The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent tax documents on a targeted conservative group to Democratic staff on the House Oversight Committee, newly released emails show, despite previous denials by ranking Oversight Democrat Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) that such contact had occurred.
Emails released by the GOP-led Oversight Committee show Democratic staff requested information from the IRS’ tax-exempt division on True The Vote, a conservative group that monitors polling places for voter fraud.
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Republicans and conservative activists say the IRS tax-exempt division, led by former official Lois Lerner, targeted dozens of conservative groups because of their politics while ignoring similar progressive organizations.
Cummings publicly requested information from True the Vote in October 2012 on its volunteer activities and training.
Five days later, the IRS sent True the Vote a letter requesting the group provide the agency with copies of its volunteer registration forms and additional information on its volunteer activities.
Cummings’ staff requested more information from the IRS about True the Vote in January 2013. The request was channeled from the IRS’ Legislative Affairs office to several other IRS officials, including Lerner.
Three days later, Lerner wrote to her deputy Holly Paz: "Did we find anything?" Paz wrote that she hadn’t heard back, to which Lerner replied: "thanks—check tomorrow please."
In a February 2014 Oversight Committee hearing, Cummings denied allegations by True The Vote attorney Cleta Mitchell that his staff had worked with the IRS in targeting the group.
"We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out whether any—if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies," Mitchell said. "We don’t know that, but we—we’re going to do everything we can do to try to get to the bottom of how did this all happen."
"What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true," Cummings replied.
Cummings has staunchly opposed the Oversight Committee’s months-long investigation of the IRS targeting scandal, arguing it is a waste of time and money.
Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and five subcommittee chairmen sent a letter to Cummings Thursday demanding an explanation for his staff’s activities.
"Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials—which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff—indicates otherwise," Issa wrote. "As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS."
Cummings’ office was not immediately available for comment.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted Thursday to hold Lerner in contempt.