Officials received inappropriate information from Lois Lerner in 2010, raising new concerns about DOJ’s tainted IRS targeting investigation
WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, today sent a letter to Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) receipt from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of a 1.1 million page database on 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations, breaking federal law protecting confidential taxpayer information under 6103 protection. Yesterday, the Committee pressed the IRS for more information after new revelations that the IRS, under the direction of IRS senior official Lois Lerner, transmitted 21 disks to the FBI in October 2010, while the Justice Department pressed the IRS to be vigilant about the political speech of some organizations. After the Justice Department turned over the database to the Oversight Committee this month in response to a subpoena, the Justice Department says it was informed by IRS officials that it contains legally protected taxpayer information that should not have ever been sent to the FBI and it now plans to return the full database to the IRS.
“We are aghast to learn that the Justice Department worked with the IRS to assemble a massive database of nonprofit groups, and that this database included confidential taxpayer information that the Department is not authorized to possess,” write Issa and Jordan. “The creation of such an illicit and comprehensive registry by federal law-enforcement officials is concerning in and of itself. Yet, the creation of a registry at the same time that the Department considered possible investigatory steps against nonprofit groups engaged in political speech is alarming. This evidence is a clear indication that the Justice Department took affirmative steps to examine nonprofit groups engaged in otherwise lawful political speech.”
Additionally, today’s letter points out that the Committee is aware of multiple conflicts of interest in the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into the targeting of conservatives at the IRS. At this time, there are apparent conflicts of interest in the Public Integrity Division of the DOJ, the FBI as well as the Civil Division, leading Issa and Jordan to reiterate their call for a special prosecutor.
Issa and Jordan continue: ”Additionally, the revelation that the Justice Department worked with the IRS to compile a massive database of nonprofit information, including confidential taxpayer information, further undermines the integrity of the Department’s investigation of the IRS targeting. The Committee has already obtained information that the Civil Rights Division attorney leading the investigation has an apparent conflict of interest. Now we know that the other two Justice Department components involved in the investigation – the Public Integrity Section and the FBI – also have serious conflicts of interest stemming from their interaction with Lois Lerner in October 2010. For these reasons, we reiterate the overwhelmingly bipartisan position of the House of Representatives that the appointment of a special counsel is warranted to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing.”
Investigators only learned about the existence of the database last month in documents received after the Committee’s interview with Richard Pilger, an official with the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, who had discussed the possibility of prosecuting tax exempt organizations that engaged in political activity.
The letter requests the following documents:
1. All documents and communications between or among employees of the Department of Justice and employees of the Internal Revenue Service referring or relating to the 21 disks of nonprofit information transmitted from the Internal Revenue Service to the Justice Department on or around October 6, 2010;
2. All documents and communications between or among employees of the Department of Justice and employees of the Internal Revenue Service referring or relating to the production of the 21 disks of nonprofit information to the Committee on June 2, 2014; and
3. All documents and communications between or among employees of the Department of Justice and employees of the Internal Revenue Service referring or relating to the discovery of confidential taxpayer information protection by I.R.C. § 6103 on the 21 disks of nonprofit information produced to the Committee on June 2, 2014.
On May 7th, 2014, the House of Representatives voted on a bipartisan basis to hold Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative organizations applying for exempt status. They also voted to request the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS target scandal.
· The House approved H.Res. 574, finding Director Lerner in contempt, on a vote of 231 to 187, with 6 Democrats voting yes.
· The House approved H.Res. 565, requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS targeting scandal on a vote of 250 to 168, with 26 Democrats voting yes.
Click here to read the complete letter to Holder.