Today, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a 70-page timeline detailing the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. Below are six examples from the report– full text can be viewed here.
1. In February 2010, an IRS employee in Cincinnati began identifying 501(c)(4) applications from Tea Party organizations as “high profile” cases in light of media coverage, assumedly, public remarks made by the President and other leading Democratic politicians-
“Cindy: please let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially politically embarrassing case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a “high profile” case.” (PG 19, 49)
2. Lerner began formulating a “project” beginning in August 2010 after articles covered a DCCC complaint to the IRS about Americans for Prosperity.
“Days later, Lerner took action. In response to a tax-law journal article, Lerner initiated a ‘c4 project’ to assess the political activity of certain nonprofits in wake of Citizens United. She told her subordinates ‘We need to have a plan. We need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project. More a c4 project that will look at levels of lobbying and political activity along with exempt activity.” (PG 32, 34, 35, 50)
3. The Department of Justice picked up on the media attention and Democratic rhetoric, prompting conversations/meetings with the IRS that ultimately resulted in confidential taxpayer information being sent to the Department of Justice.
“The Justice Department stated in a letter to the Committee that the material transmitted from the IRS to the FBI in October 2010 amounted to 21 disks of 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax return information. Although the Department first asserted that this material is publicly available and never used for any investigatory purpose, the Department later notified the Committee that the 21 disks did, in fact, contain confidential taxpayer information protected by federal law. This startling revelation suggests that the FBI compiled a massive database of the lawful political speech of thousands of American citizens, mere weeks before the 2010 midterm elections, working with Lois Lerner and the IRS to receive confidential taxpayer information. Indeed, Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith testified to the Committee that his team continued an investigatory “dialogue” with the FBI about nonprofits engaged in political speech. (PG 43,44, 46, 51, 52, 59)
4. In a speech at Duke University in October of 2010, Lerner revealed that the IRS was under pressure, presumably from the Obama administration, and Democratic members of Congress, to develop a method of preventing certain effects of the Citizens United decision.
“What happened last year was the Supreme Court- the law kept getting chipped away, chipped away in the federal election arena. The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it.
They want the IRS to fix the problem. The IRS laws are not set up to fix the problem: (c)(4)s can do straight political activity. They can go out and pay for an ad that says, “Vote for Joe Blow.” That’s something they can do as long as their primary activity is their (c)(4) activity, which is social welfare.
So everybody is screaming at us right now: “Fix it now before the election. Can’t you see how much these people are spending?” I won’t know until I look at their 990s next year whether they have done more than their primary activity as political or not. So I can’t do anything right now.” (PG 50, 60)
5. Throughout 2010, Democratic Members of Congress encouraged the IRS to investigate nonprofits, in particular, Crossroads GPS. Following letters, emails and press releases sent to various IRS employees supporting these investigations, Lerner echoed these sentiments in a January 2013 note written to the Exempt Organization audit unit head-
“I reviewed the information last night and thought the allegations in the documents were really damning, so wondered why we hadn’t done something with the org. The first complaint came in 2010 and there were additional ones in 2011 and 2012… I don’t know where we go with this- as I’ve told you before- I don’t think your guys get it and the way they look at these cases is going to bite us some day. The organization at question is Crossroads GPS, which is on the top of the list of c4 spenders in the last two elections. It is on the news regularly as an organization that is not really a c4, rather it is only doing political activity- taking in money from large contributors who wish to remain anonymous and funneling it into tight electoral races.” (PG 62)
6. Interviews from the IRS former Chief of Staff indicated that they were aware of statements and inquiries made by Democratic politicians with regards to particular conservative organizations.
Q: Were you aware of any inquiries from Members of Congress about the potential illegality or inappropriateness of (c)(4) status for certain groups engaged in political activity?
A: I’m aware of inquiries from Members of Congress where they asked about the status of particular organizations. I don’t know if that is answering your question.
Q: About particular organizations-
Q: By name?
Q: Were you ever aware of any public disclosure or debate about the appropriateness of 501(c)(4) status for certain conservative oriented groups?
A: I mean, I have seen, you know, public articles where folks have talked about that, but just like stuff in the press.
Q: Were you ever aware of any requests for the IRS to crack down on 501(c)(4)s engaged in political activity?
A: There were Congressional requests that asked what we were doing in the area, that kind of thing.