IRS Sent Sensitive Info of Tax-Exempt Groups to FBI Before 2010 Elections

By Ali Meyer | June 10, 2014 | 11:07am EDT

Lois Lerner, who served as director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division. (AP Photo)

( -- The IRS sent a 1.1-million page database containing legally protected taxpayer information of tax-exempt organizations to the FBI several weeks before the 2010 midterm elections, according to new information from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The IRS’s transmittal of this information to the FBI shows that the IRS took affirmative steps to provide sensitive evidentiary material to law-enforcement officials about the political speech of nonprofits,” said Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a letter to the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen demanding more information.

“At the very least, this information suggests that the IRS considered the political speech activities of nonprofits to be worthy of investigation by federal law-enforcement officials,” they said.  “The IRS apparently considered political speech by nonprofit groups to be so troublesome that it illegally assisted federal law-enforcement officials in assembling a massive database of the lawful political speech of thousands of American citizens, weeks before the 2010 midterm elections, using confidential taxpayer information.”

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) (AP Photo)

This information was found after the Justice Department turned over the database to the Oversight Committee in response to a subpoena.

The Justice Department says “it was informed by IRS officials that it contains legally protected taxpayer information that should not have ever been sent to the FBI and it now plans to return the full database to the IRS.”

An email from former IRS tax-exemption official Lois Lerner to Richard Pilger, an official with the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, shows that Lerner had asked Pilger his preference for “the disks we spoke about.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, who oversees the Department of Justice. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

According to the Oversight Committee, “Pilger forwarded Lerner’s email to an FBI agent, writing, ‘This is incoming data re 501c4 issues. Does FBI have a format preference?’” He then responded to Lerner, “Thanks Lois – FBI says Raw format is best because they can put it into their systems like Excel.”

“Despite an intensive investigation of targeting, the IRS had not disclosed to Congressional investigators that Lerner had sent a massive database of tax exempt organizations to the FBI for scrutiny,” reported the Oversight Committee. “Investigators only learned about the existence of the database last month in an interview with Pilger, who had discussed the possibility of prosecuting tax-exempt organizations that engaged in political activity.”

The letter from Issa and Jordan requests that the IRS immediately provide an explanation as to why the disks and all information related were withheld from Congress, and requests all communication between the IRS and any other agency regarding the disks.

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