The Internal Revenue Service shared highly confidential tax information of several Tea Party groups in the IRS scandal with the Federal Election Commission, a clear violation of federal law, according to newly obtained emails.
The public watchdog group Judicial Watch told Secrets Thursday that it was former scandal boss Lois Lerner who shared the information on groups including the American Future Fund and the American Issues Project.
The emails obtained by Judicial Watch show that the IRS, which was considering the tax status of the groups, gave the FEC the tax returns of the groups, including income, expenditures and staff pay. The emails also revealed the exact working of the prying political questions the IRS wanted the groups to reveal, such as their goals and the requests for brochures and ads.
The information, sent via email, to the FEC came in response to the organization’s questions about whether the IRS had granted tax-exempt status to the Tea Party groups. It is unclear how the information the IRS sent was going to help the FEC, since the IRS hadn’t determined the tax status of the groups yet.
The emails were produced to Judicial Watch last week by the FEC in response to an Aug. 9, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The email chain began Feb. 3, 2009, when the FEC made it’s request to Lerner.
She emailed back 10 minutes later, and said: “I have sent your email out to some of my staff. Will get back to you as soon as I have heard from them.”
According to Judicial Watch, the materials “from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC containing detailed, confidential information about the organizations. These include annual tax returns (Forms 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and correspondence between the nonprofit organizations and the IRS. Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a felony for an IRS official to disclose either ‘return information or ‘taxpayer return information,’ even to another government agency.”
Lerner, who was head of the unit deciding tax exempt status, quit in the scandal.
“These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies: the IRS and FEC,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime.”Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.