IRS Might Have Located Lerner’s Emails

November 24, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

Emails to and from the now former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Lois Lerner, that were believed lost might have been located on back-up storage units.

The Senate Finance Committee announced that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has been able to recover some forensic data, which might include documents that the IRS believed were missing, including emails to and from Lerner.

It’s been 18 months since Lerner’s comments at a tax conference set in a motion a flurry of Congressional hearings and investigations around whether the tax agency targeted certain 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, particularly Tea Party groups during the 2010 and 2012 elections. In some cases, organization’s tax-exempt applications were delayed by years.

Lerner invoked her 5th Amendment right not to testify during a Congressional hearing in May 2013 but a Congressional investigation has continued. The director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS since 2006, Lerner retired under fire in September 2013.

After learning in June that the IRS could not produce all the emails originating from Lerner, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked TIGTA to investigate, specifically, what records the IRS lost, if there was any attempt to deliberately destroy records or impede investigations, and whether any missing information could be recovered.

Investigators have interviewed more than 30 current and former IRS and Treasury employees and reviewed nearly one million pages of documents, according to the committee.

TIGTA plans to assess whether the data can be converted into a readable format and then produce the materials to the committee as soon as they have fully recovered the validated them. The Senate Finance Committee’s report is expected to be issued in early 2015, after reviewing TIGTA’s findings about the missing data, which may include emails to and/or from Lerner, which could be material to the investigation.