretta Lynch, the new U.S. attorney general. With luck, Ms. Lynch will take a few moments out of her international soccer crackdown to give it a glance.

Signed by every Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which Mr. Ryan heads, the letter is a forceful request that Ms. Lynch channel just a smidgen of her famed prosecutorial skill into the largest abuse of government power in decades: the IRS targeting scandal. It’s now been two full years since a little-known IRS bureaucrat named Lois Lerner admitted that her agency systematically collected the names of conservative groups, harassed them, and denied their right to participate in elections. It’s been two full years since the Justice Department opened an investigation. And it’s been two full years of crickets.

While Ms. Lynch was this week orchestrating a dramatic dawn raid and the arrest of seven international soccer officials, the IRS’s offices continued to operate as if nothing ever happened. Two years ago, in the days following the targeting revelations, the administration sacked Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller only because it had to. Ms. Lerner, who had led the exempt organizations division, was allowed to retire with full pension benefits. Holly Paz, her effective deputy, was put on administrative leave. Everyone else is still at their desks. Not a single official—there or gone—has faced prosecution.

The Ryan letter asks Ms. Lynch to finally answer his committee’s 2014 referral of Ms. Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. That referral has been largely lost to time and other headlines. Most of the focus last year was on the House’s decision to issue a contempt citation against Ms. Lerner, for improperly asserting her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer its questions about her time at the IRS. In March of this year, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen, who has since resigned, informed Speaker John Boehner that he was refusing to bring that contempt citation before a grand jury.

That’s a pity. Note, though, that the citation dealt only with Ms. Lerner’s after-the-fact behavior in front of Congress. Investigators have also compiled compelling evidence that she may have broken the law while overseeing the targeting of conservative groups. Nearly a month before Mr. Boehner sent out the citation, the Ways and Means Committee (then under Rep. Dave Camp) sent a letter to Justice making the case that Ms. Lerner should be criminally prosecuted for her time at the IRS. The Justice Department has never responded to that letter. ...

Ms. Lynch’s response will be enormously telling about her view of her job. Well before the IRS scandal broke, former Attorney General Eric Holder had already built a reputation as one of the most partisan and political holders of the office in history. It was never really a surprise that Justice assigned the IRS probe to a staff attorney who was a Obama donor, or that the FBI early on leaked that it didn’t intend any prosecutions, or that Mr. Holder ignored calls for a special prosecutor. The likelihood that he’d act dropped further as evidence came out that his own Justice attorneys were implicated in Ms. Lerner’s targeting.

Meanwhile, today’s IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, has been unable to acknowledge that someone at his agency might have engaged in intentional wrongdoing. This attitude, combined with Justice’s inaction, creates the scary potential of an IRS targeting repeat. When nobody in a position of authority or with police power is willing to even question whether some in the IRS might be bad actors, there is no guard whatsoever against a Lerner 2.0.

One of Ms. Lynch’s specialties in her previous post as U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York was political corruption. She knows that government officials can and do break the law. If she ignores or skirts the Ryan letter, the country will see that it has another Obama partisan sitting in the attorney general seat. If she acts, she might instead restore some public faith in two of the nation’s least respected institutions: the Justice Department and the IRS. It doesn’t seem such a hard choice.

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May 30, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 29, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 750

IRS Logo 2Letter From All 24 Republican Members of the House Ways & Means Committee to Loretta Lynch (Attorney General of the United States) (May 28, 2015):

As Members of the House Ways and Means Committee we are writing to inquire about the status of the Committee's April 9, 2014 referral of Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution as supplemented July 30, 2014. See attachments.

On March 31, 2015, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, wrote U.S. House Speaker John Boehner stating that the U.S. Attorney's office would not prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress based on her refusal to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, despite offering a brief opening statement before asserting her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Mr. Machen's letter responded to Speaker Boehner's referral of Ms. Lerner of May 7, 2014.

Mr. Machen's letter did not address the April 9, 2014, criminal referral of Ms. Lerner issued by the House Ways and Means Committee under my predecessor, Chairman David Camp. In that referral, the Committee identified three specific acts undertaken by Ms. Lerner that may have violated one or more criminal statutes, including that:

  • Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.
  • Ms. Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Ad ministration (TIGTA).
  • Ms. 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.

The Committee continues to believe that these serious charges should be pursed by the Department of Justice. We would appreciate receiving an update on the status of the referral as soon as possible. Thank you for your  assistance in this matter.

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May 29, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 749

IRS Logo 2The Hill:  Two Years Later, IRS Remains Reckless and Corrupt, by Akash Chougule (Americans For Prosperity):

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the nation learning that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – the nation’s supposedly nonpartisan tax collection agency – systematically harassed and targeted conservative political groups leading up to the 2012 elections. The scandal remains unresolved, and in the past several weeks, a handful of shocking new IRS scandals have emerged, making it clear that the tax collector still has huge problems – and it’s costing Americans billions of dollars. 

Last month, more than 6,000 of Lois Lerner’s supposedly “missing” emails were discovered. Lerner was the IRS official at the center of the political targeting controversy, who in front of a Congressional committee repeatedly declared her innocence and then somehow invoked the Fifth Amendment when questioned – and then claimed her hard drive crashed and erased all of her emails, which obviously would have included the ones related to political targeting. 

Lerner has since retired without criminal charges (but with full pension and benefits), because the investigating U.S. attorney let her off the hook on his last day on the job. But the same week her emails were discovered, it was revealed that the IRS is likely still targeting conservative groups. ...

Officials within the IRS continually blame a lack of funding and resources for the incessant problems, a result of Congress slashing their funding after the political targeting controversy. The clear-thinking taxpayer who pays for the IRS would obviously retort that perhaps they should use the staff, time, and resources spent advancing a political agenda on actually doing the agency’s job correctly. ...

When elected officials do wrong by the people who pay their salary, the people can vote them out. But that is not the case with the unaccountable unionized bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service. They can simply hide behind anonymity and protection from their allies like President Obama, who absurdly claimed “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS and has shown no interest in pursuing its recklessness. 

Congress should take these latest reports seriously, and for the sake of the American taxpayer, do whatever it must to rid the IRS of its bad apples and systemic problems.

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May 28, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 748

IRS Logo 2WND op-ed:  Dishonesty and Cowardice in High Places, by Ben Carson:

I have heard many people say that the level of dishonesty and corruption in our society is no worse today than it has been in the past. I have done a great deal of reading about American history, and I take issue with this assessment. I believe there has been a significant moral decline in our society based on the fact that many people now conclude that they themselves are the final arbiter of right and wrong. ...

The IRS scandal, in which a feared government agency was used to harass and persecute political enemies of the administration, should horrify any American who loves freedom and the principles for which our ancestors died. In a situation where government agencies are stonewalling the congressional investigating committees and in which pertinent emails conveniently disappeared, honest people on either side of the political spectrum should be willing to admit that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated under any circumstances and is a severe threat to our freedom and autonomy from the tethers of government intimidation. All of us should also remember that if one governmental department can escape responsibility for illegal actions by conveniently making emails disappear, others might be tempted to do the same. You have to wonder what kind of message this is sending to the next generations about honesty and integrity in the workplace and in life. Perhaps we are telling them that as long as you are slick and can cover up or redefine your transgressions, the truth doesn’t matter and you can still be very successful.

How can people be expected to work for the good of a society whose leadership cannot be trusted? How can our military with its proud history of selfless courage be expected to continue such a tradition when our leadership abandons them as they did in Benghazi and says it was too dangerous and too late to risk rescue efforts? Why would soldiers in the future take on heroic risks for a nation that would be willing to abandon them when the going gets tough? These kinds of dishonest and cowardly decisions will have deleterious effects on the future of our nation. When we sacrifice our principles for political expediency, we end up in a very bad place. We must teach our kids the benefits of honesty and integrity. The concept of a clear conscience is worthy of discussion once again. The ability to concentrate on what one is doing because you’re not constantly worried about skeletons in the closet is a topic worthy of in-depth conversation both for us and for the next generation.

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May 27, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 747

IRS Logo 2Politico, Chris Christie Wants the Media to Apologize:

Chris Christie says the media owes him an apology over the Bridgegate scandal. 

