The IRS Digs in its Heels

It could take years for Congressional committees to get all the documents demanded about the IRS scandal under mandatory subpoenas, IRS’ new Commissioner John Koskinen testified. The new IRS Commissioner displayed the slippery style of a snake-oil salesman while testifying March 26 before Congressman Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government. 

Koskinen’s excuses were especially surprising because similar demands for documents are imposed upon private companies all the time by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.  Your author has worked as a lawyer on teams responding to such massive governmental document requests.  Any time there is a merger that raises questions or controversy, a “Second Request” is issued demanding often millions of pages of emails and documents to be delivered to the U.S. Government.  It doesn’t take years.

The government – naturally – complains it cannot do what private businesses do.  The private sector routinely responds to more-extensive subpoenas to huge corporations in weeks or months with teams of lawyers hired on a temporary basis.  There is even specialty software designed for this (several brands) and even a small industry built around it.  Some companies will supply the specialized work space along with instant manpower.

The March 26 hearing was delightfully raucous, with one Republican after another exhibiting a pulse and tearing into Koskinen – the former Deputy Mayor of the District of Columbia.  Koskinen swatted back smug, evasive non-answers with a smile. The Committee subpoena in February demanded “all” emails from or to various people (on official government email systems) including Lois Lerner.  Koskinen repeatedly tried to change the focus from “all” to only those emails and other documents that the IRS might want the Congress to see.

Congress has been demanding information for over a year.  Republicans pointed out that it should take only minutes for a computer to pull all of Lois Lerner’s emails.  Koskinen angered committee members by trying to suggest it would take more time – not less – to pull all emails instead of a selected subset.  Of course in the computer age, it is easier and faster to copy all emails than to put in the extra work of screening emails according to topics. Committee members were not amused by Koskinen’s tap-dancing, although Koskinen was plainly amused with himself.

However, a dangerous trap by the Obama Administration is being set, which even House Republicans failed to recognize.  Christine O’Donnell revealed in February – and Congressional committees have confirmed her report -- that the IRS interprets 26 U.S.C. 6103 as prohibiting the disclosure of IRS misconduct or abuse concerning taxpayer information.

So – cloaked in double-speak – Koskinen effectively announced to Congress that the information Congress is trying to obtain will not be disclosed.  Christine O’Donnell exposed that the IRS thinks “6103 information” includes not only a taxpayer’s records but also how IRS personnel mishandled that taxpayer’s records. The IRS plans to redact and withhold from Congress all information about misconduct and abuse by the IRS.

On March 26, Commissioner Koskinen repeatedly emphasized that the IRS is screening all documents to withhold from Congress any “6103 information.”  But the IRS argues that “6103 information” includes the very misconduct and abuse by IRS employees which Congress is trying to investigate. 

Consider:  O’Donnell’s tax records were illegally accessed, according to a Treasury Department inspector general investigator Dennis Martel (who interviewed me earlier on a related issue).  So Christine filed a Freedom of Information Act request about herself.  The IRS responded that they had three (3) boxes of documents to hand over and would she come get them.  Then the IRS called back and said they would not release any documents about her to her because 26 U.S.C. 6103 prohibited it. That’s the same problem Congressman Darrell Issa’s Committee will run into.

That IRS interpretation is so bizarre that a Federal Court would slap it down quickly.  But someone needs to stop talking and start suing.  Congress cannot make progress exposing this Obama scandal otherwise.  To file a simple and inexpensive lawsuit, only someone with legal standing can be a Plaintiff.  The only ones we know of with standing are Christine O’Donnell, Catherine Englebrecht, and the National Organization for Marriage.  I drafted an example and offered it for free as my contribution to the fate of the nation -- “for the greater good.”  Someone needs to file that lawsuit.

Meanwhile, new developments will put to the test the honesty of the IRS and the Federal Election Commission under the Obama Administration. The IRS claims that it is motivated by concern about tax-exempt organizations engaging in “political” activity.

But the Obama Administration doesn’t care if liberal organizations intervene in federal elections.  It is only conservative organizations which the IRS and FEC attack.  And now we will have a real-world test to prove the administration’s double standard.

On March 11, 2014, your author filed complaints against Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  CREW blatantly intervened in the 2010 U.S. Senate elections.  CREW is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, tax-deductible organization. CREW’s violations were so clear we will see the truth.  But CREW is also liberal. Let’s watch whether the government applies the law in the same way against liberals and conservatives.  Read the FEC Complaint here and the IRS Complaint here.  The exhibits are posted here.     

(We should note that “political” can mean “social welfare.” That is, “political” concerns government and national policies and what is best for society.  “Political” is different from campaigning in an election.  That is called “Partisan” activity.)

Similarly, we just learned that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used campaign funds to benefit his granddaughter. The Nevada Democrat used $16,787 in 2013 and $14,481 in 2012 of his U.S. Senate campaign funds to purchase jewelry from Ryan Elisabeth Reid, to give out as “holiday gifts” for Reid’s staff.

It would be a scandal for a Republican to do this -- but not for a Democrat.  The payments were discovered by Las Vegas journalist Jon Ralston while investigating payments to “Ryan Elisabeth.”  Jahan Wilcox, a Republican National Committee spokesman, decried Harry Reid's use of campaign monies as a “personal slush fund.”

We are watching the blatant use of government power to influence elections, to suppress conservative beliefs, and to promote progressive liberalism.  Yet Democrats are so brazen they tell us we do not see what we clearly see.