Well, now we know something that has been long suspected for the past four years: the IRS and the White House are sharing taxpayer information.
That has certainly been the suspicion since at least 2010, when a senior White House official, Austan Goolsbee, made a comment about the Koch Brother’s business practices in August 2010. The Weekly Standard was one of the first to cover this indiscretion as part of an article about the growing practice of attacking the Koch Brothers by liberals. From TWS back then:
“While the attention is unwanted for the Kochs, if somewhat expected, a lawyer for Koch Industries now tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the administration may have crossed a line by revealing tax information about Koch Industries. According to Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries, a senior Obama administration official told reporters at an August 27 on-the-record background briefing on corporate taxes:
“So in this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax. Some of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses. So that creates a narrower base because we’ve literally got something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don’t pay any corporate income tax. They point out [in the report] you could review the boundary between corporate and non-corporate taxation as a way to broaden the base.”
Holden tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that this quotation from a senior administration official “came to our attention from different avenues. We are very concerned about why this would be said about us, particularly in this setting. We are concerned where this information would have been obtained from. We also are concerned in light of recent events that we have been singled out by the government and others as a campaign against us because of our political views.“
Additionally, Austan Goolsbee further this very line of thought on an interview shortly thereafter on September 12, 2010 with Chris Wallace.
During that fall of 2010 right before midterms, the Obama Administration started targeting small businesses and the way they pay taxes, as part a push for higher individual rate margins/repeal of the Bush Tax Cuts. The Administration began specifically trying to discredit Koch Industries and a plethora of small businesses by implying that not paying corporate taxes is somehow wrong or underhanded — while omitting that fact many businesses structure themselves as non-corporate entities to avoid the scourge known as double taxation. The White House used the Koch Brothers’ tax structure in an attacking anecdote, and openly discussed tax information that was not publicly available, in order to bolster their own talking points.
This has come back to light now four years later. Last week, TIGTA acknowledged the existence of about 2500 documents that fit the FOIA request, from a group called “Cause of Action”, asking for communication between the IRS and the White House.
Then on Tuesday, TIGTA retreated from its openness by withholding the bulk of the documents. A letter from TIGTA counsel to the group suing for the information, noted that there were 2,509 pages of documents “potentially responsive to your request”, and of those, 2,043 were in fact responsive. However, TIGTA cited tax code and privacy as the reason not to disclose those documents, saying “All of the 2,043 pages of documents we have determined to be responsive were collected by the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the determination of possible liability under Title 26 of the United States Code. These pages consist of return information protected by 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and may not be disclosed absent an express statutory exception.”
Clearly, even without knowing the substance of the information, we do now know that the IRS and White House have shared some taxpayer information (roughly 2500 documents worth), which is a stunning breach of impropriety. The Koch Brothers were definitely in the crossfire back in 2010, and have been a concerted target of liberals ever since. Everyone questioned how the White House could know about their confidential taxpayer information. Now we know how. We just don’t know how deeply. Or who else.
The act of the IRS sharing the information is in itself a violation of federal law 26 U.S.C. § 6103, which is the very same law they are using to shield themselves from releasing the information now, citing “privacy”. The fact that the IRS and White House teamed up to share taxpayer information, and in at least one instance, used it to target American business owners while pushing their own economic agenda is thoroughly atrocious.
Update: Washington Free Beacon corroborates the Austan Goolsbee link, as the original FOIA request from “Change of Action” was specifically related to how the White House appeared to possess private taxpayer information of the Koch Brothers.