Treasury IG: IRS improperly probed political candidates, campaign donors

The IRS scandal may get a lot bigger — and may push Congress to call for an independent investigator.  Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George informed Senator Charles Grassley that the IRS has improperly probed political candidates and donors in at least four cases going back to 2006.  The Department of Justice declined to prosecute any of the cases, and Grassley wants to know why:

The Treasury Department has admitted for the first time that confidential tax records of several political candidates and campaign donors were improperly scrutinized by government officials, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.

Its investigators also are probing two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for public office,” the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, has privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley.

In a written response to a request by Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary CommitteeMr. George said a review turned up four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials took part in “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates,” including one case he described as “willful.” In four additional cases, Mr. George said, allegations of improper access of IRS records were not substantiated by the evidence.

That would strongly suggest that the evidence in the other four cases did substantiate the allegations. So why didn’t the DoJ take up the cases?  Obviously, there is a different standard of proof for administrative actions than for criminal prosecution, but the IG apparently felt strongly enough about the inaction to inform Grassley of the differences between the cases in his review.

Which political candidates and campaign donors had their confidentiality violated by the IRS?  The only case of which we’re aware at the moment of any similarity would be the experience of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative group whose data got leaked to its political opponents and the media.  That case still awaits a criminal investigation, and now we have this admission that it wasn’t an isolated incident.  Presumably, if the IRS had gone after progressives and Democrats, an Eric Holder-run DoJ wouldn’t have demurred from showing this as corruption within the bureaucracy favoring the Right, especially after the revelations of the last two months.  Still, until the actual cases get revealed, we won’t know what kind of political biases were in play, and who was involved — and 2006 was during the Bush administration and preceded Douglas Schulman’s tenure as IRS Commissioner, too.

What we do know is that relying on the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and lawbreaking in the IRS is a fool’s errand.  We had already approached the need for a special prosecutor to look into the IRS’ operations for criminal acts and corruption.  This latest revelation should demonstrate the necessity of an independent investigator/prosecutor.

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