“I do believe there's an absolute bias and a rush to judgment. You all know this, you saw the coverage of me 15 months ago. I was guilty, I had done it,” Christie said on CNBC Thursday morning. “Now we're 15 months later, where are the apologies pouring in? Not one thing I said the day after the bridge situation has been proven wrong.”

Christie has not been implicated for any role in the closing of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September of 2013 which caused major traffic delays. Christie’s former high-school classmate and Port Authority official David Wildstein pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy counts related to the lane closures and prosecutors have also indicted fellow Christie allies Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.

On Thursday, Christie said the uproar over the lane closures was overblown and covered more than other stories like the IRS scandals or Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

“I think if you objectively looked at it you would say it was. At the time Bridgegate was outgunning, six or seven to one the IRS scandal,” Christie said.

Christie said that if he had come out in the days after the lane closures announcing that his emails were on a private server and he had deleted them, the reaction would have been much worse than the one Clinton has received.

“Can you imagine how the reaction would be? Yet today, we don't even talk about the email situation with Secretary Clinton it's as though it went away,” Christie said. ”Has there been coverage of the email situation with the secretary? Absolutely. But the intensity of the coverage and relentlessness of coverage is different.”

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May 26, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, May 25, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 746

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Hillary Clinton Should Head IRS, Skilled With Charities, Transparency, Emails!, by Robert W. Wood:

House Republicans formally asked the IRS to review whether the Clinton Foundation is complying with the rules governing its tax-exempt status. The letter was signed by Marsha Blackburn and 51 other House Republicans, and comes on the heels of a flurry of reports and speculation about the Foundation’s international fundraising. Blackburn asked the IRS to respond within 30 days.

But is the IRS going to take any action? It hardly seems likely. Besides, an IRS spokesman has already said that the IRS does not comment on individual tax cases. More broadly, there is no reason to believe that the IRS will probe much of anything. Lois Lerner ran the tax exempt organizations wing of the IRS, but she evidently focused on what she thought were bad conservative causes. The Clinton Foundation is a charity, but seems inextricably entwined with politics, State Department business personal emails, and speech-making. ...

To anyone with a thinner coating of Teflon, the subject would be embarrassing: donations by foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton resigned from the Foundation’s board after she announced her Presidential run. But upon becoming Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton promised that the Foundation would stop accepting donations from foreign governments. It turns out there were exceptions. It also turned out–another oops–that the Foundation’s IRS tax filings were less than transparent.

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May 25, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 745

IRS Logo 2New York Times, I.R.S. Seeks to Define Political Activity for Nonprofits:

The Internal Revenue Service could issue as early as next month new draft regulations governing political activity by tax-exempt organizations, according to a notice issued on Thursday. But it remains unlikely that the new rules would be in place before the 2016 election.

The effort comes as nonprofit organizations prepare to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on presidential and congressional races, much of it devoted to thinly disguised campaign ads that the organizations say are merely intended to raise awareness of policy issues.

Many wealthy donors, particularly on the conservative side, prefer giving to nonprofits rather than “super PACs,” because the former are not required to disclose the identities of donors. Roughly half of all the political advertising aired during last year’s midterm elections came from groups that keep their donors a secret.

The proposed rules would amount to a mulligan: The agency’s first effort, in 2013, drew widespread criticism from liberal and conservative groups. Some of the groups’ members said the draft encompassed too much activity, and some argued that the proposed limits would not go far enough.

Current regulations provide no clear test for what constitutes election activity or for how much of their revenue tax-exempt groups can spend to try to influence elections. ...

I.R.S. officials, still reeling from revelations that conservative tax-exempt groups were subjected to paperwork delays and overzealous investigation during the 2012 election cycle, are wary of appearing to try to shape the course of the coming campaign.

This year, John Koskinen, the I.R.S. commissioner, said that the agency’s timetable was uncertain and that “my only focus on 2016 is to make sure that whatever we do, it doesn’t look like we’re trying to influence the 2016 election.”

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May 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 744

IRS Logo 2Federal News Radio,  Why Koskinen Says the IRS Won't Cause Another Scandal:

The IRS has gotten rid of bad policies, created new ones and stepped up oversight since a political scandal thrust its tax-exempt group into the spotlight two years ago.  

recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration confirmed the agency had made significant progress since the watchdog office sounded the alarm in May 2013.

But going forward, it's the IRS' people, rather than its rules, who will keep the agency out of trouble, Commissioner John Koskinen said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

"Every employee should view themselves as a risk manager and if they see a problem--see something not going the way it ought to or not in the way we expected--then they should feel empowered to raise their hand and make sure somebody knows about that," he said. "I really do think that bad news is good news. As I tell employees, the only problem we can't fix — can't solve — is one that we don't know about." 

Since taking office in December 2013, Koskinen said he had met personally with 14,000 IRS employees to encourage them to speak up if they spy trouble. He acknowledged that employees worry about retribution from their supervisors.

"As I tell the employees, we don't shoot the messenger. We reward the messenger. It's important for them to feel comfortable with that," he said. "I've tried to reassure managers if there's a problem in their area and someone's made a mistake, then we're

While the new IG report lends credence to Koskinen's claims that the IRS has changed, conservatives remain wary. Since the IRS was accused of unfairly scrutinizing tea-party groups' applications for tax-exempt status, Republicans have led Congress in cutting the agency's budget dramatically.

Now Koskinen is asking for an 18-percent increase to restore the budget to a level he describes as steady and sustainable, but Republicans have described as "astronomical" and "massive".

"There's a lot of focus in the appropriations process on things that have happened in the past and I've tried to get them to understand that we have fixed those problems," he said. 

The IRS has cut convention spending by 80 percent. Koskinen personally authorizes any training or events that cost more than $20,000, he said. Expensive videos— a Star Trek parody had been a source of ridicule a few years ago — are relics of the past, he said. The agency now has a video review board. It also no longer offers performance awards to employees who have had past performance issues or problems with their taxes.

"It's a new day at the IRS in the context of most of the discussion people have had about prior problems," he said. "They need to understand we took those prior problems seriously and we fixed them."

But is that enough to convince Congress? 

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May 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, May 22, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 743

IRS Logo 2Government Executive, Advocacy Group: IRS' Problems 'Won't Be Cured by Removing Lois Lerner':

Following months of Freedom of Information Act requests, a team of conservative lawyers has sought to rewrite the narrative of the targeting controversy that has plagued the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

In a report leaked to National Review, the nonprofit legal group Cause of Action concluded that employees who mishandled applications for tax-exempt status were following the official agency manual as much as they were their allegedly politicized bosses. The unreleased 35-page report challenges the explanations for the mishandling of applications offered by the congressional Republicans, the White House and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. ...

Cause of Action’s 35-page report is said to conclude that the Internal Revenue Manual must be fundamentally reformed in order to prevent future targeting. “While there are certainly complex or new issues that would warrant or even require an employee to elevate the issue to a manager, the IRS’ desire to be portrayed in a positive light by the media is certainly not one of those issues.”

Reached by Government Executive, Cause of Action leader Daniel Epstein said his group’s “findings, to-date, indicate that the IRS has exercised discretion in ways that incentivize staff to engage in misinterpretations of the law and, in some cases, misconduct.  We believe congressional oversight is crucial on these and other IRS-related matters Cause of Action has examined and agree with the claims of many that a special counsel is appropriate.”

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May 22, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 742

IRS Logo 2American Center for Law and Justice, State Department Takes a Page from IRS Playbook on Clinton Emails:

Yesterday’s revelation that the State Department is processing (read: stonewalling) 50,000 emails from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but that none of those emails will be ready for public consumption until sometime in January 2016 is unsurprising. Those emails cover everything from the Benghazi disaster to numerous foreign policy failures.

The State Department is taking a page directly from the IRS’s playbook.

First, you destroy incriminating emails, but don’t tell anyone.  Former Top IRS official Lois Lerner and the IRS perfected this as thousands of her emails mysteriously disappeared.  Clinton played that part well, destroying emails on her own private server instead of using the government server, while State Department staffers blocked attempts by the public to obtain public information.

Second, you wait years until the public discovers what you done.

Third, you deny anything happened to the emails.

Fourth, you cover up.

When that is no longer feasible, you delay, stonewall, obfuscate, and otherwise drag out the process of turning over said emails.

The IRS has been doing this for years, giving excuse after excuse for why it cannot turn over Lois Lerner’s and other’s emails to congressional investigators and public watchdog groups alike.

