More developments in the story about abuses within the IRS have come to light. Both raise questions about whether the federal government can investigate itself in these matters.
First, in October of 2010, the IRS sent 1.1 million pages of tax return data to the FBI. The public tax returns were from non-profit groups and individual taxpayers, a direct violation of the law. The IRS is required to keep that information confidential without some kind of court order, which in this case was not obtained so far as anyone knows.
The FBI came by the documents when IRS officials Lois Lerner and Sarah Hall Ingram, just before the 2010 mid-term elections, helped — some might say “ghosted” — the writing of a New York Times article on the buying of advertising by non-profit groups. (Read this to mean groups that philosophically opposed the policies of the Obama administration.)
After the article appeared, the Justice Department Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith sent an email asking whether the DOJ could prosecute the groups with conspiracy.
Next we find Lerner emailing the DOJ with the “disks we spoke about.”
Second comes the revelation that Lerner is the IRS go-between with the New York Times and the DOJ, all seemingly working hand-in-hand.
Now look, I know that newspapers work with sources, but this is taking the shape of a law enforcement back-scratch, which any good newspaper would avoid.
Does this explain the hands-off way in which the NY Times has covered Lerner — treating her more like a brave colleague than a news subject?
But my suspicions aside, this whole data-dump deal, which was not divulged in previous subpoenas from Congress for information, raises big questions about the DOJ and its ability to investigate the IRS abuse story.