Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official “DOJ Recap” report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner, DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.
The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”
The documents were produced subsequent to court orders in two Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits: Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:14-cv-01956) and Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01239).
The new IRS documents include a October 11, 2010 “DOJ Recap” memo sent by IRS Exempt Organizations Tax Law Specialist Siri Buller to Lerner and other top IRS officials explaining an October 8 meeting with representatives from the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and “one representative from the FBI” to discuss the possible criminal prosecution of nonprofit organizations for alleged political activity:
On October 8, 2010, Lois Lerner, Joe Urban [IRS Technical Advisor, TEGE], Judy Kindell [top aide to Lerner], Justin Lowe [Technical Advisor to the Commissioner of Tax-Exempt and Government Entities], and Siri Buller met with the section chief and other attorneys from the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and one representative from the FBI, to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations.
The section’s attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees “posing” as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability. The attorneys mentioned several possible theories to bring criminal charges under FEC law. In response, Lois and Judy eloquently explained the following points:
Under section 7805(b), we may only revoke or modify an organization’s exemption retroactively if it omitted or misstated a material fact or operated in a manner materially different from that originally represented.
If we do not have these misrepresentations, the organization may rely on our determination it is exempt. However, the likelihood of revocation is diminished by the fact that section 501(c)(4)-(c)(6) organizations are not required to apply for recognition of exemption.
We discussed the hypothetical situation of a section 501(c)(4) organization that declares itself exempt as a social welfare organization, but at the end of the taxable year has in fact functioned as a political organization. Judy explained that such an organization, in order to be in compliance, would simply file Form 1120-POL and paying tax at the highest corporate rate.
Lois stated that although we do not believe that organizations which are subject to a civil audit subsequently receive any type of immunity from a criminal investigation, she will refer them to individuals from CI who can better answer that question. She explained that we are legally required to separate the civil and criminal aspects of any examination and that while we do not have EO law experts in CI, our FIU agents are experienced in coordinating with CI.
The attorneys asked whether a change in the law is necessary, and whether a three-way partnership among DOJ, the FEC, and the IRS is possible to prevent prohibited activity by these organizations. Lois listed a number of obstacles to the attorneys’ theories:
She pointed to Revenue Ruling 2004-6, which was drafted in light of the electioneering communication rules before they were litigated.
Just prior this meeting, the IRS began the process of providing the FBI confidential taxpayer information on nonprofit groups. An IRS document confirms the IRS supplied the FBI with 21 disks containing 1.25 million pages of taxpayer records:
FROM: Hamilton David K
SENT: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 2:49 PM
TO: Whittaker Sherry [Director, GE Program Management], Blackwell Robert M
SUBJECT: RE: Question
There are 113,000 C4 returns from January 1, 2007 to now. Assuming they want all pages including redacted ones, that’s 1.25 million pages … If we get started on it right away, before the 10th when the monthly extracts start, we can probably get it done in a week or so….