June 20, 2013 - 4:52 AM
Providing such donor information is a felony, John C. Eastman, chairman of the board for the National Organization for Marriage, told CNSNews.com. The Justice Department deferred the matter to the Treasury Department, but Eastman said the probe by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration seems to have stalled.
Nevertheless, Eastman told CNSNews.com, “We’re going to keep pressing until we get criminal indictments brought against the people responsible.”
NOM, which advocates traditional marriage, and HRC are on opposite sides in the national political battle over same-sex marriage.
The willful disclosure of donor information carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Human Rights Campaign spokesman Charlie Joughin did not respond to numerous phone and e-mail inquiries from CNSNews.com on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday asking who provided the list that was posted on the HRC website in March 2012. The HRC advocates for same-sex marriage and other homosexual issues.
For its part, an IRS spokesman told CNSNews.com that “federal law prohibits discussion of any taxpayers’ information,” whether it’s an organization or an individual.
Eastman said there is no doubt that the document came from the IRS.
“I suppose it’s theoretically possible that that someone fraudulently claiming to be an officer from the National Organization for Marriage got a copy of the tax return from the IRS, [in which case], the person that committed the felony would not have been the IRS agent who succumbed to that fraud, but the person who obtained it,” Eastman said. “But, there is no doubt that the document came from within the IRS itself.”
Shortly after the HRC posted the list on its website, the Huffington Post did the same. The Human Rights Campaign has not yet stated publicly where it obtained the list, Eastman said.
“They took it down from their website after our demand letter was sent over to them pointing out that it was a felony,” Eastman said of the HRC. “Huffington Post has not taken it down from their website.”
Eastman, a constitutional attorney, is also the chairman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and serves on the board of directors for the Act Right Legal Foundation.
The IRS 990 form that non-profit organizations must fill out each year is available to the public. However, the Schedule B portion of the form that lists the donors is confidential for all non-profit groups.
While the names of donors were seen on the PDF document linked on the HRC site, one portion of the document was redacted. NOM says computer forensic analysts were able to remove the redaction, discovering a stamp that proves the document originated from within the IRS. The number 100560209 was stamped across the middle of the leaked tax return. This is the marking that is placed on documents that are e-filed with the IRS by the IRS’s Central Information System. Further, the stamp said, “THIS IS A COPY OF A LIVE RETURN FROM SMIPS. OFFICIAL USE ONLY.”
“Our computer forensic people were able to unlayer the redactions from that PDF file and discovered that the original document that was posted there had originated from within the IRS,” Eastman told the House Ways and Means Committee during his June 4 testimony. “It had internal IRS stamps that are placed on every document the IRS receives that are electronically filed with the IRS and placed on those documents by that computer system.
“We don't have a copy of the document with those -- with those IRS stamps on them. Those only exist within the IRS, and yet this was posted on the website of the Human Rights Campaign. You can imagine our shock and disgust over this,” Eastland told the committee. “We jealously guard our donors as almost every other nonprofit does, particularly on the issues that we deal with, which are so contentious that our donors, once they are identified, are harassed and intimidated and tried to be chilled away from supporting the cause that we advance.”
In addition to seeking criminal indictments, NOM could also take civil action against the government that is available to organizations or individuals whose tax information was improperly disclosed that provides for either actual damages or $1,000.
NOM contacted both the Justice Department and the Treasury Department’s IG on April 11, 2012. The Justice Department deferred, telling NOM in a letter “they weren’t going to do it (investigate), because it was a tax issue, so it should be done by the inspector general,” Eastman told CNSNews.com.
“We pointed out that it was a felony. It was supposed to be done by the Department of Justice, but they haven’t done anything.”
The Treasury IG did launch an investigation, but more than a year later, NOM does not know where that stands.
“There was an investigation launched by the IG,” Eastman said. “We got an investigation number. And then they conducted a lot of interviews of our people. It was only after we were able to demonstrate that it didn’t come from within our ranks that the investigation went radio silent on us.”
The willful disclosure of NOM’s confidential tax information would violate 26 U.S.C. Section 6103, which states, “Returns and return information shall be confidential.” It also says: “no officer or employee of the United States,” “no officer or employee of any State, any local law enforcement agency,” “any local child support enforcement agency, or any local agency administering a program,” “no other person (or officer or employee thereof) who has or had access to returns or return information,” “shall disclose any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee or otherwise or under the provisions of this section.”