It always seems to come down to the emails.
Now, we are learning even more troubling facts about how the Internal Revenue Service specifically targeted Tea Party groups and why these conservative groups were singled out for illegal and unlawful treatment.
The latest revelations come from emails sent by Lois Lerner, the former Director of Exempt Organizations, who initially blamed this on low-level employees in the Cincinnati office of the IRS.
In her own words, Lois Lerner called the Tea Party matter "very dangerous" and ordered that she and the national office in DC be kept in the loop on this targeting, adding "Cincy should probably NOT have these cases."
This reported today in the Wall Street Journal:
"In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is 'very dangerous,' and is something 'Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on.' Ms. Lerner adds, "Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.'"
It's also clear that the targeting scheme focused on political beliefs. More from the Wall Street Journal:
"The emails also put the targeting in the context of the media and Congressional drumbeat over the impact of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections. On July 10, 2012 then Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Ms. Lerner a National Public Radio story on how outside money was making it hard for Democrats to hold their Senate majority.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had complained to the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees, rather than 501(c)(4)s, which are tax-exempt social welfare groups that do not have to disclose their donors.
'Perhaps the FEC will save the day,' Ms. Lerner wrote back later that morning.
That response suggests Ms. Lerner's political leanings, and it also raises questions about Ms. Lerner's intentions in a separate email exchange she had when an FEC investigator inquired about the status of the conservative group the American Future Fund. The FEC and IRS don't have the authority to share that information under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. But the bigger question is why did they want to? After the FEC inquiry, the American Future Fund also got a questionnaire from the IRS."
These newly revealed emails are damning for a number of reasons. They clearly contradict the story-line put out by the White House and the IRS that this scheme originated with a couple of rogue, low-level employees in a satellite office in Ohio. Secondly, it clearly shows the political motivation behind the targeting scheme - a motive that Obama Administration officials continue to deny.
That is why our lawsuit against the IRS is so important. We represent 41 organizations in 22 states in federal court. In our complaint, we urge the court to find that the Obama Administration overstepped its authority and violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as the IRS's own rules and regulations.
We're awaiting a response from the Obama Administration to our lawsuit which is scheduled to be filed with the court in October.
What is clear already is the deep involvement of top IRS officials in this scheme - especially Lois Lerner.
We have letters signed by Lerner suggesting her personal involvement in sending invasive questionnaires to 15 of our clients in March 2012 - some nine months after she was told about the scheme and promised to stop it.
And we also know that this scheme was not confined to the Cincinnati office. We have correspondence showing this tactic was used not only in the Cincinnati office, but also from two offices in California – El Monte and Laguna Niguel – as well as the national office in Washington, D.C. In fact, the Washington office sent a letter to one of our clients as recently as April 2013.
There are still many questions that need to be answered. We're encouraged that Congress is continuing its investigation and we intend to get to the bottom of this scheme through our federal lawsuit.
Those responsible for this illegal campaign must be held accountable.
Oh, one more thing.
Lois Lerner is still on leave. Paid leave. Her salary continues to be paid by the taxpayers.
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