Rep. Issa: IRS Data Dump to FBI Not Legal

Image: Rep. Issa: IRS Data Dump to FBI Not Legal

Tuesday, 10 Jun 2014 11:40 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee charged that the IRS may have violated federal tax privacy laws by handing over data on tax-exempt organizations to the FBI,  Politico reported.

Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wrote to the IRS to say they were "extremely troubled by this new information, and by the fact that the IRS has withheld it from the committee for over a year."

The Republicans charged that "the IRS took affirmative steps to provide sensitive evidentiary material to law-enforcement officials about the political speech of nonprofits."

The letter continued, "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."

The IRS transferred 21 disks containing a million pages of information about 501(c)(4) groups to the FBI prior to the 2010 midterm elections. Tea party groups were targeted for special scrutiny by the IRS over their tax-exempt status. The Justice Department was looking into whether tax-exempt groups were engaged in campaigning beyond what the law allows,  The Wall Street Journal reported.

The IRS said the disks largely contained "publicly available material that is easily and routinely accessible." It acknowledged that the disks could have "inadvertently" included information that should have first been expunged.

The former chief of the IRS tax-exempt division, Marc Owens, said it was "not clear that there is an issue" in the transfer. He said that the IRS routinely shares information with the Justice Department under prescribed circumstances, according to Politico.

The Justice Department said that the FBI did "not review the disks except for the index" and that they were not used "for any investigative purpose," the Journal reported.

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