New IRS Documents Show Lerner Did Not Need Conservative Group Donor Lists – Emails Mention “Secret Research Project” by Top IRS Official
A subsequent IRS email thread on June 27, 2012, revealed that inappropriately obtained donor lists were being used for a “secret research project” and that a top official wanted then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller to decide how to handle the issue. The email exchange, with the Subject line “donor names,” included the following:
- June 27, 2012: 8:59 AM — David L. Fish, IRS acting director of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements, to Holly Paz:
- June 27, 2012 9:02 AM — Holly Paz to David L. Fish:
Then-IRS Commissioner Miller initially testified to Congress on May 17, 2013 that “instructions had been given to destroy any donor lists,” but donor lists were actually produced to the House Ways and Means Committee four months later. The House Ways and Means Committee also announced at May 7, 2014 hearing that, after scores of conservative groups provided donor information “to the IRS, nearly one in ten donors were subject to audit.” In 2011, as many as five donors to one conservative (c)(4) organization were audited, according to the Wall Street Journal. And this past June, the IRS admitted wrongdoing in releasing the conservative National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) confidential tax return and donor list, which were published in March 2012 by the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign is the chief political rival to NOM; its outgoing president had been named a national co-chair of the Obama Reelection Campaign. The IRS reportedly agreed to pay NOM $50,000 to settle the lawsuit.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also include a July 18, 2012, email to Lerner from Judith Kindell, senior technical adviser to Lois Lerner, showing that 75% of the nearly 200 non-profit 501 (c)(4) political activist groups targeted by the IRS were conservative, and only 5% were liberal:
- June 28, 2012 8:57 AM — Paz to Lerner: “Now TIGTA wants to talk to me. I am guessing they read this morning’s paper. [Apparent reference to Wall Street Journal article concerning IRS scrutiny of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS tax exempt status]Will keep you posted.”
- June 28, 2012 9:13 AM — Lerner to Paz: “Not alone. Wait til I am there.”
- June 28, 2012 09:17 AM — Paz to Lerner: “Sorry. Too late. He already called me. It was not about WSJ. Just him trying to get better understanding of the scope of the [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave] Camp [R-MI] request.”
- June 28, 2012 8:22 AM — Lerner to Paz: “Just as dangerous. I’ll talk to you soon. Be there in half hour.”
The new documents also include emails further contradicting President Obama’s February 2014 excuse that the IRS targeting was entirely the fault of “bonehead decisions in local offices.” Obama was parroting Lois Lerner’s May 2013 claim that the targeting of conservative groups was the fault of “low-level” employees in Cincinnati for the targeting of conservative groups. In the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election, Lerner and other top IRS officials made it clear that no “advocacy” applications should be approved or denied without express approval from Lerner’s office in Washington, DC:
- June 20, 2012: — Email from IRS attorney Michael C. Seton to managers in Exempt Organizations division defining targeted groups’ approval procedures:
- June 29, 2012: — Email from Lois Lerner to Nikole Flax apparently criticizing the IRS Exempt Organizations Determinations Unit for taking too long to categorize non-profits as political and directing that top Washington IRS official Holly Paz would settle disputes over who was to be targeted:
- June 26, 2012: — Email from Lerner to Holly Paz and Cindy Thomas in which Lerner notes that TIGTA asked for files directly from the Federal Records Center and warns that this makes sense in “context of a really sensitive investigation alleging political bias by the IRS.” The Federal Records Act (FRA) requires the preservation of official e-mails at the National Archives Federal Record Center. This email from Lerner was dated during the same time period during which the IRS claims her emails were lost and her Blackberry was “wiped clean” and “removed as scrap for disposal …” In violation of Section 3106 of the FRA, the IRS failed to notify the Archives that Lerner’s emails were missing.
- April 2, 2012: 7:00 PM — Lerner to Patterson:
- April 3, 2012: 8:59 AM — IRS Public Affairs Specialist Burke Anthony to Lerner :
- April 3, 2012: 9:26 AM — Lerner to Anthony:
The communications sought by Judicial Watch covered portions of the same period for which the IRS on June 13, 2014, notified the Senate Finance Committee that Lerner’s emails had been lost or destroyed but did not notify the Court or Judicial Watch about these missing emails. In response to our request for more information, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan held a July 10 hearing and order the IRS to produce sworn declarations about its efforts to find and restore Lerner’s allegedly missing emails.
And then on August 25, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS conceded to Judicial Watch that Lerner’s “missing emails” (and all government records) had been backed in case of catastrophe but that it would be too “onerous” to search this backup system for Lerner’s emails. The Justice Department has since put out anonymous statements alleging Judicial Watch “misheard” what its lawyers said and that the agency did not disclose “new” information about a back-up system.
It is not in dispute that the existence of any back-up system was withheld from the court despite two orders (order 1, order 2) demanding specifically sworn declarations about where Lerner’s emails may be residing and effort to obtain them. The Obama administration has refused Judicial Watch’s requests to amend the sworn declarations and finally inform Judge Sullivan directly about this back-up system. Administration lawyers have steadfastly refused and subsequently submitted a “status report” to the Court on August 29 that, again, makes no mention of any back-up system.
Judicial Watch lawyers are preparing now to ask the Court for relief in light of the Obama administration’s continuing obstruction and contempt for Judge Sullivan’s orders.
“Again, Judicial Watch has uncovered more shocking emails from the IRS, forced out by a lawsuit and a federal court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Now we learn the stunning news that Obama’s IRS had a ‘secret research program’ using illicitly-obtained confidential donor lists of conservative and Tea Party organizations that opposed President Obama’s agenda or reelection. With all this IRS abuse, it is no wonder Lois Lerner said that questions by Congress and others were ‘dangerous.’ And it is well past time that President Obama should be held to account about his repeated and recent falsehoods about his IRS scandal. Next up: Judicial Watch will ask Judge Sullivan for help in requiring the Obama IRS to stop its obstruction and disclose the no-longer-missing emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials.”