A federal judge has ruled the IRS has to hand over any records of requests from the White House to meddle into taxpayers' private information, the Washington Times reports.
The decision marks a victory for government accountability and transparency organization Cause of Action
, which has been trying for two years to pry the information loose, the Washington Times reports
It's not clear there've been any such requests, but speculation about such prying surfaced early in the Obama administration.
According to a 2012 account in the Wichita Eagle
, Mark Holden, Koch Industries’ senior vice president and general counsel, said Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama's chief economic adviser in 2010, commented on Koch Industries' tax status during a briefing with reporters, accusing the company of not paying taxes.
Holden, suggesting Goolsbee's remarks indicated access to confidential information, accused the administration of trying to intimidate the Koch brothers because of their political views.
Cause of Action sued in 2013 to get a look at whatever requests the White House, or other federal agencies, had made to the IRS, but the tax agency refused, saying even the existence of those requests would be protected by confidentiality laws and couldn’t be released, so there was no reason to make the search, the Washington Times reports.
But in her Friday order, federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson writes the IRS can't just refuse to divulge requests by citing taxpayer confidentiality laws, known as section 6103 of the tax code, the Washington Times reports.
"This court questions whether section 6103 should or would shield records that indicate confidential taxpayer information was misused, or that government officials made an improper attempt to access that information," she writes in denying the IRS's request to close out the case.
"As we have said all along, this administration cannot misinterpret the law in order to potentially hide evidence of wrongdoing," Dan Epstein, executive director at Cause of Action, tells the Washington Times.
"No administration is above the law, and we are pleased that the court has sided with us on this important point."
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