More than two years into the IRS scandal, we still don’t have all of Lois Lerner’s emails.

The State Department is attempting the same ridiculous tactics with Hillary Clinton’s emails. ... If past is prologue, the State Department will find a way to further delay or cherry pick which emails it releases, as the IRS has successfully done.

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May 21, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 741

IRS Logo 2National Review, Conservative Group Uncovers New Roots of IRS Scandal:

A group of lawyers who have been investigating the origins of the IRS scandal for the past year-and-a-half say they’ve uncovered the real roots of the IRS scandal — and they’ll surprise both liberals and conservatives alike. The group, Cause of Action, which has subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from the agency and is still embroiled in litigation with it, says the targeting of conservative groups resulted as much from IRS personnel merely following the instructions laid out in their employee handbook, the Internal Revenue Manual, as from any political bias at the top.

When the scandal broke nearly two years ago, the IRS and the Obama administration pointed the finger at a few bad apples in the agency’s Cincinnati office. The agency’s inspector general blamed the inappropriate targeting of tea-party groups on the “ineffective management” of top bureaucrats. Many reporters, particularly on the right, including here at National Review, concluded that top D.C. official Lois Lerner and her colleagues in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations office had orchestrated events from the outset.

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, is a former attorney and investigator for the House Oversight Committee. He and his team, a group of 13 attorneys funded by the Koch brothers’ sprawling network of donors, say none of these stories fully explain what happened at the IRS between 2010 and 2014 and that, in fact, the targeting was baked in the cake. That is, the Internal Revenue Manual, the handbook by which IRS employees are required to abide, mandates the sort of scrutiny that delayed the processing of the applications of hundreds of conservative nonprofit organizations. Cause of Action has laid out its case in a confidential, 35-page memo obtained by National Review. They concluded that many of the IRS officials involved in the scandal were just following the rules. ...

Epstein’s team at Cause of Action is adamant that most of the IRS personnel involved in the scandal executed their duties properly. “Clearly, Jack Koester, John Shafer, and Cindy Thomas executed their employee obligations precisely,” their report says. “Indeed, in the course of merely two business days, the employees in the Exempt Organizations group accurately elevated this Tea Party issue as ‘newsworthy’ or having the ‘potential to become newsworthy.’”

The team’s conclusion: The Internal Revenue Manual must be fundamentally reformed in order to prevent future targeting. “While there are certainly complex or new issues that would warrant or even require an employee to elevate the issue to a manager, the IRS’s desire to be portrayed in a positive light by the media is certainly not one of those issues,” they say.

Tax-law experts agree. Craig Engle, the founder of the bipartisan political-law group at the Washington law firm Arent Fox, says that allowing IRS personnel, ultimately at the national level, to determine what issues are newsworthy creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. The Internal Revenue Manual as it stands now virtually “requires the national office to do something” about cases it deems newsworthy, Engle says. As a result, he says, the IRS “created a task for itself that it would be impossible to administer evenhandedly, let alone on a bipartisan basis. It’s no wonder they got caught.”

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May 20, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 740

IRS Logo 2The Federalist, The 5 Biggest Lies, Myths, And Debunked Claims Of The IRS Scandal:

Remember the Lois Lerner emails the Internal Revenue Service said were lost? Thousands of them were just uncovered, and according to one investigator, they were “right where you would expect them to be.” It was just the latest iteration of a recurring trend in the IRS targeting scandal: investigators debunking attempts by the agency and its apologists to excuse, downplay, or cover up IRS’s abuse of conservative and tea-party groups.

Two years after it was first publicly exposed, here are the five biggest lies, myths, and debunked claims about the IRS scandal.

  1. There Is ‘Absolutely No Targeting’ Program
  2. Agents in Cincinnati Were to Blame
  3. The IRS’s Actions Were Politically Neutral
  4. The IRS Proposed New Rules to Solve the Problem
  5. The E-mails Were Lost

Either through ignorance or dishonesty, the IRS and its defenders have consistently misrepresented the facts of the scandal. Two years after the public was first outraged, it’s clearer than ever that the IRS cannot be trusted to play the role of speech cop.

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May 19, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 18, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 739

IRS Logo 2Fox News, GOP Has Waited Two Years for Info on IRS Correspondence with Dem Senators:

Washington Republicans said this week that their requests to the IRS for correspondences between the agency and congressional Democrats remain unfulfilled after two years, raising questions about whether the Obama administration is trying to withhold information for a third-straight election cycle.

“Instead of holding the IRS accountable, Democrats are trying to cover-up their involvement in the IRS targeting scandal,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said Friday.

The group, which focuses on getting Republicans elected and reelected to the Senate, provided documents earlier this week showing 10 letters in which the IRS has asked for more time to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests since May 21, 2013.

"On January 14, 2015, I asked for more time to obtain the records you requested,” IRS tax law specialist Denise Higley wrote NRSC lawyer Megan Sowards on April 29. “I am still working on your request and need additional time.” Higley also said she would contact the NRSC by July 6 if she needs more time. ...

Republicans and others have also speculated about whether the administration is stalling on providing information until Obama retires from office after the November 2016 elections.

Thursday will mark the second anniversary of the requests.

The agency could not be reached Saturday for additional comment.

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May 18, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 738

IRS Logo 2Brookings Institution, Lois Lerner Shows the GOP Why It Should Invest in Government:

Republicans in Congress have held up Lois Lerner as the embodiment of everything they despise about government. As a member of the agency that administers the tax side of “tax and spend liberalism” GOP legislators have accused Lerner of politicizing IRS inquiries in order to target conservative political groups. Claims of partisan behavior followed by an array of missing emails made political waves that the GOP hoped would drown its most disliked federal agency in a sea of scandal.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the political theater: congressional Republicans showed why it is important to spend money and invest in government. In fact, while the IRS scandal put the Treasury Department at the center of congressional criticism, it is another division of Treasury that has swooped in to save the day, and the GOP owes it a debt of gratitude. The foil in this political drama is a little known institution: the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or TIGTA. ...

As the IRS scandal and the investigation around Lois Lerner’s behavior intensified, congressional efforts were ultimately stymied by an IRS claim that thousands of Lerner’s emails had been lost—and were unrecoverable. The lost emails frustrated congressional investigators and led to charges of “cover up” and “corruption.” And frankly, those accusations were not misplaced. Any party investigating the actions of the other, faced with the same set of facts and circumstances would have cried foul just as loudly.

Imagine for a moment if an investigation into political targeting in the Bush administration (a la its mid-2000s GSA scandal) resulted in a claim that emails were lost, but that those emails contained nothing incriminating anyways. Would Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have simply responded, “phew, glad that’s resolved”? Absolutely not. Such claims would have simply intensified Democrats’ resolve to get to find the truth.

Back to present day: the Lerner emails were lost; congressional investigators could not find them. The IRS, charged with looking into the matter, could not find the emails either. Enter TIGTA. As the IRS’ watchdog, fighting against mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse, it began an investigation of its own. As part of its investigation, TIGTA found the “lost” emails—thousands of them—and turned them over to both IRS officials and Congress to aid in the Lerner investigation. These emails that the IRS believed would be vindicating and Congress thought would be the smoking gun in a political scandal were found. And all of that came as a result of the hard work of an inspector general charged with overseeing IRS.  ...

As unpalatable as the Lerner case is to congressional Republicans, they should be delighted by the actions of TIGTA and other OIGs across government who perform their jobs in a highly effective, cost-saving way. Rather than cutting budgets in these offices, Congress should consider boosting inspectors’ general budgets in an effort to make government work better. As we noted in our paper, not only can cutting budgets raise deficits, but often leads to government becoming more dysfunctional. If Congress is serious about stopping future scandals like the one surrounding IRS, the solution is not to exact punishment on budgets of the Treasury Department. The solution might be to give Treasury a raise. 

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May 17, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 737

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  How Congress Botched the IRS Probe, by Cleta Mitchell (Foley & Lardner, Washington, D.C.):

Two years ago this week, a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Information confirmed what hundreds of tea party, conservative, pro-life and pro-Israel organizations had long known: The Internal Revenue Service had stopped processing their applications for exempt status and subjected them to onerous, intrusive and discriminatory practices because of their political views.

Since the report, additional congressional investigations have revealed a lot about IRS dysfunction—and worse. But they’ve also revealed Congress’s inability to exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities of this and other executive agencies. ...

