New IRS e-mails: Yep, direction came from D.C. and yep, it was political
posted at 9:21 pm on May 14, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham
A tranche of new Internal Revenue Service e-mails refute the White House’s longtime defense of the agency’s actions in the IRS targeting scandal. The e-mails, uncovered by a Judicial Watch FOIA request, reveal there was direction coming from the Washington headquarters of the IRS and that the targeting of Tea Party groups was indeed political.
The Washington Examiner‘s Mark Tapscott excerpts:
In a July 2012 email, Holly Paz, who was then director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements division, asked IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.”
Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati, and Sharon Camarillo was a senior manager in its Los Angeles office.
The email conflicts with claims by Obama administration officials that the targeting effort was done exclusively by the government workers in the Cincinnati IRS office.
Grodnitzky worked in the IRS headquarters’ Exempt Organizations Technical Unit. In his response to Paz, he said his colleagues were “working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in D.C. and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases.”
Thomas instructed a colleague to “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. In addition to 501(c)(4) typical legislative activities, application indicates possible future political candidate support,” the memo added.
The e-mails pertain to scrutiny of Tea Party groups over two election cycles, in 2010 and 2012. Some of them are the same e-mails released to Congress but without redactions. The entire batch is here.
They also include some lovely back-and-forth between Sen. Carl Levin and the IRS about how best to use the IRS’ power to target conservative groups. Because democracy.
As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, Levin sent a series of letters to the IRS intensifying his campaign against predominantly conservative nonprofit groups:
September 27, 2012: Levin asks for copies of the answers to IRS exemption application question 15 – a question about planned political expenditures – from four specific groups: Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA.
October 17, 2012: Miller informs Levin, “As discussed in our previous responses dated June 4, 2012, and August 24, 2012, the IRS cannot legally disclose whether the organizations on your list have applied for tax exemptions unless and until such application is approved.” Miller, however, then informs Levin that Americans for Prosperity and Patriot Majority have been approved, but the IRS has no records for Crossroads and Priorities USA.
October 23, 2012: Levin writes to again express his dissatisfaction with the IRS handling of “social welfare” (501(c)(4) organizations insisting that IRS guidance “misinterprets the law” by allowing any political activity. He again demands an answer as to whether the four organizations he listed in his previous letter were primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare. He also seeks copies of tax exempt revocation letters sent due to c4 political activities, as well as statistics on how many c4s have been notified that they may be in violation due to political activities.
In perhaps the most revealing letter from the IRS to Levin, Miller on June 4, 2012, takes 16 pages to explain to the senator what IRS regulations and policies may and may not be used to evaluate political groups and assures him that the agency has considerable leeway in picking and choosing which groups would be subject to additional scrutiny:
There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization … Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .
The “Special Report” panel weighed in on the newly released documents tonight. It’s a good segment, with Steve Hayes running down all the ways this information refutes everything the White House claims and claims to stand for, Kirsten Powers suggesting maybe Congress should just file FOIAs instead of requesting documents from the most transparent administration in history, and Charles Krauthammer just calling them liars. Now, to paraphrase Krauthammer, will the press cover it? After all, dude, it’s been more than two years.
Click to watch.