‘Willful unauthorized access’: Gov’t officials raided tax records of political candidates, donors; DOJ declined to prosecute

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The Justice Department declined to prosecute cases involving the improper scrutiny of the personal tax records of political candidates and donors by government officials, The Washington Times first reported.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George has notified Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, that a review, requested by Grassley, revealed four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials engaged in “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates,” including one case described as “willful unauthorized access.” George added that four other “allegations were not substantiated by evidence.”

TIGTA’s review did not name the officials involved or the political affiliations of the people whose tax records were accessed.

George explained that of the four substantiated cases, three were “inadvertent,” however George’s office referred one of the “inadvertent” cases to the Justice Department. According to George, the Justice Department “concurred with our assessment that there was no willfulness and declined to prosecute.”

The inspector general also referred the case described as “willful unauthorized access” to the Justice Department. The Justice Department again declined to prosecute.

In a July 12 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Grassley demanded information by July 26 on Holder’s knowledge of the cases, the reasons for declining prosecution, the specific offices to which the cases were referred, the individuals responsible for declining prosecution and the political affiliations of the “victims.”

“Although [the eight instances] may not be indicative of wide spread targeting, any instance is cause for concern,” Grassley wrote in the letter. “Even more alarming, in at least one instance TIGTA referred evidence of ‘willful unauthorized access’ to the United States Attorney’s Office, but criminal prosecution was declined. Decisions such as these directly impact the political process and should be subject to the scrutiny of the American public.”

In a statement, Grassley reiterated that the IRS is required to act “with neutrality and professionalism, not political bias” and added that the Justice Department should not hide behind taxpayer confidentiality to avoid answering why the department did not prosecute cases dealing with violations of such laws.

“With the IRS on the hot seat over targeting certain political groups, it’s particularly troubling to learn about ‘willful unauthorized access’ of tax records involving individuals who were candidates for office or political donors,” Grassley said. “The public needs to know whether the decision not to prosecute these violations was politically motivated and whether the individuals responsible were held accountable in any other way.”

George further told Grassley that TIGTA investigators are also currently investigating two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for political office.”

In March, Holder announced the Justice Department was launching a criminal investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups.

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