- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2013

House investigators this week said they want to see communications between the Federal Election Commission and the IRS that could shed light on whether the two agencies colluded to target conservative organizations, as questions about the IRS targeting scandal expanded.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen L. Weintraub said she’s asked for an official investigation by her agency’s auditor but has seen no evidence of wrongdoing.

The questions to the FEC represent the latest inquiry as the House’s investigation continues.

Emails the IRS already turned over showed a conversation between FEC official William Powers and Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS‘ section on tax-exempt groups and who was ousted from that job after refusing to answer Congress’ questions about whether the IRS targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny.

According to the emails, Ms. Lerner and the FEC discussed what publicly available information could be shared. But they also referenced an earlier conversation that House Republicans said could raise red flags, depending on what was discussed.

This week’s document request by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and key subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio follows one last week from Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican and chairwoman of the House Administration Committee that oversees the FEC.

Ms. Weintraub already has begun to turn over those documents. She said she’s asked the agency’s inspector general to look into the charge as well, calling it “a grave allegation.”

“If true, and I have seen no evidence of this to date, such targeting would be unacceptable,” she said in a letter to Ms. Miller.

Donald McGahn, the current FEC vice chairman, raised questions about communications between the two agencies during an interview with CNN when he characterized any dealings with Ms. Lerner as “probably out of the ordinary.”

“Mr. McGahn’s comments, in conjunction with documents produced to the committee, raise the prospect of inappropriate coordination between the IRS and FEC about tax-exempt entities,” Mr. Issa and Mr. Jordan said in the letter to the FEC.

A Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said documents that have been turned over so far “suggest communication between the FEC and IRS was appropriate.”

When the allegations about FEC-IRS communications first arose, the IRS issued a statement saying it would review the questions from House investigators, but said it didn’t appear there was any wrongdoing.

“The email attached to the letter indicates that both Ms. Lerner and the FEC attorney recognized the IRS obligation to protect taxpayer information and that neither person wanted the IRS to provide the FEC with anything other than publicly available information,” the agency said.

The IRS scrutiny became an issue after the agency’s inspector general reported that it improperly targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 up through this year.

IRS officials have said they were grappling with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, which expanded the ability of groups to engage in political speech, and how it affected tax-exempt groups.

Democrats say the IRS also went after progressive groups, which would contradict GOP lawmakers’ charge that the scrutiny was politically motivated, but Republicans point to data that shows conservative groups were more likely to face invasive questioning and to have their applications delayed — some for as long as three years — by the IRS.

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