Lois Lerner, who left the Internal Revenue Service after months of questions over the agency scandal regarding targeting of conservative groups, was key in providing tax information about certain groups to the Federal Elections Committee, according to newly released documents obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
The information includes tax exempt applications and supporting information such as articles, correspondence, meeting minutes, questionnaires and other supporting information that Judicial Watch says is supposed to be confidential. The groups were the American Future Fund, the American Issues Project, the Citizens for the Republic and Avenger, Inc., all conservative groups.
Former Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner listens during testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is investigating allegations that the IRS targeted conservative non-profit organizations with the words 'tea party' and 'constitution' in their names for additional scrutiny. Lerner, who headed the division that oversees exempt organizations, plans to assert her constitutional right not to answer questions. (Getty)
“Once the IRS assembles a file on a group or individual, that body of information is considered taxpayer information,” Chris Farrell, director of research and investigations for Judicial Watch, told TheBlaze. “The IRS was giving out taxpayer information in these documents.”
Federal law prohibits the IRS from sharing confidential taxpayer information (that includes sharing with other government agencies), under U.S.C. Section 6013, Farrell said. Some of the forms the IRS provided the FEC are public – including the tax exempt application itself. However, Farrell said, supporting information such as meeting minutes and correspondence, qualifies as confidential taxpayer information, potentially violating the law.
Asked if this meant the IRS was in violation of Section 6013, Farrell responded, “correct.”
IRS spokesman Anthony Burke asked TheBlaze to send the documents, but has not responded to a request for comment after the documents were sent.
Lerner, who was the director of the Internal Revenue Service exempt organizations unit, was the face of the scandal after first admitting that targeting occurred in May. The FEC enforcement division attorney, whose name was redacted, asked Lerner about the organizations.
“I was hoping that you might be able to answer a follow up question about the American Future Fund, as well as a similar question about another group, the American Issues Project,” the FEC attorney said to Lerner.
In a Feb. 3, 2009, email from Lerner to the FEC attorney, Lerner said, “I've sent your e-mail off to some of my staff. Will get back to you once I've heard back from them.” Another in the same chain from Lerner that day said, “make sure you CC [redacted] on my e-mails. She keeps me honest.”
The FEC attorney, in an email to Lerner, said the AFF applied for tax exempt status in March 2008. The FEC attorney said, “When we spoke last July, you told us that the American Future Fund had not received an exemption letter from the IRS.”
The documents that the IRS provided to the FEC included public and private information. This included public 990 forms, and the applications for tax exempt status. However, the IRS also shared supporting information, which Farrell of Judicial Watch was was not appropriate.
News reports surfaced in August that the IRS and FEC were sharing information on conservative groups, raising questions of potential collusion between government agencies in targeting conservative organizations. The FEC declined to investigate AFF, according to Judicial Watch. The AFF did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze at this time.