Court rules administration must acknowledge investigation into release of Koch Brothers tax returns
Is the government investigating whether former White House economic advisor Austin Goolsbee released the private tax information of the Koch Brothers?
We're going to find out very soon. A federal judge ruled that the Treasury Department inspector general must comply with an FOIA request from a watchdog group regarding the existence of any federal probe into the breach.
The Obama administration must acknowledge the existence of an independent investigation into former White House senior economics adviser Austan Goolsbee’s alleged unauthorized access to the Koch brother’s tax returns, a court ruled Tuesday.
A federal judge ruled the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) must disclose to watchdog group Cause of Action whether records of an investigation exist.
Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after TIGTA refused to confirm or deny the existence of the investigation in what is commonly known as a “Glomar response.”
“The court has ruled that the federal government cannot hide behind confidentiality laws to prevent Americans from knowing if our President has gained unauthorized access to their tax information,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein said in a statement Tuesday. “This is a decisive win for all Americans and for government transparency and accountability.”
Former White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee sparked a mini-scandal in 2010 when he told reporters during a background press briefing that Koch Industries—the company of libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch—paid no income taxes.
Conservative lawmakers and activists said Goolsbee’s statements not only unfairly singled out the president’s political opponents but also used confidential IRS documents to do so.
TIGTA announced in response to a letter from six Republican senators that it was launching an investigation into Goolsbee’s comments and whether he violated the law. However, the report was never released to the senators or the public.
TIGTA refused to confirm or deny the existence of the investigation in response to several FOIA requests from the Washington Free Beacon, Koch Industries, and Cause of Action. The agency general cited a statute forbidding the unauthorized release of any citizen’s tax returns.
However, the court ruled Tuesday that the statute did not bar the agency from confirming the existence of an investigation, and that the agency had waived its right to apply other exemptions by previously acknowledging the report.
“The fact that TIGTA has publicly announced that it has investigated unlawful disclosures of, or access to, that body of information protected by statute as ‘return information’ strongly suggests that the fact of an investigation is not, itself, ‘return information,’” the court wrote.
White House explanations on how Goolsbee got the information have been inconsistent and not believable. First, they claim he got the info from a government board. Then they tried to pass it off as something Goolsbee remembered reading somewhere. Next, they'll probably say the information came to him in a dream.
What little birdie at the IRS whispered in his ear? The same might be asked of other leaks of private tax info of conservatives. And the audits. And the intimidation.
Gee - you get the impression they don't like conservatives very much up there, do they?