A conservative government watchdog says it has obtained emails revealing that the Internal Revenue Service sent conservative groups’ private tax exemption application and tax return information to the Federal Elections Commission, in violation of federal law.
According to Judicial Watch, the emails from Jan. 2009 to the present, provided by the FEC in response to an August 2013 Freedom of Information Act request, yielded a “revealing email chain” between former Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Judicial Watch explains that in one email exchange beginning on Feb 2, 2009, an FEC attorney requests information about the American Future Fund’s (AFF) tax-exempt status from Lerner.
“When we spoke last July, you told us that the American Future Fund had not received an exemption letter from the IRS,” the attorney, whose name is redacted, writes. Later in the email the attorney asks Lerner whether the IRS had granted tax exemption to American Issues Project (AIP) and AIP’s predecessor organizations: Citizens for the Republic (CFTR) and Avenger, Inc. (AIP).
Ten minutes later that same day, Lerner indicated she would cooperate.
“I have sent your email out to some of my staff. Will get back to you as soon as I have heard from them,” she wrote according to Judicial Watch.
The watchdog explained that the FIOA request also uncovered “extensive 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 6013 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,” Judicial Watch explained.
The IRS has been under fire for targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. The National Review reported in August that Lerner possibly illegally provided information to the FEC. According to Judicial Watch the emails reveal that the coordination between the IRS and FEC was more extensive than initially believed.
Lerner resigned her position at the IRS earlier this month. In May Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in an appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“These extensive emails and other materials provide a disturbing window into the activities of two out-of-control federal agencies: the IRS and FEC,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “And there is the very real question as to whether these documents evidence a crime.”