Our friend John Eastman is the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. After months of evasion and denial, the IRS has now admitted that it illegally leaked the names of NOM’s donors to a third party who saw to their publication. The IRS agreed to settle NOM’s case against it on the basis of a consent judgment under which it will receive $50,000 as actual damages. I wrote about the settlement yesterday in “Crimes of the IRS, NOM edition.”
Despite the relevance of this case to the current controversies involving the IRS, and the illumination it casts on them, the coverage this case has received ranges from pitiful to nonexistent. Politico mails it in here. As you may have guessed already, the New York Times hasn’t made it to the post office.
I contacted John yesterday to ask if he would comment on the significance of the settlement. He has authorized me to post this message sent in response to my request. Analyze this:
The IRS claims that it was an inadvertent mistake by a low level clerk in the processing facility in Ogden, Utah. Her name is Wendy Peters, and we don’t have any reason to think she was involved in a deliberate disclosure. The fellow on the receiving end, Matthew Meisel, a gay rights activist in Boston, had submitted a request for our tax return. (Because we’re a non-profit, the 990 tax form is public, but not the Schedule B list of donors).
What troubles us are a couple of things. First, Wendy’s whole job was to make sure tax returns were properly redacted before being mailed out. Seems odd that the one time that didn’t happen was on the most politically sensitive set of donors.
Second, the IRS originally claimed the tax return got mailed out to Meisel in March 2011. But then a document was produced by Meisel in response to our subpoena in which he claimed to have a “promising conduit” for our tax return donor information. That document was dated February 2011 – before the supposed inadvertent disclosure. [John attached a copy of the relevant email that is omitted here.] So the IRS/DOJ changed the story, claiming without any further evidence that the return was actually mailed to Meisel in early February. Of course, they don’t have any documents to prove that one way or the other.
Third, and most damaging, in my view: Meisel asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when we deposed him. Because the DOJ has already announced that it would not be prosecuting anyone for this, we asked the DOJ to grant him immunity so that we could compel him to answer our questions. DOJ refused, which is a huge red flag that there is likely something more to uncover here.
John’s comment on NOM’s settlement with the IRS goes far to show that the IRS is operating from the same playbook in the current scandals.
STEVE adds: As I mentioned here a year ago, Eastman was my roommate in graduate school a long time ago (some other time perhaps we can regale you with tales of our pranks). Worth taking in, in case you missed it or just want to savor it again, his beatdown of the IRS before a House committee last year at the beginning of this litigation: