What has the IRS been leaking on conservative groups?

posted at 10:11 pm on May 13, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

In the flood of stories popping up in the wake of the Obama administration’s IRS scandal, a couple suggest the IRS has been leaking information about conservatives and conservative groups in addition to putting them through the wringer for tax-exempt status.

First a story from ProPublica, which in the course of reporting on the explosion of 501c tax-exemption applications for politically active groups got some unexpected help from the IRS, in the form of confidential documents, as Ed mentioned earlier.

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

Curiously, when ProPublica requested information on these groups, the IRS complied in a swift 13 days, and included the as-yet unapproved application of none other than prominent Karl-Rove-founded Crossroads GPS. Funny, that.

The IRS cover letter sent with the documents was from the Cincinnati office, and signed by Cindy Thomas, listed as the manager for Exempt Organizations Determinations, whom a biography for a Cincinnati Bar Association meeting in January says has worked for the IRS for 35 years. (Thomas often signed the cover letters of responses to ProPublica requests.) The cover letter listed an IRS employee named Sophia Brown as the person to contact for more information about the records. We tried to contact both Thomas and Brown today but were unable to reach them.

After receiving the unapproved applications, ProPublica tried to determine why they had been sent. In emails, IRS spokespeople said ProPublica shouldn’t have received them.

“It has come to our attention that you are in receipt of application materials of organizations that have not been recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt,” wrote one spokeswoman, Michelle Eldridge. She cited a law saying that publishing unauthorized returns or return information was a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

This morning, the National Organization for Marriage sent the following e-mail:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) today renewed its demand that the Internal Revenue Service reveal the identity of the employee or employees responsible for stealing the organization’s confidential Form 990 tax return and leaking it to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). At the time of the theft, the HRC had long-sought to know the identity of NOM’s major donors and its chief executive was a co-chair of President Obama’s reelection campaign. The Form 990 that was leaked to the HRC contained the identity of numerous major donors to the organization.

“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “The only questions are who did it, and whether there was any knowledge or coordination between people in the White House, the Obama reelection campaign and the Human Rights Campaign. We and the American people deserve answers.”

In March 2012 the Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post published NOM’s Form 990 Schedule B from 2008 containing the identity of dozens of donors. The HRC claimed the tax return was provided by a ‘whistleblower.’ For months previous to the publication, the HRC had been demanding that NOM publicly release this confidential information even though federal law protects the identity of contributors to nonprofit groups. The publication of NOM’s tax return occurred just a few months after Joseph Solmonese, then president of the HRC, was appointed a national co-chair of the Obama reelection campaign. An analysis of the published documents shows that they could only have originated with the IRS.

Matt Lewis reported on the leak at the time, which culminated in HuffPo trying to make political hay of a Romney-affiliated donation to NOM. In 2012, NOM requested an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the same office that authored the draft report on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, which is to be released this week. They were interviewed, but never heard anything of an investigation’s process: “Nothing has come of the investigation if there is indeed one, and the agency has refused to answer any questions about the status of its examination,” NOM said in a press release.

Ben Domenech pointed out that the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation had its entire donor list leaked to a liberal Texas publication in 2012.

I’d sure like to hear more about this task force that focused on conservative groups, which both the Washington Post and the Free Beacon have referenced:

An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a “secret working group” devoted to investigating conservative organizations.

Attorney Dan Backer, whose client TheTeaParty.net has been trying to obtain tax-exempt status since 2010, said an IRS analyst mentioned the alleged working group during a phone conversation about one of Backer’s other client organizations.

“More than a year ago, one of these guys, really a slip of the tongue, [said] ‘Yeah we have this new working group that’s really looking at all these conservative organizations,’” Backer said. “And that’s when we knew it was gonna be a problem.”

WaPo calls it a “task force,” while reporting that the policy of investigating conservative groups went beyond the Cincinnati office in charge of tax-exemption applications and to Washington officials. Knock me over with a feather.