Lying to Congress is a felony. But the Obama Justice Department has not lifted a finger to prosecute anyone responsible for the IRS scandal, including top brass who repeatedly gave false testimony to Congress.

Neither has Congress done much about being lied to by the IRS. Mr. Issa’s oversight committee first subpoenaed Lois Lerner’s emails in August 2013, then issued another subpoena in February 2014. The committee conducted a hearing on the subject in March 2014, during which Mr. Koskinen testified that, finally, the IRS would produce the Lerner emails. However, as he testified in June 2014, the agency didn’t even begin to look for her emails until February 2014. Why didn’t the House seek to enforce its first subpoena when the IRS failed to respond in the fall of 2013?

Congressional oversight has devolved into a series of show hearings after which nothing happens. No one gets fired for lying. No changes are made in the functioning of the agencies. No programs are defunded. Congress issues subpoenas that are ignored, contempt citations that aren't enforced, criminal referrals that go into Justice Department wastebaskets.

If it is to function as a coequal branch of government, Congress should establish—either through the rules of each House, or by legislation, that it has standing to independently enforce a congressional subpoena through the federal courts. Congress also should use its purse strings to change specific behavior in federal agencies. Rather than across-the-board reductions, Congress should zero out specific departments and programs as agency misconduct is uncovered. It is the only way to stop the executive branch from running roughshod over the American people.

This will be a difficult challenge as long as partisans in both houses of Congress see their role as political gatekeepers who must protect executive agencies when a president of their own party is in the White House. Congressional Democrats have done all in their power to thwart the IRS investigation, arguing with Republicans at hearings and engaging behind-the-scenes with the IRS to undermine the inquiry.

Yet it is a challenge that cannot be shirked. Congress needs to relearn how to flex serious legislative muscle to guard against future executive abuses like those from the IRS.

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May 16, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 15, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 736

IRS Logo 2Fox News, House Members Push for IRS Clinton Probe:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is circulating a letter among her colleagues asking IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to review the tax-exempt status of the Clinton Foundation. In the letter, a draft of which was obtained by Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel, Blackburn says, “recent media reports have revealed that the Foundation failed to report millions of dollars in grants from foreign governments that it accepted while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and that it facilitated private business transactions between foreign entities” and as such, “given the substantial public interest involved, we feel a prompt review of the Foundation’s tax-exempt status is appropriate to determine whether it is acting within the scope of its charitable mission.”

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May 15, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 735

IRS Logo 2Forbes, California Attorney General Can Demand Full IRS Forms From Charity, by Peter J. Reilly:

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in the case of the Center For Competetive Politics v Kamal D. Haris (Attorney General of California) is almost two weeks old and has been covered in other places, so I almost invoked my “You snooze, you lose” rule against myself, but I think I may have something to add. It concerns a fairly obscure issue, but the case does have a loose connection to the interminable IRS scandal (On Day 733 by TaxProf count as I write this).

The Center For Competetive Politics according to its 2013 Form 990 is dedicated to the “Preservation of the First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition”. The appointment of the Center’s Chairman, Bradley A. Smith, to the Federal Election Commission was controversial given his vigorous opposition to campaign finance regulation. I guess it kind of looked like putting Daniel Berrigan on the Joint Chiefs of Staff or having Irwin Schiff head up the IRS. The Center received over $1.7 million in contributions and grants in 2013. 

As a 501(c)(3) organization CCP has to tell the IRS who its major donors are. This is done with Schedule B which is attached to the Form 990. Schedule B is not subject to public inspection, so you don’t get to see it on guidestar.org. Many states require charities to attach Form 990 to state filings. The instruction to Form 990 caution charities about not including the schedule of contributors in filings with states that do not ask for it, since they might inadvertently make the donor information publically available. 

It appears that CCP relies very much on a few large donors. The 2013 Form 990 on guidestar.org does not even include a redacted Schedule B, but if you go to the California Attorney General site, there is a Form 990 including a redacted Schedule B for 2011 that shows that of the $1.8 million raised in 2011 over $500,000 came from a single donor. Over $800,000 came from just seven donors who gave between $85,000 and $211,250.

The IRS knows who those seven donors are, but they are not going to tell us. The California Attorney General would also like to know who those donors are, without making them public. So the AG is requiring that CCP provided an unredacted copy of Schedule B. CCP does not want to do that . The Ninth Circuit just told them that they have to.

There were two arguments that CCP made. The first was that the disclosure requirement is injurious to the Center and its supporters’ exercise of their First Amendment rights. They referred to a “chilling risk”. So you feel OK giving money to CCP even thought Lois Lerner’s minions know who you are, but you draw the line when it comes to the California AG. The Court indicated that that sort of concern was subject to “exacting scrutiny” under which the government’s interest in obtainging the information must be weighed against actual damage to First Amendment rights. ...

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May 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 734

IRS Logo 2Forbes, IRS Not Grossly Negligent In Disclosure Of Exempt Application, by Peter J. Reilly:

The order from the United States District Court of Colorado in the ongoing lawsuit Citizens Awareness Project Inc versus Internal Revenue Service is giving me flashbacks.  The case relates to one of the aspects of the perennial, interminable IRS scandal, on Day 732 by TaxProf count as I write this. The lawsuit is in reaction to the improper release of tax-exempt applications to ProPublica.  That story showed up on Day 5 (May 14, 2013) as ProPublica joined in piling on the IRS with a story titled IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups.  The story actually went back to December 2012. ...

As I looked into the background a bit, it struck me that Citizens Awareness Project could well be a great example of what was upsetting Lois Lerner so much – i.e. dark money using 501(c)(4) to game campaign financing disclosure.

The IRS is not contesting that it screwed up when it released a copy of CAP’s Form 1024.  ProPublica had requested the applications of 67 organizations.  They were organizations that had reported substantial expenditures to the FEC.  On October 16, 2012 CAP reported paying Stephen Clouse & Associates  $993,916.79 for printing, production and postage in opposition to Barrack Obama. The expenditure caught a little coverage with this piece titled Mystery group spends $1 million opposing Obama. ...

The IRS admitted that it was wrong to have released CAP’s 1024 that was still in process, so presumably, it would have cut the organization a check for a grand without a lawsuit.  If the actual damages don’t break $1,000, then presumably CAP does not get to recover the costs of the action, which I suspect are a bit more than the potential claim for actual damages of $4,819.78 that the Court still sees as being in play. ...

Sophia Brown was the IRS employee charged with responding to ProPublica’s request.  Apparently she failed to check whether CAP’s Form 1024 had been ruled on yet.  Since it had not been ruled on, it should not have been released. The Court did not see any gross negligence here.

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May 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 733

IRS Logo 2Power Line, Corruption from the IRS to the DOJ:

The pro-Israel group Z Street had its application for tax-exempt status held up at the IRS. When founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus asked why, she was told that IRS auditors had been instructed to give pro-Israel groups special attention and that Z Street’s application had been forwarded to a special IRS unit for additional review. Not to put too fine a point on the legal issues, this isn’t kosher. It’s illegal.

Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS in the rosy dawn of the Age of Obama; the lawsuit has yet to get beyond the IRS’s motion for dismissal. The Free Beacon’s Alana Goodman wrote about the lawsuit here last year when the DC District Court denied the IRS motion to dismiss the case. Z Street’s Lori Marcus wrote about it here. John wrote about it in 2013 in the post The Other IRS Scandal.

The legal positions asserted by the IRS are ludicrous. Indeed, they are a pretext to precluded discovery until the chief malefactors serving at the pleasure of President Obama have moved on. It is a sidebar to the political corruption of the IRS that remains one of the great untold stories of the Age of Obama. (Sharyl Attkisson doesn’t cover the IRS scandal, but to understand the Obama playbook for handling it, as I explain in The Attkisson file.)

The IRS appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week a panel of three DC Circuit judges heard the IRS appeal. The hearing did not go well for the IRS. Indeed, it was an exercise in righteous humiliation of the Department of Justice. The DoJ has asserted ludicrous defenses to gum up the lawsuit and preclude discovery. ...

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the hearing before the DC Circuit in the reported editorial The IRS Goes to Court.

