A House committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of right-leaning groups has identified the IRS agent who leaked the confidential donor list of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization that opposes gay marriage. NOM’s donor list, contained in a Form 990 Schedule B, which it is required by law to file with the IRS, was obtained in March 2012 by its chief political opponent, the Human Rights Campaign, and subsequently became the subject of several national news stories that centered on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s donation to the group.
Though the House Ways and Means Committee, which began investigating the scandal in the wake of revelations that the IRS had inappropriately singled out conservative groups, has identified the individual who divulged the information as an employee in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, it can’t divulge his name to the public or to NOM. It can’t even confirm when the leak took place, whether the perpetrator was disciplined, or even whether he is still employed by the IRS or the U.S. government. That’s because of a peculiarity of the Internal Revenue Code’s section 6103, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information. The law makes it a felony to disclose tax returns or related information to the public, but in an odd twist, the results of investigations conducted by congressional committees or by inspectors general are considered the confidential tax information of the alleged perpetrator.