Perhaps what’s most surprising about this story is the surprise some seem to exhibit that a tax code as complex, burdensome, and far-reaching as ours is used in inappropriate ways to intimidate, chill speech, and punish certain people. Of course it is, and its very nature offers near-endless opportunities to do so! We’ll learn much more through the coming investigations of exactly how and how much it happens.

If only Rush Limbaugh would stop making us all so cynical.

Update: Thanks to a commenter for reminding me of John McCormack’s story about the time Austan Goolsbee had an awful lot of information about the Kochs’ tax status in 2010. This is another instance of a TIGTA investigation with no public conclusion.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Heck, Biden ain’t no Ford.

Biden will resign due to health problems and Hilary will step into that slot. And bring Huma as her special adviser as eye candy for non-gay dem guys.

cozmo

Pfft. There’s no way in hell Biden would resign. It would pretty much be the only shot he’d ever have of being president, and there’s no doubt he wants to be president.

xblade on May 13, 2013 at 11:24 PM

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.
-Obama may 5th 2013

hmmm wonder if he knew what was coming down the pike.

unseen on May 13, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Government is too big and too powerful we must chain government again before we are chained by it.

unseen on May 13, 2013 at 11:28 PM

Do you really want to see the POTUS sobbing every time he gives a speech?

Curtiss on May 13, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Sure.

katy the mean old lady on May 13, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Data mining: opening students’ personal data up to private corporations?

luckybogey on May 13, 2013 at 11:22 PM

Read up on “Common Core”. That’s exactly what the end game of it is.

Data collection, biometric and FRI technology, universal testing and so much more. It’s awful and downright scary.

katy on May 13, 2013 at 11:32 PM

WT?, did you just sit and shit and come up with that nonsense? You think you add any substance to HA? As goofy as it gets, most people are pretty quick here, you—-get a boyfriend or a pickle.

arnold ziffel on May 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM

She acts as if this is being handled well. This was known to the IRS before the election and back to at least 2011 if not 2010. In addition the Benghazi debacle and the dishonesty of this administration only shows just how far they would go to ensure Obama’s re-election. Screw the truth and screw the American voter. Now we have pukes like Brayam acting like our system did not fail us. Lapdogs will always be lapdogs.

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:33 PM

Do you really want to see the POTUS sobbing every time he gives a speech?

Curtiss on May 13, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Sure.

katy the mean old lady on May 13, 2013 at 11:29 PM

PPV?

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:34 PM

What are the chances that any of these things can be traced to the IRS? More career employees who don’t want to be smeared by association? I think they are going to have to rethink the IRS handling Obamacare. Time to raise Hell.

Cindy Munford on May 13, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Democracy remains the least worst form of government in the world.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Swell, who lives in a democracy?

Cindy Munford on May 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Here’s my work to date on Common Core:

http://upstreampolitics.wordpress.com/family/children/education/common-core/

There are other sites that blog on it full-time. You’ll find links to them in my posts.

You might check out: The Radical Fingerprints On Common Core

and

Common Core Updates: Opt Out Form, Tracking & Indoctrination

also has more on the state longitudinal data systems.

INC on May 13, 2013 at 11:40 PM

Screw the truth and screw the American voter. Now we have pukes like Brayam acting like our system did not fail us.

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:33 PM

My statement that the Treasury IG had done a commendable job is not tantamount to saying ‘screw the truth’. Are you now claiming that Treasury is engaged in a coverup and not revealing the truth? You seem to have difficulty comprehending anything other than the most simple talking points.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Democracy remains the least worst form of government in the world.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Swell, who lives in a democracy?

Cindy Munford on May 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Why don’t you spend some time in Russia or China and then come back and whine about how terrible things are in the US. It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

bayam

“the threat of growing federal encroachment on the privacy of US citizens is one area where liberals and conservatives can agree.”

I concur. Due to recent changes in Federal, State, and EU laws, I actually now spend a significant amount of my daily work schedule dealing with Privacy and Security related issues.

