State officials can access IRS computer systems through a “back door” intended to allow for better communication in investigations, but with so little accountability that the process can easily be abused for political purposes.  That appears to have happened already — and the target was a Tea Party candidate for Senate.  According to the Washington Times, an official in state government illegally accessed Christine O’Donnell’s tax records on the day she announced her candidacy — and the same day the IRS slapped an erroneous tax lien on a property O’Donnell no longer owned:

On March 9, 2010, the day she revealed her plan to run for the Senate in a press release, a tax lien was placed on a house purported to be hers and publicized. The problem was she no longer owned the house. The IRS eventually blamed the lien on a computer glitch and withdrew it.

Now Mr. Martel, a criminal investigator for the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, was telling her that an official in Delaware state government had improperly accessed her records on that very same day. …

Investigators for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, an influential Republican who serves on the Finance and Judiciary committees, have uncovered one key issue: a backdoor system in which state officials can access Americans’ private tax records in the name of investigating with little oversight or accountability.

The Treasury Department’s tax watchdog has informed Mr. Grassley that at least four politicians or political donors have had their personal tax records improperly accessed through that system since 2006, including one case in which a willful violation of federal law was identified.

O’Donnell’s case appears to be among those noted earlier this week in the IRS scandal.  This explanation still has a few gaps, too.  The state official may have illegally accessed O’Donnell’s records; what happened to the information?  Did it get sent to one of her competitors in the race?  How exactly does this relate to the IRS lien on the property O’Donnell no longer owned?  The investigation into this abuse should have found all of these answers, right?

Oh, wait — the DoJ isn’t interested in pursuing abuses when the victims are Tea Party activists:

But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the offenders. Treasury officials have refused to give Mr. Grassley any specifics on the cases or to describe the disposition of Ms. O’Donnell’s case, claiming even people who improperly access tax records have an assumption of privacy under federal tax laws.

Mr. Grassley scoffs at that explanation and is demanding answers from the Treasury and Justice departments.

As Glenn Reynolds notes:

Seems like a lot of the “bad luck” that affected some Tea Party candidates wasn’t bad luck at all.

Glenn also points out that the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing today to look into some of the other abuses at the IRS.  The hearing starts at 11 am.