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Examining IRS political machinations, regulations and taxpayer info leakage

Political machinations?
Political machinations?Win McNamee/Getty Images

Two Congressional inquiries -- Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means -- are on a bipartisan hunt to know more about the Internal Revenue Service leakage of personal tax information.

In both chambers of Congress leaders need answers to why someone's personal tax records seem to have been illegally accessed and ultimately used in an effort to derail her campaign effort in 2010 for the U.S. Senate.

The person targeted was candidate Christine O'Donnell, and more than a few Americans may be wondering if it happened to her might it again happen to anyone with whom government or its employees do not agree politically?

IRS confiscation lawsuit

And the news of targeting mentioned in a previous article from the Examiner, regarding the confiscation of medical records and information by IRS agents here in California, may be recalled with concern. According to Clinical-Innovation.com, a class action lawsuit alleges that "corrupt Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents stole 60 million medical records of more than 10 million Americans without obtaining a warrant. The data theft was of such proportions that it affected roughly one out of every 25 adult American citizens...." Further, the article states that the IRS agents' seizure of those medical records "amounts to a violation of the Fourth Amendment," and also "may contain intimate information on every state judge in California, every state court employee in California, members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild, as well as other prominent citizens."

Or the article regarding Vista Rep. Darrell Issa's belief that the FBI and DOJ might be in "criminal cahoots" with the IRS targeting, also from the Examiner, might cause great worry. A report last december in the WashingtonTimes states that an internal auditor for the IRS admitted last May that the agency did ask "inappropriately probing questions and delayed conservative groups’ applications" for up to three years. Even though the IRS promised "to clean up" its operations, and even though Attorney General Eric Holder "ordered the FBI to open a criminal investigation" on the issue, one of the targeted group's activists step forward to say that she was "assailed by both the IRS and the FBI, as well as other federal agencies."

The fact that the IRS tax code prevents the disclosure of any information related to cases like O'Donnell‘s bothers some people.

'Political machinations'

Rick Moran at the AmericanThinker has written his thoughts on the matter of who got hold of and then released the personal tax information of O'Donnell. He states:

"Gee...you'd think the system was rigged to protect IRS political machinations, eh?"

Writer Moran also stated:

"Just an aside - the administration doesn't care how it looks when they use the IRS to target conservatives this year. They are beyond caring because the press and the American people don't care. The press will be cheering the IRS on as they seek to destroy the Tea Party and other conservative groups because they genuinely feel they are obstructing social progress and need to be silenced."

From the WashingtonTimes story readers are told that the Treasury Department actually told O'Donnell that investigators discovered her tax information had been breached.

Further the Times said O'Donnell was a tea party candidate who upset Delaware's GOP establishment when she beat their guy (Mike Castle) in a primary contest before eventually losing to the Democrat candidate Chris Coons in the general election that year. One remark from a reader named Aerodoctyl:

"Because this agency is so obviously prone to political abuse, honest and good Americans should be looking at ways to abolish and replace the IRS with a flat or fair tax collected by the Treasury."

IRS tax code prevents the disclosure of any information related to cases like O'Donnell‘s.

Even O’Donnell herself will not be briefed on what either congressional committee discovers, according to the story, because the tax law shields the federal government and its employees from public exposure even if they are engaged in "willful targeting or other wrongdoing."

Only the chairmen on the investigating committees can learn exactly what happened in a case like O'Donnell‘s, because by law may not unable reveal what they discover, according to the story.

'This is a big problem'

Also from the Times article is information that Cleta Mitchell, described as a Washington lawyer who has sued the IRS on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage which filed a lawsuit as an attempt to find out who accessed and leaked its confidential tax files, including a donor list, said:

“The IRS takes a position that they don’t have to tell you the wrongdoing by their own agency and employees because of the protections that are supposed to be afforded to the taxpayer are then reversed and afforded to the IRS employee. This is a big problem. This agency is a big problem.”

Rep. Dave Camp, according to website information, recently introduce legislation to block proposed IRS regulations which would "stifle" the rights of Tea Party groups.

Some may wonder if that idea may be a way of dealing with information he is allowed to know but not to divulge.

In addition to specifically looking into the details of the O’Donnell case, the Ways and Means probe also has ignited a conversation within the committee, regarding the law in question: Section 6103 of the U.S. code, which states that “no officer or employee of the United States shall disclose any return or return information obtained by him in any manner.” (See CornellLaw.)

The rule also extends to state government employees, law enforcement agencies and other investigative bodies.

Potential criminal offense?

Healthcare attorney Adam Greene of Davis Tremaine Wright, according to databreachtoday, which is not involved in the suit, says that a covered entity which "improperly" turns over protected health information could be in violation of HIPAA. They quote Greene:

"But if someone comes in and improperly acquires HIPAA covered information through bullying, that would be a potential criminal offense."