In the month prior to the 2010 midterm elections, Internal Revenue Service investigator Lois Lerner met with Justice Department officials to discuss the criminal prosecution of tax-exempt political groups.
It had previously been revealed that Lerner investigated avenues for prosecuting certain tax-exempt status applicants upon the suggestion of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) when the watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained Lerner’s emails on that subject via a FOIA request.
The email, dated May 8, 2013, revealed some coordination between Lerner and the Department of Justice:
I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ, I know him from contacts from my days there. He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs.
But new emails obtained from the Justice Department by Judicial Watch, heavily redacted and procured only as a result of a court order, indicate that Lerner had been investigating the potential for prosecuting tax-exempt applicants two years before she admitted to inappropriate targeting. Lerner went so far as to have an in-person meeting at DOJ to discuss the subject.
The emails are reproduced below via Forbes contributor Robert Wood:
They revealed that Mr. Obama’s DOJ called an October 8, 2010 meeting with the IRS “concerning 501(c)(4) issues.” On September 30, 2010, the DOJ’s Election Crimes prosecutor emailed Ms. Lerner:
“Hi Lois-It’s been a long time, and you might not remember me, I’ve taken on [REDACTED] duties. I’m looking forward to meeting you, Can we chat in advance? I’m a [REDACTED]“
Ms. Lerner responded on October 2, 2010:
“Sure-that’s a good Idea [sic]. I have a meeting out of the office Monday morning, but will try you when I get back sometime early afternoon. You can try me at 202 283-8848.”
“The document shows that the unknown DOJ official setting up the meeting is with the Election Crimes Division of the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division. (Judicial Watch believes the redacted name of the DOJ official is Richard Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Division.)” the Judicial Watch release read. “The DOJ email setting up the IRS meeting is cc’d to the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section Chief, Jack Smith, and Principal Deputy Chief Raymond Hulser. The documents show that Ingram was not available but arranged for her deputy, Lois Lerner, then-Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations branch, to meet with the DOJ senior officials.”
The Justice Department has, however, withheld an additional 832 pages of requested documents, citing a variety of exemptions that allow the agency to keep that information secret.
“These new documents dramatically show how the Justice Department is up to its neck in the IRS scandal and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.” Only as a result of Judicial Watch’s independent investigations did the American people learn about the IRS-DOJ prosecution discussions of Obama’s political enemies and how the IRS sent, in violation of law, confidential taxpayer information to the FBI and DOJ in 2010. Richard Nixon was impeached for less.”
As Ed Morrissey observed when the initial contacts between Lerner and the DOJ were exposed, we do not know just which groups the IRS official was targeting. While it could have been a conservative group, it could also have been a liberal organization in the IRS’s crosshairs.
However, an October, 2010 email sent by Lerner to a DOJ contact and later uncovered by congressional investigators revealed that the tax collection agency had sent the Justice Department and the FBI “1.1 million page database of information from 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations.” That database contained confidential taxpayer information, and its transfer suggests that collusion between DOJ and IRS with the aim of prosecuting some tax-exempt applicants had evolved beyond merely the planning stages.
Neither the press nor the Justice Department appears interested in investigating this apparent abuse of authority by the IRS but, thanks to groups like Judicial Watch, the issue is not going away.