A Delaware state official apparently breached the personal tax information of Christine O'Donnell during her failed 2010 Republican bid for U.S. Senate -- and the computer records of it are now gone.
The Washington Times reported a state investigator requested and received permission to probe O'Donnell's tax records based on a newspaper article about a tax lien filed against her on a house she no longer owned; the IRS later said the lien was mistakenly filed and removed it.
Christine O'Donnell said her tax records were "illegally accessed" during her bid for U.S. Senate. (Getty Images)
The government's watchdog agency for the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the matter, which came to light after a Treasury Department official informed O'Donnell in January that her records had been inappropriately accessed. The breach fits within the time frame of the IRS giving additional scrutiny to conservative and Tea Party political groups.
"Someone working for the Delaware government illegally accessed my tax records," O'Donnell told Fox News.
O'Donnell sought help from Sen. Chuck Grassley, who serves on the Judiciary and Finance committees. According to The Washington Times, Grassley (R-Iowa) was informed Tuesday that Delaware officials used the newspaper report as the only justification for probing her IRS history. Grassley was also told all computerized information that would show exactly when and how often her records were breached is destroyed after three months.
“So far, it appears the department destroys the access records after a short amount of time,” Grassley told The Times. “That’s puzzling. Unless the IRS has a back-up, and I hope the IRS does, there’s no way to know how and when Delaware state employees accessed Christine O'Donnell’s federal tax records.”
O'Donnell's Tea Party-backed bid for Senate became fodder for critics with her infamous "I'm not a witch" ad. She lost to Democrat Chris Coons despite the wave of public sentiment that swept many Tea Party candidates into office.
O'Donnell told Fox News the false lien against her was filed the same day she announced her candidacy, March 9, 2010. The lien -- in addition to a litany of other financial issues -- was used to paint her as an irresponsible and unreliable candidate.
According to Politico, O'Donnell told Grassley's office she gave the IRS the proper documents to clear her record “four or five times, and they kept getting ‘lost,’” a Grassley aide said.
The precise timing of the breach is still in dispute: the Delaware government said it took place only after the newspaper article appeared on March 20, 2010, but O'Donnell told The Washington Times she was alerted that it too occurred on March 9, 2010.
Delaware state officials did not comment to The Times on the latest revelations Tuesday, but said in a statement last week that an employee, identified as auditor David Smith, had “properly conducted a review of federal tax records.”
“A state Division of Revenue investigator accessed records on or after March 20, 2010, following information that came to the attention of the division,” Patrick Carter, director of Delaware's Division of Revenue, said in a statement. “The record access led the state revenue investigator to conclude there was no basis for further state investigation of a taxpayer and no action was taken by the state Division of Revenue against the taxpayer.”
Carter said his department had investigated the matter in December and “again found state access of the records of the taxpayer was part of a typical review and was not improper.”