Judicial Watch won another Freedom of Information lawsuit and forced the government to turn over what looks like a "smoking gun" for the IRS scandal involving the illegal targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(C) (3) status.
The plan to use the IRS to target conservative and pro-Israel groups was never the product of a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati, but a nation-wide plan to use the IRS as a political weapon. Someone developed that plan. We're now getting a good idea whom it was.
One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky “to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.” Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office. Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:
EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.
The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters.
Another email string from February – March 2010 includes a message from a California EO Determinations manager discussing a Tea Party application “currently being held in the Screening group.” The manager urges, “Please let ‘Washington’ know about this potentially embarrassing political case involving a ‘Tea Party’ organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.” A co-worker responds: “I think sending it up here [DC] is a good idea given the potential for media interest.” As with Ben Rhodes’ Benghazi-related talking points email, Judicial Watch obtained a more complete version of this IRS email chain than was provided to a congressional committee.
The Judicial Watch documents also contain email correspondence to internal IRS investigators from Lerner, dated April 2, 2013, that tries to explain the “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) criteria used to select organizations for screening and scrutiny:
Because the BOLO only contained a brief reference to “Organizations involved with the Tea Party movement applying for exemption under 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)” in June 2011, the EO Determinations manager asked the manager of the screening group, John Shafer [IRS Cincinnati field office manager], what criteria were being used to label cases as “tea party ” cases. (“Do the applications specify/state ‘ tea party’? If not, how do we know applicant is involved with the tea party movement?”) The screening group manager asked his employees how they were applying the BOLO’s short –hand reference to “tea party.” His employees responded that they were including organizations meeting any of the following criteria as falling within the BOLO’s reference to “tea party” organizations: “1. ‘Tea Party’, ‘Patriots’ or ’9/12 Project’ is referenced in the case file. 2. Issues include government spending, government debt and taxes. 3. Educate the public through advocacy/legislative activities to make America a better place to live. 4. Statements in the case file that are critical of the how the country is being run. . . “
So, we believe we have provided information that shows that no one in EO “developed” the criteria. Rather, staff used their own interpretations of the brief reference to “organizations involved with the Tea Party movement,” which was what was on the BOLO list.
What's going on here is that we have former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance Holly Paz sending an e-mail to IRS Attorney Steven Grodnitzky asking for an explanation of how tea party group applications were being singled out for 'special handling'..and Grodnitzky responding by confirming the cases were being handled in Washington. So that's one lie out of the way, the idea that a few government employees in Cincinnati were going rogue. Government employees donlt act inthat fashion - and here, they were doing what they were told from higher up.
The second e-mail from Lois Lerner reveals how BOLO lists (be on the look out) were specifically created for tea party groups or groups with issues related to government spending, debt, taxes and “how the country is being run.” In other words, they were deliberately targeted.
Now we get to the next smoking gun. The IRS documents also include a presentation entitled “Heightened Awareness Issues” with a red and orange “Alert” symbol identifying which organizations seeking tax-exempt status are to be singled out for 'special attention'. . and focuses on the Tea Party organizations.
And finally, we have a whole series of letters between Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, and top IRS officials throughout 2012 discuss how better to target conservative groups.
In response to a Levin March 30 letter citing the “urgency of the issue,” then-Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller assured the senator that IRS regulations were flexible enough to allow IRS agents to “prepare individualized questions and requests” for select 501(c)(4) organizations.
The newly released IRS documents contain several letters and emails revealing an intense effort by Levin and IRS officials to determine what, if any, existing IRS policies could be used to revoke the nonprofit exemptions of active conservative groups and deny exemptions to new applicants. In a July 30, 2012, letter, Levin singles out 12 groups he wants investigated for “political activity.” Of the groups – which include the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, the 60 Plus Association, and the Susan B. Anthony List – only one, Priorities USA, is notably left-leaning.
And as the 2012 elections grew closer, Levin turned the heat up.He wanted the Tea Party/Conservative groups either stonewalled or shut down before the election.
In an obvious attempt to reassure him, at one point Miller sent Senator Levin a 16 page response on June 4, 2012 to explain to him that the IRS had the leeway it needed to pick and choose which groups to concentrate on and what to ask them:
"There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization. Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application."
Let's remember that IRS agents used these 'individualized questions' to target groups’ donors, seize training information, demand personal information on college interns, and even target individuals by name.
Remember who Senator Levin is..he's one of the most powerful and senior Democrats in Washington. Does anyone believe he was doing this without coordinating with the DNC, and perhaps senior members of President Obama's re-election campaign. The Senator needs to be brought before a grand jury to answer some questions under oath.
I have to wonder whether IRS-Gate heating up was a factor in his suddenly announcing his retirement this year.
And let's also remember the other batch of IRS documents (produced earlier in this litigation) revealing that Lois Lerner had communicated directly with the Department of Justice and Eric Holder about the prospect of criminally prosecuting certain tax-exempt groups.
We have never in our history had the IRS used as a political weapon in this fashion.
'Not even a smidgen of corruption' Mr. President? I think Rep.Joe Wilson just got proven right again here.