GOP representatives Camp and Boustany are continuing to beat the dead horse of an IRS "scandal" connected with the way the IRS has attempted to efficiently filter new applications for 501(c)(4) status to provide extra scrutiny to the most likely groups to be engaged in illicit politicking. See their July 30th letter to IRS deputy commissioner Daniel Werfel [hat tip Prof. Evelyn Brody] in which they suggest that there is email evidence that IRS official Lois Lerner may have inappropriately released confidential tax information in the 501(c)(4) application process to an FEC official. They've included in the pdf file a series of emails between Lerner and FEC officials and IRS officials relating to a request for information about the exempt status of a particular group.
Folks, the emails do not represent any kind of smoking gun about the matter suggested in the letter. In fact, quite the opposite. The emails show that Lerner released only information that is publicly available, and that she was quite careful on this issue throughout the set of emails! Take two items from the letter and compare them to the facts as revealed by the emails.
- The letter notes that the FEC spoke with Lerner about a right-wing group. Camp's letter leaves out the rest of it--that it was just asking for PUBLIC information about the group's exempt status, and that Lerner merely responded with the information that was published (in Tax Analysts) in August of 2008.
- The letter suggests that Lerner went out of her way to get IRS officials to give the FEC whatever information they wanted from confidential files. It says that the followup query from the FEC asked for "additional information" and that Lerner nine minutes later sent out an email asking IRS officials to accommodate his request. The suggestion is that Lerner was trying to assist in enabling the sharing of confidential tax information. That is an extraordinarily misleading --indeed, one could even say 'fraudulent'--interpretation of the actual email correspondence. The "additional information" he asked for was whether there was any further (public) listing of exempt organizations showing the group he was tracking now that it was somet time after Lerner had shared the available public information. And Lerner asked IRS officials to check the IRS website for any updated (public) exempt-status information. This was not a conspiracy to reveal confidential information in any shape, form or fashion.
Do Camp and Boustany and the House Republicans in general think that Americans are so ignorant that they can make ridiculous assertions in a letter, backed up with nothing whatsoever in a series of emails, and get away with it? It would seem so. This letter is an insult to Americans generally, because it attests to a willingness among partisan politicians to misinform and mislead the American public if it will possibly gain them a political, partisan advantage with their base (tea party conservatives) in the upcoming elections.
Let's be clear, here. There is very little evidence showing any kind of scandal at the IRS. There is no evidence showing release of confidential information by the IRS division dealing with tax exempt status. There is a lot of evidence showing an attempt by partisans on the right to fabricate a scandal and to distract the American public from considering the significant economic issues related to tax policy that they need to consider thoughtfully and carefully. All you have to do is google this issue of IRS collusion with the FEC and you will see how the echoing chambers of right-wing media-mania operate to spread what appears to be a wholly invented scandal.