Paul L. Caron

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 343

IRS Logo 2U.S. News & World Report: The IRS Scandal's Smoking Gun?:

The so-called “smoking gun” proving the Internal Revenue Service played politics with conservative groups seeking official non-profit, social welfare status over the last several years may finally have been found.

In a rash of documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act to Judicial Watch, a non-partisan public interest law group, is an April 2013 email written by David Fish, acting manager of IRS Exempt Organizations Technical Guidance and Quality Assurance and sent to, among others, former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner. It was part of a thread discussing a recent U.S. Senate hearing on the potential for the abuse of the 501(c)(4) tax status by organizations intervening inappropriately or improperly in candidate elections.

Responding to a message “What can I say?” from Lerner, Fish responds, “Tell Ruth she needs to get on the stick and that the next election cycle is around the corner. This is obviously a wonderful idea (that’s why we suggested it). I think you told Greg all you can tell him, unless you want to tell him that we’re taking guidance plan suggestions.”

The email is dated April 15, 2013 – well after initial allegations that the IRS had “slow-walked” the applications of conservative groups had been made and, by the agency, denied.

The “Ruth” mentioned in the message refers to Ruth Madrigal, an official at the U.S. Treasury Department. The “Greg” mentioned in Fish’s message is apparently a San Francisco-based attorney named Gregory Colvin, who started this chain with an e-mail to Lerner and Madrigal letting them know he has just testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on the issue of whether officers of (c)(4) organizations who made false statements under penalty of perjury on tax returns “could be criminally prosecuted.”

The Obama administration has insisted from the beginning that conservative groups were not singled out and that electoral considerations did not factor into what clearly went on. They prefer to adhere to the fiction that anything untoward that occurred generated spontaneously in branch offices among low level staff and not at the direction of anyone in Washington.

The particular mention by Fish of the idea that “the next election cycle is around the corner” seems to any reasonable person to confirm or at least suggest higher-ups at the IRS including Lerner knew exactly what they were doing, had used their positions for partisan political purposes, and were continuing to do so even though the word about what they were doing had leaked out....

[C]ongressional investigators need to refocus, to cast a wider net and make sure all the documents they asked for were actually turned over. If they weren’t, then it would seem reasonable to conclude a cover-up had in fact occurred and may be a bigger thing than the underlying crime.

Rather than slow down its efforts and wind them up, congressional committees investigating what the IRS actually did and finding what other federal agencies – if any – it worked with to subvert the constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech and association need to go into high gear. The upcoming summer recess would be the perfect time to focus on it since there will be nothing else going on in town.

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink


Todd, you do realize that all federal criminal prosecutions have to be "coordinated" with the DOJ? IRS talking to DOJ about possible criminal proceedings proves nothing. Did the IRS focus DISPROPORTIONATELY on conservative groups as opposed to liber groups? Actually, the BOLO lists swept up all applicants with certain words in their names--truly a blunt instrument approach. But the fact that there were many, many, many more conservative applicants than liberal applicants accounts for the greater number of conservative applicants subjected to scrutiny. More yes, but disproportionate?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 18, 2014 11:28:19 AM

"The email is dated April 15, 2013 – well after initial allegations that the IRS had “slow-walked” the applications of conservative groups had been made and, by the agency, denied."

That these actions continued long after the IG report was finished shows the the administration and the IRS and the highest levels approved and supported what was going on. This is especially chilling in light of the emails showing Lerner colluded with the DOJ on plans to have political dissidents jailed.

It is time for Democrats to hold their leaders, activists, and government workers accountable for their actions. Actions like what went on at the IRS are a party wide strategy for Democrats and it is time it came to an end.

Posted by: wodun | Apr 17, 2014 1:05:31 PM

@Todd, So US News & World Report, WSJ, USA Today, or the list of news sources after every one of these posts are not mainstream media? Can someone finally clue me in on the definition of mainstream media? It seems to be an ever-shifting definition.

Posted by: Daniel W. | Apr 17, 2014 11:34:18 AM

Honest and analytical minds can only laugh at the defense of Obama's IRS in the first two comments. Guys, this is the TaxProf Blog, not The Nation or Mother Jones. People reading the comment section actually have brains.

Posted by: Woody | Apr 17, 2014 8:12:58 AM

Do you work for Obama or the DNC Publius Novus? You sure are doing your best to divert attention from the real scandal here.

For argument's sake, let's stipulate that 501(c)(4) groups are pushing the limits and need stricter oversight. The IRS went disproportionately (in fact almost solely) after groups on only 1 side of the political aisle. You find nothing wrong with that?

One of the impeachment charges against Nixon was for simply attempting to sic the IRS on his enemies. Compound the above with mounting evidence of coordination with the DOJ and members of Congress, and we have a scandal that should rival Watergate, if only we had a mainstream media that wasn't so horribly biased.

Thank you again Professor Caron for helping to keep this disgrace in the public eye.

Posted by: Todd | Apr 17, 2014 8:09:29 AM

I think it's important to make clear that the excerpted piece from US News is an opinion piece, not a news piece.

Posted by: david | Apr 17, 2014 7:49:39 AM

In my experience, the IRS has always been too timid in its criminal referrals to Justice. To many tax protestors, employment tax evaders, and--we see now--tax exempt "social welfare" organizations, are getting away with criminal fraud. Instead of censuring the Service's efforts, we should be encouraging them.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 17, 2014 6:49:40 AM