- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2013

The National Organization for Marriage will sue the IRS on Thursday, saying it has evidence that someone within the agency leaked the organization’s private donor list to its political enemies in 2012 but that nobody has been held responsible.

Release of confidential taxpayer information is a felony, but the organization’s leaders say the Internal Revenue Service and its internal auditor, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, have stonewalled their efforts to learn who was responsible.

“Somebody did this deliberately and it was planned, and we need to know who it was,” said Cleta Mitchell, attorney for the Act Right Legal Foundation, which is handling the case for the organization, one of the most prominent groups opposing same-sex marriage. “The IRS needs to pay. Ultimately, the IRS is responsible for the damages.”

The lawsuit is being filed as the IRS faces questions about its treatment of conservative nonprofit groups that have applied for tax-exempt status. Congress and the inspector general are investigating that matter.

The inspector general also investigated the leak of the National Organization for Marriage’s donor list, but apparently closed the case without publicly identifying who was responsible.

The organization said that when it tried to pry loose any information, the inspector general said it was blocked by privacy laws from releasing anything. Yet Steve Miller, who was acting commissioner at the IRS, told a House committee in May that agency officials determined the leak was “inadvertent.”

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John C. Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, called that explanation laughable.

He said the leaked forms bore internal IRS markings that someone tried to blur in the electronic document, indicating that they were trying to hide the origin.

Also, the information ended up in the hands of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group that is politically opposed to the National Organization for Marriage.

“It suggests to me that this thing was deliberate and at high levels — head of the division, a political appointee, somebody. And darn it, we’re going to find out who did it, and we’re going to wrap it up with a bow and send it over to the Justice Department and keep the pressure on,” Mr. Eastman, who is also a law professor at Chapman University, told The Washington Times.

A call to the IRS seeking comment on the case went unanswered Wednesday. Most of the agency’s employees have been furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.

The National Organization for Marriage was founded in 2007 to fight proposals for same-sex marriage and advocate for traditional marriage — particularly Proposition 8 in California.

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The organization said the leak involved the 2008 list of donors to the National Organization for Marriage Inc., the nonprofit advocacy arm of the organization. That information is reported to the IRS but is required under law to be kept confidential.

But the donor list was given to the Human Rights Campaign, which posted it online during last year’s presidential campaign, followed soon after by the Huffington Post, which highlighted a $10,000 donation from a political action committee associated with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

The Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post described the person who leaked the information as a “whistleblower.”

A day after Human Rights Campaign posted the document, that organization’s president, Joe Solmonese, left and became a co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign eventually took the information off its website, but the Huffington Post maintains the document on its site.

Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Eastman said they are stunned that the IRS and the inspector general are refusing to say more about how the leak happened.

They said the IRS told them that because the investigation is now part of their official file, it cannot be disclosed because that would mean disclosing confidential taxpayer information — even though they were the targets of the wrongdoing.

“What they’ve done is they’ve taken a federal law that Congress enacted 40 years ago to protect the taxpayer from the IRS, and they’re hiding behind that and using that same law to protect the IRS and perpetrators,” Ms. Mitchell said.

The National Organization for Marriage has faced a number of complaints over its political activities, including a 2012 ethics charge lodged with California’s Fair Practices Commission accusing the group of violating state election laws in 2008. The organization said that battle cost it more than $10,000 in legal fees.

The National Organization for Marriage says that complaint is based on information gained from the confidential donor list.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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