Now that BENGHAZI! has been ripped from his grimy little claws, Darrell Issa is desperate for anything to keep his name in the headlines. This week's poutrage concerns an IRS response to an FBI request for nonprofit filing data in electronic form.
During the course of its probe into the IRS tea party targeting scandal, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it learned the tax agency sent 1.1 million pages of tax return data about 501(c)(4) organizations to the FBI just before the 2010 midterms, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
The IRS responded that it identified issues with 33 tax returns out of more than 12,000 that included confidential taxpayer information. The majority of those groups “do not appear to have any connection to political activity,” the IRS said.
Here's what happened. The IRS did a data dump of form 990s as filed by taxpayers. This is public information; however, some filers didn't follow the filing instructions correctly and included donors' personal information on the public copy of the form. So in 33 cases, the FBI got more information than they should have, but that's not necessarily the fault of the IRS.
Marc Owens, who formerly ran the IRS tax-exempt division, said it’s “not clear that there is an issue,” pointing to sections of the tax code that set out procedures for sharing of protected taxpayer information with DOJ in any proceeding before a federal grand jury or preparation for any proceeding.
“I doubt that DOJ can disclose whether or not there is/was a grand jury, or preparations for one, under any circumstances,” Owens, now a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale’s D.C. office, wrote in an email.
Owens added that he sees two questions going forward: One, was the DOJ determination that 6103 information was included correct? And two, was or is there a grand jury, or preparation for a grand jury, in the works?
In the context of its tea party targeting scandal investigation, the lawmakers wrote that the agency sending this data 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.”
Blah, blah, blah. Nothing to see here, move along.