- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The National Organization for Marriage said the $50,000 settlement the IRS paid the group for releasing its private tax information was a start, but it still wants the Justice Department to grant immunity to the key gay rights activist involved in the release.

NOM chairman John Eastman said Wednesday that the Justice Department is stonewalling attempts to figure out whether the Internal Revenue Service leak, which improperly included a list of the group’s donors, was intentional.

He said officials have declined to offer immunity to Matthew Meisel, a Boston-based gay rights activist who received the illegally released donor list after submitting a request for the group’s tax return and who has invoked his right against self-incrimination. NOM says granting him immunity from prosecution would help find out how he got the donor list.

“We asked the Department of Justice to grant him immunity and he had asked the Department of Justice to grant him immunity and the Department of Justice refused,” Mr. Eastman told The Washington Times. “So why would you not grant immunity if you have already determined not to prosecute the guy?”

Mr. Eastman said that is a “huge red flag that there is likely something more to uncover here.”

Last week the IRS agreed to pay Mr. Eastman’s group $50,000 in a settlement for releasing the donor list.

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The IRS says that the list of donors, contained in a form that was supposed to be kept private as sensitive taxpayer information, was inadvertently released to Mr. Meisel by a clerk, who forgot to redact the names and addresses of donors.

Mr. Meisel in turn provided the documents to the Human Rights Campaign, which backed President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

The confidential documents showed that NOM had received $10,000 from an Alabama super PAC that backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Huffington Post obtained those documents from HRC and, in March 2012, reported the donation and tarred Mr. Romney as a homophobe.

In 2013, NOM filed a lawsuit. Last month, a district judge ruled that there was not enough evidence that the confidential information was deliberately leaked, but the IRS last week agreed to pay them $50,000 as part of a settlement.

“In the beginning, the government claimed that the IRS had done nothing wrong and that NOM itself must have released our confidential information,” Mr. Eastman said last week. “Thanks to a lot of hard work, we’ve forced the IRS to admit that they in fact were the ones to break the law and wrongfully released this confidential information.”

During the NOM lawsuit, Mr. Meisel asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Mr. Eastman pointed out Wednesday that attorneys for Mr. Meisel said in court documents filed in February that, “Mr. Meisel has requested statutory immunity from the government but the government has, as of this filing, indicated no willingness to grant it.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Meisel and immunity.

Mr. Eastman is now turning to Congress, urging lawmakers to use their immunity powers to shield Mr. Meisel from prosecution, which could allow him to shed more light on the release of NOM’s tax documents.

Sarah Swinehart, a spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the panel has referred the findings of its investigation to the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, which is looking into the matter.

Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the committee, released a statement last week, saying that the IRS settlement is more proof that an independent prosecutor is needed to investigate accusations of wrongdoing by the IRS.

“The DOJ’s refusal to take any action to protect taxpayers demonstrates why this Committee, and the American people, cannot trust their supposed investigation into the IRS targeting, let alone the protection of the constitutional rights of conservatives,” Mr. Camp said. “While the Administration prefers to sweep this under the rug, it is time that the American people have a special prosecutor into this matter so the full truth can come out.”

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