Posted on | April 17, 2014 | 19 Comments
Judicial Watch today released a new batch of internal IRS documents revealing that former IRS official Lois Lerner communicated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute certain tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013.
The newly released IRS documents contain an email exchange between Lerner and Nikole C. Flax, then-Chief of Staff to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller discussing plans to work with the DOJ to prosecute nonprofit groups that “lied” (Lerner’s quotation marks) about political activities.
The thing that jumps off the page at me is that Lerner said Richard Pilger, director of the Election Crimes division at the Justice Department official was acting on a suggestion by Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. There are other important revelations, as Peter Roff at U.S. News observes:
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. . . .
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 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.
“The David Fish email proves the IRS originated and fed to Senate Democrats the idea of threatening conservatives with criminal prosecution for engaging in political speech — specifically with an eye towards the 2014 cycle. It’s the strongest proof yet that there should indeed be criminal prosecutions, not of conservatives but of the IRS bureaucrats who conspired to suppress them,” said Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment and one who has followed this issue closely since it first become public knowledge.
Read the whole thing. The point is that the IRS scandal isn’t over — it’s barely begun, because the real scandal is the cover-up.
There are so many subpoenaed documents that have yet to be produced, and the clearly evident pattern of stonewalling by administration officials cannot possibly be coincidental. The IRS, the Treasury Department and the Justice Department were all clearly acting at the behest of Democrats, including Sheldon Whitehouse and Elijah Cumming, to target conservative groups. And then, when that pattern of targeting became apparent, all of these officials started conspiring to conceal evidence of their wrongdoing.