Top IRS ObamaCare Official Advised WH on Groups Challenging Contraception Mandate

Emails released Wednesday revealed that Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS’ top ObamaCare official, advised White House executive staff on legal challenges from groups claiming the HHS contraception mandate violated their religious freedom. Redactions in the emails indicate they contained confidential taxpayer information.

Prior to heading the IRS office in charge of implementing ObamaCare, Ingram directed the office responsible for overseeing tax-exempt nonprofit groups, the same office that has been accused of targeting conservative, pro-life, and Tea Party groups.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that the emails, which were released by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, demonstrate that Ingram and others at the IRS violated the agency’s role as an impartial administrator of the tax code by counseling the White House about an issue that is both political and controversial.

Currently, there are 73 cases and over 200 plaintiffs that represent church organizations, hospitals, universities, businesses, schools, and individuals who have filed lawsuits against HHS based on the claim that the contraception mandate is unconstitutional and infringes upon religious liberty.

Several names and blocks of text are redacted in the emails, with notations citing section 6103 of the IRS Code that prohibits the release of tax return information by IRS agents.

In emails sent July 20, 2012 from White House official Jeanne Lambrew to Ingram and White House health policy advisor Ellen Montz, and copied to Health Care Counsel at IRS Catherine Livingston and IRS Manager in Exempt Organizations David Fish, Lambrew wrote:

Thanks. David, thank you for the information on [6103]

I am still hoping to understand whether the 50 percent rule is moot if the organization does not offer goods and services for sale to the general public. Do we assume that organizations like [6103] do offer goods and services for sale? Does any fee for any service mean it meets this test?

Thanks again.

Another from Lambrew:

Thanks. One more.

It looks like Rev. Proc 2011-15, 2011-3, IRS 322 says that an organization is assumed to be internally supported unless it both meets the 50 percent test and “offers admissions, goods, services, or facilities for sale, other than on an incidental basis, to the general public…” The question is: [6103] does not meet the “for sale” prong of the test, so since it fails to meet that, why isn’t it considered an integrated auxiliary?

This is time sensitive – possible to get an answer by noon? Thanks.

On July 19, 2012, Hall wrote (in italics), in response to Lambrew's questions:

I have tried to collect the 6033 questions to ensure you have what I have from the team. I realize that there have been interim calls and that Treasury OTP is handling the church plan questions. Jeanne’s latest questions are at the end.

Can you help us out quickly with the below three questions on non-filers of 990s:

1. Are schools automatically exempt from filing? See the [6103] and the [6103] below order. These schools, while exempt from filing, would not meet the reg’s religious employer test unless they are a church or integrated auxiliary of a church.

Colleges would generally be required to file Forms 990…

(The large, well known [6103] universities –e.g., [6103] – do not appear to be part of the [6103] group ruling. They also file returns.)

2. Would a free standing groups of schools like the [6103] file 990s? See link below.

Each entity would have to be evaluated separately to determine whether it had an exemption from filing. These schools appear to qualify under the exception for schools below college level affiliated with a church or operated by a religious order. Again these schools, while they could be exempt from filing, would not meet the religious employer test unless they are a church or integrated auxiliary of a church.

3. The [6103] letter refers to [6103]…” What does that mean? Can you give an example of this type of organization?

Very generally, these organizations, under the control of the church (not Goldman’s or Fidelity) manage the church’s investment portfolio or retirement fund that covers the ministers and employees. As noted in the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] letter, these organizations qualify for an exemption from filing only if they meet the test for “integrated auxiliary.”

[6103]

Ingram testified before the oversight committee Wednesday, stating she could not recall what was underneath the redactions, and adding that she was simply advising the White House on the current IRS rules.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) hammered Ingram on the sharing of American taxpayers’ personal information:

Jordan: In that correspondence that resulted in most of those cases being dismissed, you shared personal taxpayer information with the White House. And now under the Affordable Care Act, Americans have to give personal information to the IRS—to the same organization that potentially shared all kinds of information with the White House political people. That’s what people are nervous about. That’s what scares a lot of people.

Ingram: I cannot answer what is under those blocks, so I can’t answer whether that information originated with the White House.

Jordan: So it was OK for political White House to get the unredacted version from the same entity that targeted groups who came into existence because they opposed the Affordable Care Act, but Congress can’t get it? That’s unbelievable.”

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, a nonprofit government accountability organization that has sued the IRS over similar documents, said, “If in fact the White House received confidential taxpayer information, then we have a White House that is complicit in the biggest violation of the law since Nixon.”

When Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents requested by the White House from the IRS that fell under section 6103, the IRS responded it had “no record of request from the White House or President of the United States pursuant to IRS 6103(g)(1).”

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has requested unredacted versions of the emails, citing a prohibition from using section 6103 “for the purpose of concealing information from a congressional inquiry.”


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