Emails Between Lerner and Democracy 21 Sought
Washington, DC – Today, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., MD (R-LA) requested Democracy 21 provide all communications, including emails, between the advocacy group and former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner. Camp and Boustany requested the materials to help recover over two years of Lerner emails that were destroyed by the IRS. From its ongoing investigating into IRS targeting of conservatives, the Ways and Means Committee has found that Lerner corresponded and personally met with representatives of Democracy 21 to discuss certain conservative groups that were subsequently targeted by Lerner and the IRS.
Camp and Boustany stated, “Our investigation has found close coordination between Democracy 21 and Lerner. Lerner knew no limits – when she received a complaint about a conservative group she took direct and immediate action. Since the IRS has destroyed over two years of Lerner emails, these documents are central to determining the full extent of the IRS’s targeting of conservatives. We expect Democracy 21 will fully cooperate with the Committee so we can get all the facts.”
Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Centerwrote a complaint to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Lerner regarding conservative group Crossroads GPS on October 5, 2010. Later, on July 27, 2011, they sent a complaint focused on Crossroads and left-leaning Priorities USA. On December 14, 2012, Democracy 21 requested a meeting with Lerner to discuss the petition. Lerner’s email traffic shows that, upon receiving Democracy 21’s request, she leapt into action to target only conservative groups.
The Committee’scriminal referral of Lerner to the Department of Justice, describes Lerner and the IRS’s targeting of conservatives and coordination with Democracy 21:
Lerner’s calendar shows the January 4, 2013 meeting with Democracy 21 blocked off for 11:00 AM-Noon and, based on Lerner’s subsequent actions, it is clear that the meeting went forward as planned. Before or soon after the meeting, Lerner apparently contacted Tom Miller (EO Technical) to ask about the status of Crossroads (whether the group had been audited or selected for audit) because he replied by email at 1:55 PM the same day that the group had twice been before the Political Action Review Committee (PARC), in November 2010 and June 2011, but was not selected for audit.
Lerner’s interest in Crossroads was not limited to a mere inquiry of the status of the group’s application. Upon learning that Crossroads was not being audited, Lerner contacted her counterpart in the IRS’s audit function to find out why, and coordinate a denial of the group’s application:
Following Tom Miller’s response, Lerner sent an email to Nanette Downing, the Director of the EO Examinations Unit in Dallas, TX, demanding to know why Crossroads had not been audited.
I had a meeting today with an organization that was asking us to consider guidance on the c4 issue. To get ready for the meeting, I asked for every document that (sic) had sent in over the last several years because I knew they had sent in several referrals. I reviewed the information last night and thought the allegations in the documents were really damning, so wondered why we hadn’t done something with the org. The first complaint came in 2010 and there were additional ones in 2011 and 2012…The organization at issue is Crossroads GPS…I know the org is now in the ROO–based on allegations sent in this year, but this is an org that was a prime candidate for exam when the referrals and 990s first came in.
You should know that we are working on a denial of the application, which may solve the problem because we probably will say it isn’t exempt. Please make sure all moves regarding the org are coordinated up here before we do anything.
On the following Monday, January 7, 2013, Lerner sent a follow-up email to Downing which states, “As I said, we are working on the denial for the [Crossroads] 1024, so I need to think about whether to open an exam. I think yes, but let me cogitate a bit on it.” Interviews of IRS personnel and a review of Crossroad’s file shows that Lerner was in fact actively seeking to ensure a denial of the group.
Lerner’s meeting with Democracy 21 and subsequent focus on Crossroads translated into a flurry of work on the group’s application:
Lerner’s plan to deny the Crossroad application is evident from the work log for the Cincinnati-based revenue agent assigned to the case, as after her January 4, 2013 meeting with Democracy 21, the agent sprung into action. In the seven business days following her meeting, the revenue agent Joseph Herr, logged more time on the application than the entire year preceding. But more, the log shows that Herr was directed to reach a particular result with Crossroads. Herr’s log shows, in part:
On January 4, 2013, Herr notes a conference call with EOT [Exempt Organizations Technical Division] in DC where specific guidance is given to him on “how to best proceed with the [Crossroads] case.”
On January 7, this guidance from EOT was memorialized in Herr’s time sheet, “[b]ased on conference begin reviewing case information, tax law, and draft/template advocacy denial letter, all to think about how best to compose the denial letter.”
In the next journal entry from Herr, he notes,“[w]rite-up summary of idea on how I plan to make denial argument and share with Sharon Light, the Special Advisor to EO Director in Washington DC, for her opinion on whether the idea seems valid.” Nowhere in his 2012 log entries is there any discussion of denial. In fact, in an analysis of the Crossroads application in November 2011, among many others, EO Technical lawyer Hillary Goehausen makes no recommendation for denial.
The Committee subsequently learned that the agency was in the process of denying Crossroads’ application for exempt status and selecting them for audit. Judson informed staff the organization would be receiving a proposed denial letter. An IRS representative separately told staff that Crossroads had also been selected for audit. The evidence shows that without Lerner’s intervention, neither adverse action would have been taken against Crossroads. Again, the Committee has found no record of Lerner pursuing similarly situated left-leaning groups, despite receiving similar public complaints.