The Journal editorial concludes:

Poor Ms. McLaughlin was sent to argue the indefensible so the IRS can delay discovery until the waning days of the Obama Administration. “If I were you, I would go back and ask your superiors whether they want us to represent that the government’s position in this case is that the government is free to unconstitutionally discriminate against its citizens for 270 days,” said Judge Garland.

Ms. McLaughlin replied, “Well, I will take that back.” The Beltway media may be bored, but the IRS scandal is a long way from over.

Judge Garland’s query seeks to send a message to higher powers at the Department of Justice. The IRS scandal is a long way from over, and, as one can see here, it extends well beyond the IRS. It would be nice if someone outside the walls of the Wall Street Journal took notice.

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May 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 11, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 732

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Two Years Later, IRS Probes Drag On:

Exactly two years after the IRS first admitted improperly scrutinizing Tea Party groups, congressional investigations into the tax agency show no sign of drawing to a close anytime soon.

Congressional Republicans say they are deeply irritated that they haven’t finished off the investigations launched after Lois Lerner apologized for the IRS on May 10, 2013, and insist that President Obama’s Justice Department has stonewalled their efforts.

Top lawmakers like Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) note that they’ve only just received thousands of emails to and from Lerner that the IRS said were unrecoverable close to a year ago.

Hatch recently said he hoped a bipartisan Finance report, which members once thought could be released more than a year ago, could come out by the end of June. But congressional investigators maintain that they'll need to make sure they have a fuller accounting of Lerner's email trail before any reports are circulated.

Asked about the repeated delays, Hatch said simply: “Every time we turn around we get more emails.”

Congressional committees have received about 5,000 of the roughly 6,400 newly recovered Lerner emails they expect from Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, a GOP aide said Friday. The aide said that there appears to be little new in the emails, and that the inspector general is expected to issue a broader report on the emails in the coming weeks.

Hatch is far from the only GOP lawmakers fuming about the status of the IRS investigation.

“That’s so egregious, for the tax collection agency of the United States to be in that kind of shape,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). “They have nobody to blame but themselves. I’d just like to see some accountability, you know?”

But even some Republicans acknowledge that the IRS controversy wasn’t quite the slam dunk case they thought it was two years ago, and House Republicans at least have seemed to put more emphasis on their investigation into the Benghazi attacks over the last year.

Still, Republicans aren't the only group frustrated by the IRS investigations – underscoring that the partisan divisions marking the inquiries aren’t going away, and that controversy will linger long after any reports are issued.

Tea Party groups say some organizations are still facing delays from the IRS, and that they believe Lerner and other agency officials are getting off easy.

“It's clear the IRS would like this scandal to disappear,” Jordan Sekulow, whose American Center for Law and Justice represents dozens of groups challenging the IRS in court, said recently.

Congressional Democrats, though, say that two years’ worth of investigations, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, have found what they long suspected – that the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups was caused not by political bias, but by bureaucratic mismanagement. ...

And while Republicans don’t want to speculate on when their IRS efforts might come to a close, Roskam dropped some hints that their interest in both the agency and Lerner won’t fade anytime soon.

“The statute of limitations doesn’t lapse until after the new administration comes in, so you could very easily see a newly constituted Justice Department having a new attitude about Lerner,” Roskam said.

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May 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 731

IRS Logo 2National Review, America’s Politicized Tax Enforcement Is a Harbinger of Decline, by Victor Davis Hanson (Stanford University, Hoover Institution):

Why did Rome and Byzantium fall apart after centuries of success? What causes civilizations to collapse, from a dysfunctional fourth-century-B.C. Athens to contemporary bankrupt Greece?

The answer is usually not enemies at the gates, but the pathologies inside them.

What ruins societies is well known: too much consumption and not enough production, a debased currency, and endemic corruption.

Americans currently deal with all those symptoms. But two more fundamental causes for decline are even more frightening: an unwillingness to pay taxes and the end of the rule of law. ...

The Clinton Foundation is expected to refile its tax returns for 2010, 2011, and 2012 after failing to separate government grants from donations. If an average citizen tried to amend his taxes for such huge sums and from that long ago, he would probably be under indictment. News reports of undocumented donations from foreign governments caught the foundation underreporting its income. The well-connected Clinton clan apparently had assumed that their political status ensured them immunity. ...

Who will police the tax police?

Former IRS official Lois Lerner and her subordinates were found to have targeted conservative nonprofit groups for excessive federal scrutiny. While testifying before Congress, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and investigators later found that two years of her e-mails had gone missing in a mysterious computer crash. Lerner has not been charged. ...

Our laws are becoming as politicized as our tax system. ...  In the last six years, the enforcement of federal laws has depended on their apparent political utility.  ... Increasingly in the United States, the degree to which a law is enforced — or whether a person is indicted — depends on political considerations. But when citizens do not pay any income taxes, or choose not to pay taxes that they owe and expect impunity, a complex society unwinds.

And when the law has becomes negotiable, civilization utterly collapses.

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May 10, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Two Years And Counting

IRS Logo 2The American Spectator, Making Sense of the IRS Scandal: Is Sympathy for the Devil Still Possible?:

Two years ago this month, former IRS official Lois Lerner revealed that the agency had discriminated against scores of right-leaning nonprofits on the basis of their political beliefs. The public called for accountability and got something vaguely resembling it in the form of resignations, investigations, and congressional debates. But despite the flurry of activity, the underlying issues that contributed to the IRS scandal remain unresolved, and the agency is still firmly embroiled in the messy business of policing political speech.

It’s enough to make one wonder: two years later, have things really changed? Or could it happen again?

Starting in 2010, IRS agents were instructed to apply extra scrutiny to applications for nonprofit status from conservative and tea-party organizations, culminating in those applications being sent to a special office where they were subjected to lengthy delays and invasive questioning. This was the agency’s inept response to the Citizens United decision, which freed all organizations to speak about elections, so long as they do so independently of candidates and parties. Critics of the decision, including several U.S. Senators, pressured the IRS to do anything in its power to stop groups from exercising their newfound freedom. Lerner herself remarked to a Duke University panel that “everybody is screaming at [the IRS] right now.”

But the IRS is a revenue collection agency, not a campaign finance regulator, so it was hopelessly ill-equipped for the task. It failed to treat groups equally or fairly, instead singling out conservative and tea party groups for an incredible level of scrutiny. The IRS demanded the personal information of groups’ supporters, copies of minutes from board meetings, résumés of current and former individuals involved with the organization, and even past intern history, copies of social media postings, and print outs of every page of an organization’s website.

President Obama called the IRS’s conduct “outrageous” and promised “I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened.” Lerner and IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller resigned, countless congressional hearings were held to rail against the violation of taxpayers’ First Amendment rights, and multiple investigations — some of which are still ongoing — commenced to shed bits of light on the matter. ...

Lois Lerner may be gone, but the IRS is still threating to infringe upon First Amendment rights. In the same vein, a new TIGTA report issued on April 30 praised the IRS for reducing its backload of applications and making some changes to its screening process, such as standardizing the questions asked of groups, but noted that the IRS still “does not have a clearly defined test for determining whether an organization’s request for exemption as a social welfare organization should be approved.”

Things might be a little better, but they’re still not good, and there’s nothing to stop the IRS from deciding to target groups again in the future. The failure to secure the rights of nonprofits in the aftermath of the scandal is a sobering reminder that passion for accountability is not enough. We also have to be wise, and address policy problems where they exist instead of merely searching for individuals to blame.

Disputes over the language of the 501(c)(4) statute, combined with a lack of clear guidance from the Federal Election Commission and gridlock in Congress, left the IRS to regulate in an area where it lacked sufficient expertise to act responsibly. The IRS deserves more than its fair share of rebuke for targeting groups with views it didn’t like, for being dishonest about its activities, and for responding to criticism by proposing even more restrictive regulations. But whether its errors were committed in good faith or not, whether they were catastrophic or mere blunders, the IRS simply should never have been put in position to make them.

As the agency works on its new proposal, it should rely on the feedback it received last time. That means recognizing that nonprofit advocacy groups have a valuable role to play in civic life, protecting that role, and clarifying the rules so that small and volunteer-run organizations can be assured their activities are legal and their supporters’ private information is secure.

That’s the best we can hope for, but it shouldn’t be up to the IRS to make these decisions. That job belongs to Congress. Clarifying the language of the 501(c)(4) statute to explicitly protect the political speech of nonprofit groups would finally chart a path forward out of this regulatory morass. It would be a blessing both to nonprofit groups and the IRS.

