The Justice Department declined to prosecute any cases of confidential tax records of political candidates and campaign donors being improperly probed by government officials, The Washington Times reported, despite the Treasury Department admitting for the first time the acts took place.
According to the report, Treasury investigators also are looking into allegations that the IRS "targeted for audit candidates for public office," Inspector General J. Russell George privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa):
In a written response to a request by Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. George said a review turned up four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials took part in "unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates," including one case he described as "willful." In four additional cases, Mr. George said, allegations of improper access of IRS records were not substantiated by the evidence.
Mr. Grassley has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to explain why the Justice Department chose not to prosecute any of the cases. The Iowa Republican told The Washington Times that the IRS "is required to act with neutrality and professionalism, not political bias."
The investigation did not name the government officials who obtained the IRS records improperly, nor did it reveal the identities or political parties of the people whose tax records were compromised. By law, taxpayer records at the IRS are supposed to be confidential.
The disclosures deal another blow to the IRS and the Obama administration, which are still grappling with revelations that IRS agents inappropriately targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extraordinarily burdensome scrutiny during President Obama’s first term. Amid that furor over the abuse of the agency’s powers, the IRS has denied that the tax records of political candidates or donors were improperly accessed.
Grassley told the Times the Justice Department should answer questions about why it would refuse to prosecute violations of taxpayer confidentiality laws, particularly in light of the scandals gripping the IRS since May regarding its admitted targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status:
In a letter July 3, Mr. George told Mr. Grassley that, of the four instances in which tax records were improperly accessed, three cases were determined to be "inadvertent."
"In the fourth case, we presented evidence of a willful unauthorized access to the Department of Justice, but the case was declined for prosecution," Mr. George wrote.
Of the three cases that the inspector general called "inadvertent" disclosures, Mr. George said his office referred one to Justice with a recommendation that no prosecution be brought. He said Justice officials agreed with his office’s assessment.
No reason was given for Justice’s rejections of prosecutions in the examples cited by Mr. George.