On Thursday, Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), claimed that Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS’s tax exempt unit, personally signed invasive letters sent to 15 Tea Party groups represented by the ACLJ.
Sekulow stated that a “letter dated March 16, 2012 sent to the Ohio Liberty Council is representative of the other letters that Lerner sent to our clients. ”
According to Sekulow, the letter “was sent on letterhead out of the IRS office in Cincinnati.”
The cover letter bears Lerner’s signature, who runs the Exempt Organizations division out of the Washington, DC office. It includes more invasive and improper questions about membership of the group and demands information about all public events conducted or planned for the future. And it specifically requested information about the organization’s website, Facebook page, and other social media outlets.
Ms. Lerner’s March 16, 2012 letter to the Ohio Liberty Council read in part:
As indicated in our previous letter, we are unable to make a final determination on your exempt status without additional information. We ask that you provide the previously requested information by the response due date shown above (60 days from the date of this letter)… If you don not provide the additional information or receive an extension from use by the response due date (60 days from the date of this letter), your case will be placed in suspense.
The previous letter, dated January 26, 2012 and signed by Joseph R. Herr, Exempt Organizations Specialist, asked for an extensive list of intrusive information, including:
1. A print out of the Ohio Liberty Council’s website.
2. A list of all other social media outlets with print outs.
3. A narrative description of all actitivies since June 30, 2010, including who conducts the activities and their qualifications, when and were the activities were conducted, how significant each activity is in relation to the total activities of the group, how many participated at each event, how were participants selected, the fee schedule, if any, of the event, and a description of how the activity furthered your exempt purpose/
4. A description of the “associate group members” (the 70 or so local Tea Party groups in Ohio that are affiliated with the Ohio Liberty Council), how the Ohio Liberty Council solicts their membership, what questions they are asked as potential members, what the selection criteria for approval are, whether or not membership is limited to groups that are already exempt under section 501 (c) (4), and the names, Employer Identification numbers, and addresses of all the associate group members.
5. A detailed narrative of every public event “conducted or planned” by the Ohio Liberty Council, including copies of all speeches delivered at these events.
6. A detailed narrative of every candidate forum ever conducted by the Ohio Liberty Council, including copies of all handouts distributed.
7. A detailed narrative of every attempt by the Ohio Liberty council “to influence the outcome of specific legislation,” including copies of “all communications, pamphlets, advertisements, and other materials distributed by the organization regarding the legislation,” as well as copies of all television, radio, or internet ads.
8. Copies of all written communication between the Ohio Liberty Council and members of any legislative body.
On Wednesday, Ms. Lerner proclaimed her innocence before the House Oversight Committee before invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. On Thursday, she was placed on administrative leave, while House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) indicated he was inclined to recall her to his committee on the grounds that she had waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making an opening statement.
In March 2012 when she wrote these letters to ACLJ’s Tea Party group clients, Ms. Lerner reported directly to Sarah Hall Ingram, Commissioner of Tax-Exempt and Government Entities, who in turn reported to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
Mr. Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee who contributed $500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004, resigned as IRS Commissioner in November 2012, but Ms. Ingram has subsequently been placed in charge of the IRS’s administration of Obamacare.
All three of these current and former IRS officials are attorneys. Mr. Shulman is a graduate of Williams College and Georgetown Law School. Ms. Ingram is a graduate of Yale and Georgetown Law School. Ms. Lerner is a graduate of Northeastern University and Western New England College of Law.
The IRS exempt organizations specialist who signed the January letter to the Ohio Liberty Council, Joseph R. Herr, was identified in a report by Ben Swann of Cincinatti’s Fox 19 television station on Wednesday as one of six IRS agents who sent out intrusive scrutinizing letters to Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status. According to Swann’s report, all six had one common superior, Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager for Determination in the Tax-Exempt Division. Thomas reported to Holly Paz, Acting Director of Rulings and Agreements, who in turn reported to Lerner.
Earlier, Ms. Thomas was identified as the individual who improperly released confidential tax information about nine conservative groups in November 2012 to the progressive ProPublica organization.
Sekulow said that the ACLJ will soon file a lawsuit on behalf of its Tea Party group clients. “We are now finalizing our lawsuit against the IRS which will be filed next week in federal court in Washington, DC. We continue to add plaintiffs to this complaint.” Sekulow explained, “We truly believe that suing the IRS is the only way this unlawful abuse will stop and the only way we will find out the role of Lois Lerner and others in this widening scandal.”