On the two-year anniversary of revelations of the IRS scandal, perhaps it is time to leave behind the search for a villain and instead solve the problem. Until advocacy nonprofits have their First Amendment rights secured, the threat of future targeting lingers, no matter who is in charge

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May 9, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 8, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 729

IRS Logo 2Orange County Register editorial, Emails Keep IRS Scandal Probe Afloat:

John Koskinen has some ’splaining to do. Last June, Mr. Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, told Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and ranking member Orrin Hatch that a computer malfunction somehow zapped thousands of emails to and from Lois Lerner, the scandalized IRS official whose office targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status.

Last week, those potentially incriminating emails were recovered – not because Mr. Koskinen was determined to get to the bottom of the IRS targeting scandal, but because of the diligence of J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Mr. George is in the process of turning over some 6,400 emails to the Senate Finance Committee, which last year tasked the inspector general’s office with figuring out what emails had been lost, if someone at IRS intentionally destroyed them and if the emails could possibly be retrieved.

That seemed to us at the time a project Mr. Koskinen’s staff could have undertaken. Instead, it appeared that Mr. Koskinen – and, perhaps, Obama administration officials further up the food chain – were hoping the scandal would just fade away.

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May 8, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 728

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, The IRS Goes to Court:

The agency suggests it can discriminate for 270 days. Judges gasp.

It isn’t every day that judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declare themselves “shocked.” But that happened on Monday when an animated three-judge panel eviscerated the IRS and Justice Department during oral argument in a case alleging the agency delayed the tax-exempt application of a pro-Israel group due to its policy views.

In December 2009, Pennsylvania-based Z Street applied for 501(c)(3) status to pursue its pro-Israel educational mission. In July 2010, when the group called to check on what was taking so long, an IRS agent said that auditors had been instructed to give special attention to groups connected with Israel, and that they had sent some of those applications to a special IRS unit for additional review.

Z Street sued the IRS for viewpoint discrimination (Z Street v. Koskinen), and in May 2014 a federal district judge rejected the IRS’s motion to dismiss. The IRS appealed, a maneuver that halted discovery that could prove to be highly embarrassing. Justice says Z Street’s case should be dismissed because the Anti-Injunction Act bars litigation about “the assessment or collection of tax.” Problem is, Z Street isn’t suing for its tax-exempt status. It’s suing on grounds that the IRS can’t discriminate based on point of view.

The three judges—Chief Judge Merrick Garland,David Tatel and David Sentelle—were incredulous. You say they want a tax exemption, but that’s not the complaint, Judge Sentelle admonished government lawyer Teresa McLaughlin: “They are not in court seeking to restrain the assessment or collection of a tax, they are in court seeking a constitutionally fair process.”

The suit should also be foreclosed, the government argued, because under Section 7428(b)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code groups may sue to obtain their tax-exempt status if no action has been taken for 270 days, and that should be an alternative to Z Street’s approach.

“You don’t really mean that, right? Because the next couple words would be the IRS is free to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, religion, race [for 270 days]. You don’t actually think that?” Judge Garland said. “Imagine the IRS announces today a policy that says as follows: No application by a Jewish group or an African-American group will be considered until one day short of the period under the statute . . . Is it your view that that cannot be challenged?”

The judges also asked why the government had buried the key precedent in a footnote in its brief. In Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, the Supreme Court decided that the language of the Anti-Injunction Act did not preclude cases like Z Street’s. In a previous case before the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland noted, the court also “rejected” the exact arguments the government was making, “so in a way we have already decided every issue before us today, against you.” ...

The Beltway media may be bored, but the IRS scandal is a long way from over.

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May 7, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 727

IRS Logo 2Fox News op-ed:  IRS Scandal: I Was Targeted and I've Got Proof it Was a Democratically-led Conspiracy, by Wayne Allyn Root:

I was targeted by the IRS in a coordinated attack at the highest levels of government...and we now have the proof.

My IRS files, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, clearly implicate the IRS and a Democratic U.S. senator.

Per Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch: 

“The Obama IRS obstructed the release of Wayne Root’s tax documents. The abuse of process Judicial Watch and Wayne suffered through to get these documents is scandalous. Now we know why the Obama IRS was hesitant to give Wayne his own IRS files. These documents show the Obama IRS scandal was more than just suppressing the Tea Party, it was also about auditing critics of President Obama. Richard Nixon had to resign from office for less. The first order of business for AG Loretta Lynch should be to appoint a special counsel who can convene a grand jury to look into the Obama IRS outrages.”

As you’ll read below, the fingerprints of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are all over my case. Until now, no one could prove the IRS was using politics as a basis for vicious attacks against critics of the president. That just changed.

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May 6, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 726

IRS Logo 2Press Release, Judicial Watch Files FOIA Lawsuit on Behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom on IRS Investigations into Churches and Religious Groups:

Alleges Internal Revenue Service is “unlawfully withholding records”

Judicial Watch announced it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to obtain the release of documents regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) recent decision, following a lawsuit by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, to reevaluate criteria for determining whether churches and other nonprofit organizations can claim tax-exempt status. The IRS also suggested that it may initiate investigations into church activities (Alliance Defending Freedom v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00525)). Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the IRS failed to comply with ADF’s July 22, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking release of the following documents:

  1. All documents related to any existing, proposed, new, or adopted procedures for church tax inquiries or examinations from January 2009 to the present.
  2. All documents related to proposed or adopted changes to Treasury Regulations §301.7611-1 from January 2009 to the present.
  3. All documents related to new IRS policies or procedures referenced in FFRF’s July 17, 2014 press release.

ADF filed the FOIA request after an announcement by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) that, in settling a FFRF lawsuit, the IRS had promised to begin looking into specific churches and other groups for potential violations of tax law, and to reevaluate IRS’ criteria for when such evaluations should be executed.

The IRS stalled the release of records for months, most recently promising to produce records by March 31, 2015.

Judicial Watch’s filing states:

As of the date of this complaint, Defendant has failed to: (i) determine whether to comply with the request; (ii) notify Plaintiff of any such determination or the reasons therefor; (iii) advise Plaintiff of the right to appeal any adverse determination; and/or (iv) produce the requested records or otherwise demonstrate that the requested records are exempt from production.

Judicial Watch separately sued for documents about this alleged IRS abuse last year.

In 2012, the FFRF filed a lawsuit alleging that the IRS had routinely ignored its complaints about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. In its complaint, FFRF alleged that 1,500 clergy members violated electioneering restrictions on Sunday, October 7, 2012. The atheist group has specifically cited church teachings against abortion and same-sex marriage as being in violation of the law. It also cited what it termed “blatantly political” full-page ads running in the three Sundays leading up to the presidential elections by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. But the FFRF abruptly dismissed its IRS lawsuit after a church, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, intervened in the lawsuit to challenge the IRS’s alleged authority to “revoke a house of worship’s tax-exempt status, and levy fines against churches and individual leaders, when religious leaders are deemed to say things that the IRS does not allow.” Alliance Defending Freedom and other religious rights organizations have challenged directly the notion that the federal government can restrict the speech of pastors.

In July 2014, the IRS announced that, according to the terms of an agreement reached with the FFRF, it had been monitoring churches and other houses of worship for electioneering and other political activity. According to June 27, 2014, IRS letter to the Justice Department, the IRS has targeted 99 churches it said merited “high priority examination” for allegedly illegal electioneering activities. This church-targeting was determined by an IRS “Political Activities Referral Committee.”

The Wisconsin-based FFRF, which describes itself as “an effective state/church watchdog and voice for … atheism, agnosticism, skepticism,” trumpets the IRS agreement at issue as an “IRS Victory!” on its website homepage. Another victory touted on the atheist group’s homepage is a purported success entitled, “FFRF erases bible quotes from Mo. school’s whiteboard.”

“The IRS has no business threatening churches on behalf of the anti-religious crusaders at Freedom from Religion Foundation,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The IRS must come clean, be accountable to the American people, and reveal the details of the secret deal it cut with the atheist group. The IRS pattern of unlawfully using its power to target and punish ideological opponents and hiding information that Americans have a right to know must end immediately.”

