Top McCain aide urged IRS to audit conservative groups until ‘financially ruinous’

by WorldTribune Staff, June 25, 2018

A top aide on Sen. John McCain’s staff recommended that the IRS target conservative non-profit groups until they were financially unable to continue operating, a government watchdog group said.

Judicial Watch released internal IRS documents revealing that Henry Kerner, McCain’s former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, urged IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.”

Kerner’s comment was contained in notes taken by IRS employees at an April 30, 2013 meeting between Kerner, Lerner, and other high-ranking IRS officials, Judicial Watch said.

During what was called a “marathon” meeting, Lerner and other IRS officials met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss concerns raised by both McCain and Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.”

Judicial Watch said that, in the full notes of the April 30 meeting, Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups. Kerner tells Lerner, Steve Miller, Nikole Flax, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, and other IRS officials, “Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous.” In response, Lerner said that it is her job to “oversee it all.”

According to the notes of the meeting:

“Henry Kerner asked how to get to the abuse of organizations claiming section 501 (c)(4) but designed to be primarily political. Lois Lerner said the system works, but not in real time. Henry Kerner noted that these organizations don’t disclose donors. Lois Lerner said that if they don’t meet the requirements, we can come in and revoke, but it doesn’t happen in a timely manner. Nan Marks said if the concern is that organizations engaging in this activity don’t disclose donors, then the system doesn’t work. Henry Kerner said that maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous. Nikole noted that we have budget constraints. Elise Bean suggested using the list of organizations that made independent expenditures. Lois Lerner said that it is her job to oversee it all, not just political campaign activity.”

Just 10 days after the meeting, Lerner admitted that the IRS had a policy of improperly and deliberately delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative non-profit groups.

Judicial Watch said it also uncovered information showing that Lerner “was under significant pressure from both Democrats in Congress and the Obama DOJ and FBI to prosecute and jail the groups the IRS was already improperly targeting.”

President Donald Trump, presumably unaware of these new facts, appointed Kerner as Special Counsel for the United States Office of Special Counsel, Judicial Watch noted.

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