Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Federal Judge Blasts IRS Over "Missing" Emails
As you may recall, in 2013, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revealed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes. This led to wide condemnation of the agency and triggered several investigations, including a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal probe ordered by United States Attorney General Eric Holder. Initial reports described the selections as nearly exclusively of conservative groups with terms such as "Tea Party" in their names. Lawmakers called for the resignation of Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS's section on tax-exempt organizations. When Lerner refused to resign, she was placed on administrative leave. She eventually resigned effective September 23, 2013. The investigation continued by Congress and others. Investigators demanded that the IRS produce her emails. The IRS refused to produce her emails and then claimed that they had lost all her emails. This only intensified the investigations. Accordingly, a federal judge on July 10 ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath in the next 30 days about what happened to former IRS employee Lois Lerner’s "lost" emails and any other computer records reportedly lost by the Service. The ruling follows a petition by Judicial Watch, a conservative, nonpartisan educational foundation, for a status conference to discuss the IRS’s failure to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Lerner’s emails that the IRS says it lost (Judicial Watch v. IRS, No. 1:13-cv-1559). Lerner claimed that her emails were lost when her hard drive crashed on July 13, 2011, causing her to lose all her emails sent to recipients outside the IRS from mid-2009 to mid-2011. The emails sought by Judicial Watch cover portions of the same period for which the IRS on June 13, 2014, notified the House Committee on Ways and Means were lost or destroyed. In May 2013, Judicial Watch submitted four separate FOIA requests for IRS communications concerning the review process for organizations seeking tax-exempt status. One of the FOIA requests specifically sought Lerner’s communications with other IRS employees and with any government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for Code Sec. 501(c)(4) applicants from January 1, 2010, to the present. A second request sought communications for the same time-frame between the IRS and members of Congress and other government agencies, as well as any office of the Executive Branch. After the IRS failed to provide the information, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on October 9, 2013. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan also appointed Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain any missing records from sources. Facciola is an expert in e-discovery. Sullivan also authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. The Wilson Tax Law Group is following the investigations. If you have questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.