“It is an honor for Judicial Watch to represent Alliance Defending Freedom, which is so effective as a protector of the First Amendment, which recognizes the truth of God-given rights of Americans to both freely exercise their religion and participate in politics,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS is using a lot of energy to cover-up details of its illicit targeting of churches. Violating FOIA law comes at great taxpayer expense.”

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May 5, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 725

IRS Logo 2Robert W. Wood (Forbes), IRS Approved Clinton Foundation And Scientology, But Targeted Tea Party:

Will there be an IRS investigation of the Clinton Foundation? Even suggesting it sounds laughable, for few can stand up to the Clintons, let alone to a Democratic administration. Besides, the IRS Exempt Organizations Division used to be run by Lois Lerner, and it isn’t clear how much has changed. In fact, we may never get to the bottom of the Tea Party targeting scandal. It almost looks as though the IRS will attack conservative groups but is silent on the Clinton Foundation. Heck, even Scientology got its IRS church status.

When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS targeted conservative groups, the IRS Commissioner had to resign, but that was about it. Lois Lerner was at the center of the scandal but didn’t suffer any consequences. In fact, she got $129,000 in cash bonuses and retired with a full government pension. She evidently did a good job targeting at the Federal Election Commission, and then she moved over seamlessly to the IRS to do the same. Ms. Lerner is now out of the prosecutor’s eye with no criminal charges, nice bonuses, and a nice retirement. When she broke her silence to Politico, she said she did nothing wrong, claiming that she was the victim.

Given Mrs. Clinton’s email proclivities,Mrs. Clinton’s emails are even harder to find than Lois Lerner’s. And the Treasury Inspector General has just found 6,400 missing Lois Lerner emails. We surely will not see the IRS looking at the enormously wealthy Clinton Foundation, even though several watchdog groups suggest there’s something fishy there. First is the politics, since the tracking of who gives money and who needs something from Hillary’s State Department tracks closely.

In fact, a whopping 181 donors lobbied the State Department while Mrs. Clinton was there. Coincidence? Even apart from the political pay-for-play fears we may have, just look at the numbers. Charity Navigator says that the Clinton Foundation took in nearly $140 million in donations from individuals and groups. Boy, that must do a lot of good works, right?

Not so fast. It turns out that only approximately $9 million was paid out in direct aid. More than $130 million went to so-called ‘administrative and other expenses.’ Even if that is entirely on the up and up, it sure looks bad. If Clinton family members or friends end up with much of it, there could be a private inurement problem. Charities are supposed to benefit charitable goals, not line private pockets. ...

Perhaps there are undeleted emails about this on that private email server. The Foundation downplays the errors, noting that the money was included in the overall revenue figures reported to the IRS. Maybe, but the amendments are awkward, highlighting the Foundation’s continued receipt of foreign money while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Besides, sometimes the IRS views amended tax returns as too little, too late. Lucky for Mrs. Clinton, as President Obama told Fox News, there is ’not even a smidgen of corruption’ at the IRS.

Even thinking the best of all of this, the Clinton Foundation’s administrative costs seem awfully high. Of course, we now know that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation will be amending multiple years of tax returns. Upon becoming Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton promised that the Foundation would stop accepting donations from foreign governments. It turns out there were exceptions, and that the Foundation’s tax filings with the IRS were less than transparent.

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May 4, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 724

IRS Logo 2Robert W. Wood (Forbes), IRS $20 Million Response To Latest Pile of Lois Lerner Emails Is Worrisome:

Lois Lerner’s latest lost and found hoard of 6,400 newly discovered emails may end up not showing much. The IRS didn’t find them. A watchdog did. Maybe they will underscore the targeting and Ms. Lerner’s political chops honed at the Federal Election Commission. But at least the Treasury Inspector General found the 6,400 additional emails. A little more than 10% (650) are tied to 2010 and 2011. The rest date to 2012.

But the IRS statement in response to this latest revelation is, well, a little disturbing:

We welcome the Inspector General’s recovery of these Lois Lerner emails. This is an encouraging development that will help resolve remaining questions and dispel uncertainty surrounding the emails.

The IRS has been committed to cooperating fully with the investigations. We understand that, during the course of the past 10 months, the Inspector General found about 650 emails from the period affected by the hard-drive crash. It’s important to note that last summer, the IRS produced 24,000 emails from that period.

The IRS will continue to cooperate with the Inspector General and the congressional committees to complete work in this area, and we look forward to the results to determine what additional steps the IRS can take to ensure that we continue to improve our processes.

It’s important to note that the IRS has produced to Congress more than 1.3 million pages of documents related to the investigation, including more than 147,000 emails. Total estimated cost of just the IRS portion is at least $20 million.

The IRS has not exactly seamlessly cooperated, and Mr. Koskinen who runs the IRS has had a prickly relationship with investigators and with Congress. He has sometimes appeared to be annoyed that he is being asked any questions at all. Of course, the IRS said in 2014 (a little late?) that Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011.

Oops, no one’s fault that we lost a few years worth of emails. We kept being reminded how hard the IRS looked and how terribly expensive it was that the IRS had to do this. Yet the inspector general found about 35,000 emails from recycled back-up tapes. It then turned out that the key IRS IT people weren’t even asked to look at back up tapes. Isn’t this a little insulting? ...

A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the committee hopes the new emails will bring the panel closer to releasing the findings of its IRS investigation. Wouldn’t some answers be nice?

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May 3, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 723

Friday, May 1, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 722

IRS Logo 2Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Status of Actions Taken to Improve the Processing of Tax‑Exempt Applications Involving Political Campaign Intervention:

In a prior audit, TIGTA found that ineffective management resulted in 1) inappropriate criteria being used to identify for review organizations applying for tax-exempt status based on names and policy positions instead of indications of political campaign intervention, 2) substantially delayed processing of certain applications, and 3) unnecessary information requests being issued.  Recommendations from the prior audit were made to help ensure that applications for tax-exempt status are processed in a fair, impartial, and timely manner.

The overall objective of this audit was to assess the IRS’s actions in response to TIGTA’s recommendations to improve the identification and processing of applications for tax-exempt status involving political campaign intervention.

The IRS has taken significant actions to eliminate the selection of potential political cases based on names and policy positions, expedite processing of Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) Section (§) 501(c)(4) social welfare organization applications, and eliminate unnecessary information requests. 

First, the IRS eliminated the use of Be On the Look Out (BOLO) listings, which TIGTA determined had contained inappropriate criteria regarding political advocacy cases.  TIGTA conducted interviews with a random sample of employees, who confirmed that BOLOs or similar listings were no longer being used.

Second, the Exempt Organizations function completed processing for 149 of the 160 applications for tax-exempt status that, as of December 2012, had been open for lengthy periods.  To expedite processing of I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) social welfare applications, the IRS developed an optional expedited self-certification process.  This expedited process is not available to other types of organizations, e.g., labor organizations and business leagues, with similar political campaign intervention limitations. 

Third, the IRS has developed preapproved questions and has instituted a quality review process to provide better assurance that unnecessary information requests are not sent to applicants. 

The Department of the Treasury is revising draft guidance to address how to measure the “primary activity” of social welfare organizations.  Until this guidance is finalized, the IRS does not have a clearly defined test for determining whether an organization’s request for exemption as a social welfare organization should be approved.  As a result, for those applicants not choosing the optional expedited process, the IRS continues to use a subjective facts and circumstances process.

Bloomberg, IRS May Be Trying to Stop Tax Exemption of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS:

The IRS may be trying to block the tax exemption of one of the largest politically active nonprofit groups, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, an organization founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

The oblique disclosure can be found between the lines of an inspector general’s report released on Thursday, which said that 149 of 160 cases that had been stalled have been resolved. Of the other 11, six are in litigation with the IRS -- which Crossroads isn’t -- and the other five have received proposed denial letters or are appealing.

That suggests that the Internal Revenue Service has sent Crossroads a denial letter. Crossroads is one of the most politically involved nonprofit groups, and its bid for tax exemption is being closely watched by campaign-finance lawyers. ...

Crossroads applied for its tax exemption in September 2010.

Documents previously released by the House Ways and Means Committee showed that the IRS was drafting a denial letter to Crossroads in 2013, just before news broke of the controversy of the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

Those documents list Crossroads among Tea Party groups that were being held up by the IRS and show that Lerner, the former IRS director of exempt organizations, was directly involved in asking about the group’s application.

