As a result of a Freedom of Information Act filing by the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, it was discovered that that there was a “secret research project” dedicated to the donor lists of these various groups. The mention of the project was contained in an email thread back-and-forth between a technical advisor, Lois Lerner’s direct subordinate, and another official.
The emails clearly show that the agency was aware that the vast majority of the groups targeted were conservative. A technical advisor to Lerner sent this in a thread:
Of the 199 (c)(4) cases, approximately 3/4 appear to be conservative leaning while fewer than 10 appear to be liberal/progressive leaning groups based solely on the name. The remainder do not obviously lean to either side of the political spectrum.
The emails utterly disprove Lerner’s testimony that the scandal was merely the result of “low-level employees in Cincinnati.” Three different emails, one from an IRS attorney and two from Lerner herself, clearly state that no applications should be approved or denied without express approval from Washington, D.C. The strongest statement was from attorney Michael Seton, in an email sent to Lerner, defining the steps that must be taken:
Please inform the reviewers and staff in your groups that before issuing any favorable or initial denial rulings on any cases with advocacy issues, the reviewers must notify me and you [Lerner and other senior IRS staffers] via e -mail and get our approval. No favorable or initial denial rulings can be issued without your and my approval.
In a formal report from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to the Congressional committees involved, the IRS said that five more individuals‘ computers “had hard drive issues that resulted in a probably loss of emails during portions of the four-year-period.”
The IRS said that the lost emails do not raise any red flags, although without access to them, of course, it is impossible to verify that statement. There is no mention of whether they are actually lost or merely “too hard to go get,” as they asserted about former tax exempt head Lois Lerner’s emails.
In addition to the acknowledged unfair treatment of conservative groups, Republicans charge that the IRS engaged in a cover-up of their politicized activities. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the committee chairman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called for a special prosecutor to evaluate this most recent revelation and said this:
The IRS’s ever-changing story is practically impossible to follow at this point, as they modify it each time to accommodate new facts.
At this point, it is stunningly obvious that the IRS was completely aware of its blatant targeting of conservative groups. The same goes for its attempts to revise history in the face of Congressional questioning.
In this context, the President’s assertion of there being “not even a smidgen of corruption” is only correct if by “not a smidgen” he meant “there is a a boatload.” As to whether anything will actually come about from these investigations, that depends on the will of the American people to put a halt to the IRS’ flagrant abuse of power.