Limitation of Liability and Indemnification for “loss of data” have become a major concern for companies and government agencies throughout the world.

luckybogey on May 13, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Why don’t you spend some time in Russia or China and then come back and whine about how terrible things are in the US. It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Me Julie, it’s “four granite.”

arnold ziffel on May 13, 2013 at 11:46 PM

the most simple talking points.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:41 PM

You’re the expert.

Btw your comprehension skills are the ones lacking. It is too late for the American people on at least a couple fronts and you are quite fine with that. Dimwit they knew in 2011 at the latest about the trangressions. Hmmm. I wonder what happened with our wonderful system.Oh that’s right the buck stops with Obama and of course that means the wagons circled. The system failed and you have no problem with it and you’re here as usual to carry the water.

Also, can I call you Strad? You mind?

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:46 PM

An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a “secret working group” devoted to investigating conservative organizations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center?

bw222 on May 13, 2013 at 11:48 PM

Don’t worry America we realize all of this should have been known prior to the election but we will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

-signed , Brayam and Obama’s assorted boot lickers.

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Sorry America sorry we had a chilling effect on American speech and will make sure these issues are taken care of prior to Obama’s next election….oh …err… uh…..
/

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:51 PM

Here at home, according to an exhaustive and impressive two- year-long investigation by the taxpayer-funded Global War on Terror also built enough ultra-high-security office space (Sensitive Compartmental-ized Information Facilities, or SCIF, in bureaucrat-speak) to fill twenty-two US Capitol Buildings: seventeen million square feet of offices in thirty-three handsome and generously funded new complexes powered up twenty-four hours a day, where an army of nearly one million American professionals spies on the world and the homeland. It’s as if we turned the entire working population of Detroit and Milwaukee into high- security-clearance spooks and analysts.

“the threat of growing federal encroachment on the privacy of US citizens is one area where liberals and conservatives can agree.”

I concur. Due to recent changes in Federal, State, and EU laws, I actually now spend a significant amount of my daily work schedule dealing with Privacy and Security related issues.

Limitation of Liability and Indemnification for “loss of data” have become a major concern for companies and government agencies throughout the world.

luckybogey on May 13, 2013 at 11:45 PM

It’s disappointing that groups on the right can’t be more effective in publicly calling out this type of agency growth and its threat to domestic liberties. If you want to find an area where government has grown out of control and win enough hears and minds across the political spectrum to achieve legislative victory, this is a no-brainer as a starting point. Unfortunately, those groups tend to produce a cacophony of complaints that fail to resonate beyond the base. And nothing happens.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:53 PM

this is like every scadal of the past 40 years all rolled up into one. there has never been a POTUS who had the MSM so in his pocket that he didn’t have tow orry about them doing their job and reporting on his power grabs.

this is why we need a free press not a croyn caven press that licks the POTUS shoes. That Press Dinner the other week showed anyone that was paying attention that the media and the powerbrokers in DC have become too close and personal.

unseen on May 13, 2013 at 11:58 PM

And nothing happens.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:53 PM

Yet when Mark Levin warned us about the IRS you mocked him.

CW on May 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Just want you to get it right, numb nuts, we don’t live by mob rule. We live in a representative republic.

Cindy Munford on May 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM

Why don’t you spend some time in Russia or China and then come back and whine about how terrible things are in the US. It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Idiot and fraud of HA

1. The US is NOT a democracy.

2. This side is not taking freedom and liberty for granted.

3. Your side blows them into the wind, with Obama the biggest charlatanic thug in history. He redeems Nixon, which is quite something for “the most transparent and smartest president, evahhhh”.

Schadenfreude on May 14, 2013 at 12:03 AM

At least Nicon was a very smart man, knew math and music. Obama wants you to believe, at once, that he’s the smartest and the Three Monkeys of Obalivion (h/t VorDaj).