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May 1, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 721

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 720

IRS Logo 2Press Release, Statement By Senator John McCain on False Reports on IRS Targeting:

A recent press release by Judicial Watch sparked a series of online reports falsely claiming that my office was somehow involved in the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups – reports that are demonstrably untrue and totally contradicted by my all of my actions over the past several years on this issue.

“These reports ignore the fact that I released a 37-page dissenting report last September refuting the Democrats’ Majority Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) report claiming the IRS showed no bias against conservative groups. Media coverage at the time noted that I was in total disagreement with Senate Democrats on the issue of whether the IRS targeted conservative groups. ...

Like so many Americans, I was shocked and appalled by revelations that the IRS inappropriately singled out conservative groups for scrutiny, and that our tax system was used to target political opponents. “As Ranking Member of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I devoted significant time and resources to help get to the bottom of this disturbing abuse of power by the IRS. Any article suggesting otherwise is simply wrong, and ignores the facts of my actions over the last several years.

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April 29, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 719

IRS Logo 2Examiner, IRS Attacks Conservative Groups But Silent on Clinton Foundation:

In the midst of the news media coverage of the Hillary Clinton emails, her private Internet server, her thumbing her nose at government regulations and allegations that her and her husband's "charity" was involved in shady deals, no one except for public-interest groups is asking about an IRS investigation. There are several allegations that the Clinton Foundation is nothing more than a sophisticated and elaborate political slush fund, according to news stories on Monday.

More than one group that was targeted by the IRS for daring to be conservative believes that if there ever was an organization that should be investigated and audited by the IRS it's the Clinton Foundation. The Clintons possess a talent for making incriminating documents disappear and Americans are warned to not hold their breath waiting for the IRS or the Justice Department investigate the Clintons and their arguably corrupt foundation.

However, the Clintons' home state of Arkansas has a young attorney general who does possesses the authority to launch a criminal investigation because the foundation claims the state of Arkansas as its headquarters. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will likely be trashed by the Clinton machine

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April 28, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 718

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, GOP Sen. Presses Obama Administration On Criminal Probe Of IRS Targeting of Conservatives:

On Tax Day, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pressed the Obama administration for an update on the criminal investigation into the alleged misconduct of IRS personnel in the handling of conservative organizations’ tax exempt status.

“It’s unclear whether all of these cases are open or closed,” Grassley said Wednesday. “The investigative agencies should account for their work. The scandal damaged the public trust in the IRS. Building back any of that trust requires investigation and accountability for any misconduct.”

In a letter to the Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, the Iowa lawmaker requested more information about the investigation — or lack thereof.

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April 27, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 717

IRS Logo 2Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Gathering Storm: An IRS Defeat:

Attempting to obscure the extent of its alleged targeting of conservative groups, the Internal Revenue Service has been smacked with a serious setback in its court fight in Ohio.

A federal judge granted a motion compelling the IRS to list the 298 targeted organizations, which the IRS had identified for the Treasury Department inspector general. In a lawsuit filed in 2013, 10 conservative groups, through discovery, have been trying to pry free the list of all groups targeted by the IRS. This, in order to seek class certification and expand the lawsuit to "all the organizations on (ex-IRS official) Lois Lerner's hit list," writes Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation. ...

The discernible rumbling of distant thunder portends the gathering storm that is going to rain down on the IRS.

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April 26, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 716

IRS Logo 2Forbes, IRS Forced To Release Names Of Targeted Groups, by Peter J. Reilly:

So we had another Tea Party decision on April 1 of all days. NorCal Tea Party Patriots is one of the ten organizations in a lawsuit against the IRS because of delays and intrusive scrutiny while they were applying for exempt status.  They want it to be a class action suit, but they need information from the IRS to determine what organizations should be in the class. ...

The IRS argued that it could not make those disclosures, because they would be in violation of Code Section 6103 which protects the confidentiality of returns and return information.  The judge went with NorCal on this one.

The Court concludes that the return information sought is directly related to the issue of class certification in this federal court proceeding. The names of the putative class member organizations and their control dates—the date which the putative class member organizations submitted their applications for tax exempt status to the IRS—are directly related to the issue of class certification. Plaintiffs seek the return information of the putative class members to prove to the Court that the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b) requirements such as typicality, commonality, and whether the IRS acted on a grounds that applied generally to the putative class are satisfied. ...

I’m beginning to despair of their ever being an end to the IRS Scandal on Day 714 by the TaxProf count, as I write this. I thought this latest decision might be a good opportunity to reach out to someone who might have a different view on the whole matter.

Frank Wolpe, Professor Emeritus at Bentley University has written a white paper about rebuilding the IRS. (download)

The paper identifies the ill-conceived massive 1998 structural reorganization and division (like salami-slicing) of field operations as a major cause of the IRS’s current legal battles and “downward slide.” In its 1998 aftermath, we were all left with an overly centralized Washington IRS National Office and an undermanaged array of field operations. That’s where the Tea Party scandal started; and, even more importantly, it need never be repeated. Indeed, such events must stop!

“With that recognition, change-makers can travel a 2015 bipartisan pathway to addressing a wrong-headed 1998 “solution” to a 1998 non-existent structural problem by introducing a 2015 proposal for a National Office consolidation (slimming down) coupled with a field operations decentralization (closer to customers and ending the practice of absentee senior management without local accountability).

Of course the notion that the scandal must have actually started in the Oval Office still has an irresistible grip in some circles, so a boring reorganization just won’t be satisfying.  So maybe it never will end.

Hans von Spakovsky of cnsnews.com wrote:

The arguments in this case by the Justice Department are another example of how the IRS has been hiding behind Section 6103. That law was intended to prevent the IRS from publicly disclosing private tax information—such as its illegal disclosure of the tax returns of the National Organization for Marriage (the IRS agreed to pay National Organization for Marriage $50,000 to settle that case in June of 2014). But the IRS has been trying to use this law to prevent having to disclose its abusive treatment of taxpayers.

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April 25, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, April 24, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 715

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, Did John McCain Know about IRS Targeting?:

When the IRS scandal broke, Sen. John McCain sent out a press release claiming to be shocked at the news. But was he?

Three years’ of IRS e-mail evidence continues to build against the federal government. The most interesting and possibly disturbing piece of information deals with the fact that Republican Senator McCain and Democrat Senator Carl Levin were both aware of the targeting eleven days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions.

E-mails reveal that staffers from McCain’s office met with IRS personnel for six hours, 11 days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions. ...

This revelation served as chilling confirmation of a suspicion Tea Party groups had all along: they were under fire from both sides of the establishment in Washington, D.C. Republicans and Democrats worked together to crush their common enemy, actual conservatives. ...

[W]hat about that six hour meeting? McCain has some serious explaining to do about just how much he knew about the targeting at the IRS. He’s certainly had his differences with the Tea Party and conservative Republicans in the past. And his positions on free speech and political action have more in common with liberals who prefer a one-way street over the marketplace of ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, Senator McCain did not mind the IRS’ attempts to stifle the First Amendment rights of Tea Party citizens. Maybe his shock at Lerner’s revelation was just as fake as the outrage from the White House.

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April 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 714

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Before IRS Targeting, Lois Lerner Targeted At Federal Election Commission, by Robert W. Wood:

The IRS audits, sends bills, imposes penalties, files liens and levies. Yet incredibly, most of the money the IRS collects is self-assessed. We all fill out tax returns and voluntarily send in money. How much we believe in the system is critical to making it work. Sure, part of the reason we comply is our fear that we’ll be viewed as willful risking jail if we don’t. But there may be a correlation between how much people cheat and their faith that the tax system is impartial. That’s one reason the state of the IRS is so terribly important.

It is hard to believe that the IRS scandal is on day 711. More than two years on, we know that Lois Lerner got a pass on prosecution. She even got nice bonuses. And it seems clear that nothing more will happen. Democrats say that is as it should be, since as President Obama remarked that there is not even a smidgen of corruption at the IRS. But Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) spoke in support of Congressman Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act, which passed unanimously along with several other measures to rein in the IRS. Rep. Roskam called the targeting insidious and poisonous. ...

There is arguably no part of the government more important than our tax system. Our country cannot exist without it. Our tax code and how we administer it could be improved. Yet it is still a system with integrity, one that is administered mostly on the honor system. IRS employees deserve better than the black eye they are getting over this mess. American taxpayers deserve better too.

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April 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)