Emails Reveal Lois Lerner's 'Secret Research Project'

Image: Emails Reveal Lois Lerner's 'Secret Research Project' (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Landov)

Friday, 05 Sep 2014 07:12 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The Internal Revenue Service obtained donor lists from nonprofit political groups for a "secret research project" conducted by the agency's former head, Lois Lerner, and other officials involved in the targeting scandal.

Newly obtained documents also reveal that 75 percent of the groups from which the lists were solicited were conservative, while just 5 percent were liberal. The watchdog group, Judicial Watch, obtained the emails and documents as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.  

Alert: IRS Insider Reveals How to Save as Much as $355,000

"Again, Judicial Watch has uncovered more shocking emails from the IRS, forced out by a lawsuit and a federal court," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a release. "Now we learn the stunning news that Obama's IRS had a 'secret research program' using illicitly-obtained confidential donor lists of conservative and Tea Party organizations that opposed President Obama's agenda or reelection."

A 2012 email written by David Fish, IRS acting director of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements, said, "Joseph Urban [IRS Technical Advisor, Tax Exempt and Government Entities] had actually started a secret research project on whether we could, consistent with 6104, argue that [REDACTED]," said "Joe was quite agitated yesterday when I told him what we were doing."

Another email indicates that the agency was aware the donor lists were not needed for decisions about groups' tax-exempt status.

"TEGE [Tax Exempt and Government Entities] has reviewed those files and determined that such information was not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency's determination on exempt status," wrote Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Margo Stevens to Lerner in response to a question about whether the agency could return the lists it improperly solicited.

Significant parts of the emails obtained by Judicial Watch were blacked out or redacted, some completely blacked out. The group said that the Obama administration's decision to withhold the information is completely discretionary and not required by law.

The IRS had previously said that a computer crash wiped out Lois Lerner's emails.

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