Released emails: Democrat in Senate pushed for prosecution of conservative groups

by WorldTribune Staff, September 13, 2016

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island pushed the Justice Department to prosecute conservative groups he alleged were violating IRS rules, according to email conversations obtained by Judicial Watch.

“The conversations were in preparation for a briefing by Justice Department officials for Sen. Whitehouse’s staff and for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on April 9, 2013,” Judicial Watch reported on Sept. 13. “One internal agency email exchange indicates Sen. Whitehouse’s interest in seeking criminal prosecution of groups targeted by the IRS.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a federal court order.

“The Obama IRS scandal includes abuse of power by Democrats in Congress who wanted to jail Obama’s political opponents to help secure Obama’s re-election,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “And Americans should know that the courts have recently concluded the Obama IRS abuses haven’t stopped – even as we approach another presidential election.”

Judicial Watch cited a 2013 study by scholars from the American Enterprise Institute and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University which found that, “had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 – 8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.

In March 2010, the IRS began to single out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny when applying for tax-exempt status by flagging organizations with names containing “Tea Party,” “patriot,” or “9/12.”

“For the next two years, the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups, delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive, intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership, contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts,” Judicial Watch said.

The newly released emails show that, at the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Whitehouse asked why the Department of Justice wasn’t prosecuting political groups on its own, independently of the IRS.

“I would urge that the Department and the Service get together and rethink whether in these two specific areas, which I think bear little resemblance to traditional tax violations and are in fact very plain-vanilla criminal cases, whether or not that deference to the IRS is actually serving the public interest at this point, or whether the Department could not proceed to… put together a criminal case showing a fairly straightforward false statement or a fairly [straightforward] shell corporation disclosure violation.”

Judicial Watch noted the emails show that, following the hearing, at the request of Justice Department lawyers, “Sen. Whitehouse’s staff sent over examples of the organizations Whitehouse had in mind for prosecution. They included American Future Fund, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, American is Not Stupid, Inc., RightChange.com II, and A Better America Now. All of these are conservative organizations.”

The new emails also show “collaboration in the Department of Justice with officials in the IRS in preparing for the hearing. The IRS sent a draft of its planned testimony for the hearing to the Justice Department. Judicial Watch previously exposed a plan by the Obama IRS and Justice Department prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the very Tea Party and anti-Obama groups that the IRS was targeting.”

The Obama administration prosecution effort seemingly ended with the exposure of the IRS targeting in a May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).  IRS official Lois Lerner did not reveal the targeting until just before the report’s release, in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association conference.

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