If you thought the story of how the IRS spent years persecuting conservatives was over, you were wrong. We’ve now known for years that the IRS was involved in some shady and likely illegal dealings in the years leading up to the 2012 presidential election. We even knew that the wrongdoing was likely initiated from near the top-of-the-heap, with IRS leaders who were directly connected to the White House. What we weren’t “sure” about was just how far these officials went to harass their political opponents and if they explicitly broke any federal laws.
Now it seems that we have the answer.
What we know now, thanks to additional documents unearthed in years-long litigation by the good-government group Cause of Action, is that Lerner almost certainly broke the law when she transferred the documents…
“It took an organization over 50 months of investigation and multiple lawsuits to get clarity on the IRS’s own compliance with the rules it enforces against others,” says Dan Epstein, the executive director of the Cause of Action Institute and a former attorney for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “The IRS, in the midst of its political targeting of groups engaged in policy advocacy, was engaging in the disclosure of millions of records aimed at ginning up prosecutions of these groups without going through the legally required channels.”
Federal law prohibits the IRS from sharing tax returns filed with the agency, with very limited exceptions. “The IRS has a special obligation to keep information confidential, that’s how our tax system works,” says Eileen O’Connor, who served as assistant attorney general for the tax division of the DOJ in the George W. Bush administration.
Documents suggest that Lerner’s massive document transfer to the DOJ didn’t meet any of those exceptions, including one that allows the agency to disclose returns for use in criminal investigations — if they’ve been requested in relation to “an actual investigation about a person to whom the investigation is related,” says O’Connor.
So, now the question is… what happens next? If this were a Republican operative, or a member of the “vast right wing conspiracy,” there is no doubt in my mind that jail time would be in their immediate future. However, because Lerner is an Obama lackey and a likely Clinton ally, I don’t think we can make the same assumptions about her. A more likely outcome? The media ignores this new evidence, everyone pretends to forget about it (except for conservatives), and Lois Lerner never faces justice… but eventually gets a new job with the Clinton administration (or the Clinton foundation… but I repeat myself).