Schadenfreude on May 14, 2013 at 12:06 AM

Nixon

Schadenfreude on May 14, 2013 at 12:06 AM

It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Yeah, especially those “people” who abuse their power of office to go after (or abandon for political expediencies sake) the citizens that they have sworn to protect.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 14, 2013 at 12:10 AM

Does Obama plan to spy on social-networking sites?
posted at 9:30 am on September 2, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Solicitation Number: WHO-S-09-0003
Agency: Executive Office of the President
Office: Office of Procurement
Location: Office of Procurement

Scope
The contractor shall provide the necessary services to capture, store, extract to approved formats, and transfer content published by EOP on publicly-accessible web sites, along with information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP offices under PRA maintains a presence, throughout the term of the contract.

The contractor shall if possible, capture, store, extract to approved formats, and transfer content published by EOP on non-public websites.

The contractor shall include in the information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP maintains a presence both comments posted on pages created by EOP and messages sent to EOP accounts on those web sites. Publicly-accessible sites may include, but are not limited to social networking sites.

The contractor shall provide a user-friendly way of organizing and searching captured information.

luckybogey on May 14, 2013 at 12:14 AM

It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Treasure for rogerb

Schadenfreude on May 14, 2013 at 1:10 AM

Don’t be surprised, those records are needed for government organ harvesting programs…….
bayam on May 13, 2013 at 10:23 PM

I’m almost afraid to ask this question, but can we safely assume we have to be dead first?

timmytee on May 14, 2013 at 1:17 AM

The HRC claimed the tax return was provided by a ‘whistleblower.’

Do liberals even know what that word means? They keep using it, thinking that no further questions can be asked once its used.

blammm on May 14, 2013 at 7:06 AM

And don’t forget Harry Reid’s alleged information on the Romney taxes.

I think it’s time to subpoena Reid.

ButterflyDragon on May 14, 2013 at 8:27 AM

GET A ROPE

FIND A TREE

TX-96 on May 14, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Nixon at least bailed Israel out…the current chump in charge hates good and loves evil….baby killer, liar, theif……

crosshugger on May 14, 2013 at 8:56 AM

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but keep in mind…

The Cincinnati office isn’t some minor regional office… it’s the main federal office that handles tax returns and applications for tax exempt status. Take a look at the mailing address for snail-mailing your tax returns…

dominigan on May 14, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Democracy remains the least worst form of government in the world.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Completely wrong.

Most pure democracies rarely survive beyond 50 years. Good thing we’re not a democracy! (We’re a Constitutional Republic!)

dominigan on May 14, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Inevitably, the stumble by the I.R.S. will now be used by the Republicans as a point of attack. They are gleefully promising months of hearings, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is already trying to tarnish Democratic lawmakers with what it calls “the Obama administration’s use of the I.R.S. as a political tool.”

This will serve as the perfect distraction from issues, like the budget, gun control or immigration reform. And it will probably prevent any real progress on campaign finance reform, which, in turn, will make it vastly more difficult for the I.R.S. to prevent abuse of the tax code.

According to the New York Times editorial from yesterday. Of course, I just quote it to exhibit just how shameless they are. The scandal, of course, is that this little “stumble” by the IRS gives ammunition to those awful conservatives. It’s a “distraction,” donchaknow, from the real important issues ….

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 14, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Liam on May 13, 2013 at 10:47 PM

Heck, Biden ain’t no Ford.

Biden will resign due to health problems and Hilary will step into that slot. And bring Huma as her special adviser as eye candy for non-gay dem guys.

cozmo on May 13, 2013 at 10:50 PM

Oh, no. If Biden ever gets into the Oval Office, it’ll take federal agents and 3 teams of mules to pry him out.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 14, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Democracy remains the least worst form of government in the world.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Swell, who lives in a democracy?

Cindy Munford on May 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Why don’t you spend some time in Russia or China and then come back and whine about how terrible things are in the US. It’s unfortunate that people take their freedom foregranted.

bayam on May 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

Well, that sure went over your head!

We don’t have a democracy, as progressives rediscover every time a presidential election rolls around and they realize the electoral college is still in existence.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 14, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Comment pages: 1 2