“If you thought the IRS targeting — scandal, controversy, whatever you want to call it — was forgotten, think again,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper, introducing Dana Bash’s report last night on House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa’s expansion of the probe. Issa requested information from the Federal Election Commission after leaked e-mails suggested that coordination may have taken place between the two agencies in pursuit of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. That may increase the focus on one particular figure in the scandal, as well as potentially add more to it:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa demanded Wednesday that the Federal Election Commission turn over records of more than five years of communications with the Internal Revenue Service – a move that significantly expands the California Republican’s ongoing probe of alleged federal targeting of conservative groups.
Issa has already received a response from FEC chair Ellen Weintraub, lamenting the possibility that news media have reported on “innuendo.” Nonetheless, she wants to turn the investigation over to the Inspector General simultaneously to releasing the documentation to Oversight (via Instapundit):
The stated reason for the request is “[t]o help ensure that the FEC has not coordinated with the IRS on the targeting of Americans on the basis of their political beliefs.” As you note, this is a grave allegation. If true, and I have seen no evidence of this to date, such targeting would be unacceptable. Even a suspicion of improper targeting affects the credibility of the agency. Therefore, after having read this same allegation in a National Review Online article the morning of our meeting, I immediately referred the matter to the FEC’s Inspector General for an impartial, independent review. I did not discuss the referral during our meeting because I had not yet conferred with the Inspector General as to what, if anything, may be made public during the pendency of such an investigation. She has confirmed that I may share the fact of the referral. …
The National Review Online article appears to have been based on an email exchange, which you now have, in which a staff attorney sought guidance on the process by which the IRS confers tax exempt status on 501(c)(4) organizations and sought assistance in obtaining publicly available information. No confidential tax information was requested or received in those communications, and as noted, the search for all other communications is ongoing.
That one particular e-mail didn’t ask for confidential information, but as Weintraub herself notes, the information it did explicitly request was publicly available. Why, then, ask the FEC to involve itself in an IRS investigation at all? Why didn’t the investigator look up the FEC filings on line, as many of us do? Lois Lerner, who worked at the FEC prior to the IRS, was known for politicizing her work in both places, and it’s very interesting that IRS investigators reached out to Lerner’s old haunts to target conservatives.
Addendum: Happy 12th blogiversary, Instapundit!