A federal judge has ordered the White House to reveal any requests it has made to the IRS for private taxpayer information, citing as the court's authority the same law that was passed to protect citizens from federal officials in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
The decision could give more credence to claims that the White House was involved in the targeting of its political opponents based on this sensitive information, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
The Obama administration tried to argue that it doesn't have to follow through with such requests and invoked the same law the judge cited to say that it is required to hand over the information.
“The Court is unwilling to stretch the statute so far, and it cannot conclude that section 6103 may be used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote.
Cause of Action, the legal watchdog group that sued the IRS in 2013, hailed Friday's decision as a "victory for transparency advocates," the Free Beacon reported.
“As we have said all along, this administration cannot misinterpret the law in order to potentially hide evidence of wrongdoing," the group's executive director Dan Epstein said. "No administration is above the law, and we are pleased that the court has sided with us on this important point.”
Read the full opinion below:
The court's decision came on the heels of federal officials admitting that former IRS employee Lois Lerner used a second email address under the name "Toby Miles" to conduct official business. Another watchdog group, Judicial Watch, is suing for the emails Lerner sent while conservative nonprofit groups were being targeted.
The ruling also came amid allegations that former White House chief economist Austan Goolsbee illegally accessed confidential tax information belonging to Koch Industries, the corporation run by well-known conservative and libertarian funders Charles and David Koch.
In 2010, the White House said that Goolsbee "used Koch Industries as an example when discussing an issue noted in the [President’s Economic Recovery Board] report that half of business income goes to companies that do not pay corporate income tax because they are pass-through entities and that many of them are quite large."
The Department of Treasury's inspector general for tax administration is investigating whether Goolsbee did anything illegal, the Free Beacon reported.
(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)
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