5 Jun 2015

IRS Created Team of Lawyers to Hide Info From Congress

We haven’t heard a whole lot about the IRS/Tea Party scandal of late.  You know – where the IRS intentionally delayed or refused local Tea Party groups their tax status in order to protect Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 and to curtail Republican gains in the 2014 election.
But now, new information is coming out about just how deep the scandal really goes.  It certainly appears that the IRS put considerable resources into the effort to deny millions of Americans their 1st Amendment rights.  The ACLJ reports:
New testimony reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used “hundreds of attorneys” to hide critical information from Congress’s investigation of the IRS targeting of conservatives.

According to new congressional bombshell testimony today, the IRS set up a previously unknown “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two politically appointed positions at the IRS).
The “special project” this team was given?  Concealing information from Congress.
The IRS’s director of privacy, governmental liaison, and disclosure division, Mary Howard, testified that soon after the IRS targeting scandal was revealed, the IRS “amassed hundreds of attorneys to go through the documents [requested by Congress] and redact them.”
Members of Congress have long complained that many of the documents produced by the IRS have been “redacted to the point of absurdity.”
Now we know why.
How did it work – this stonewalling of information to Congress?  The ACLJ explains:
Mary Howard, who also works as the head Freedom of Information Act officer in the IRS, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that once the “special project team” was created and operational, she never saw requests for information.
“My understanding was that it started soon after the request came from Congress and other investigators asking for documents around this whole issue,” which she surmised meant around spring of 2013.

In other words, as soon as the IRS targeting scandal broke, the IRS set up a special team of hundreds of attorneys, including President Obama’s political head of the Chief Counsel’s office, to keep requests for publicly available information away from the person who would normally review those documents and turn them over to Congress and the public.  That “special” team then overly redacted, delayed, and determined which documents it wanted Congress to see.
After setting up a special “group” to target and delay applications by Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status, the IRS set up a new “special project team” to delay and redact information from Congress about that targeting.  Can you smell a cover-up?
And, in the testimony,  a familiar name has re-surfaced according to the ACLJ:
When asked about these revelations and the ongoing investigation by Congress into the IRS and former top IRS official Lois Lerner’s involvement, Howard testified, “I think that Lois Lerner was the tip of the iceberg.”
This is what we at the ACLJ have been arguing all along.  The targeting of conservative groups, the delays, the unconstitutionally abusive questions go far beyond former top IRS official Lois Lerner.  We expect to learn more about Lerner’s role and the disappearance and later recovery of many of her emails later this month as the Inspector General for Tax Administration is due to issue its report.

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