The saga of Christine O’Donnell may not be over yet. According to the Washington Times, which broke the news last week that a Delaware official improperly accessed her records the same day she declared her candidacy for the US Senate, the Treasury IG who first reported the improper targeting of conservative groups in the tax-exempt unit will re-interview O’Donnell to dig more deeply into her case:
The Treasury Department watchdog now at the heart of the IRS scandal is planning to re-interview former GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell about whether her confidential federal taxpayer information was breached in 2010, as congressional investigators vow to press forward with emerging facts regarding Washington’s involvement in the targeting of conservative groups.
A former IRS employee testified recently at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Washington office of the Internal Revenue Service was involved in the improper scrutiny of political advocacy groups and that the issue reached the office of the chief counsel, William Wilkins, one of two political appointees in the agency. …
Mr. George’s office also plans to interview Ms. O’Donnell about an incident in 2010 when Delaware’s tax collection office accessed the federal tax records of an unidentified taxpayer, thought to be Ms. O’Donnell, a Grassley staffer said.
The inspector general did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.
“Routine,” in this case, means that states routinely check with the IRS to make sure that taxpayers file state declarations of income that match their federal filings. Why that would be an issue with O’Donnell with a state official on the day she declared her candidacy is one of the mysteries of the case. Another would be how the IRS itself slapped a lien on a property no longer owned by O’Donnell on that same date. The timing at least suggests some sort of coordination between the state official and someone at the IRS. That alone warrants an investigation, and perhaps not by the IG but by a federal prosecutor or the FBI.
The editors of the New York Post agree. In an editorial this morning, the Post urges Congress to get more IRS officials under oath — and perhaps some in the Department of Justice as well:
By the time the IRS reversed itself on the tax lien — claiming computer error — the damage was done. And we’ve now learned from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s investigation that O’Donnell was just one of four politicians or political donors whose tax information was inappropriately accessed.
The O’Donnell news comes the same week we’ve learned that applications from conservative groups seeking tax exemption were channeled through the office of IRS counsel in Washington — headed by an Obama appointee. An IRS lawyer testified that the paperwork was forwarded there at the request of Lois Lerner, the same IRS official who invoked her Fifth Amendment rights not to testify before the House.
To get to the truth, Congress needs to get more officials testifying under oath. That includes the Justice officials who declined to prosecute even in the case where Treasury found “willful unauthorized access” was found. And it would help to remind all these agencies that federal disclosure laws are meant to protect citizens from government — not government from accountability.
We also need to put more effort into reforming the tax code to limit the power and damage the IRS can do, especially in elections. That’s actually the higher priority here.