A House committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of right-leaning groups has identified the IRS agent who leaked the confidential donor list of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization that opposes gay marriage. NOM’s donor list, contained in a Form 990 Schedule B, which it is required by law to file with the IRS, was obtained in March 2012 by its chief political opponent, the Human Rights Campaign, and subsequently became the subject of several national news stories that centered on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s donation to the group.
Though the House Ways and Means Committee, which began investigating the scandal in the wake of revelations that the IRS had inappropriately singled out conservative groups, has identified the individual who divulged the information as an employee in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, it can’t divulge his name to the public or to NOM. It can’t even confirm when the leak took place, whether the perpetrator was disciplined, or even whether he is still employed by the IRS or the U.S. government. That’s because of a peculiarity of the Internal Revenue Code’s section 6103, which is intended to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information. The law makes it a felony to disclose tax returns or related information to the public, but in an odd twist, the results of investigations conducted by congressional committees or by inspectors general are considered the confidential tax information of the alleged perpetrator.
Having committed a felony by disclosing NOM’s donor list, the perpetrator is protected by the same law he broke. “I am astounded at the ease by which an individual was able to obtain and release confidential information including private citizens’ names and addresses,” House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) tells National Review Online. “What makes the situation even worse is that the law, intended to protect taxpayers, is being used as a shield for those that perpetrate this wrongdoing.”
Camp’s panel, nonetheless, has pieced together the NOM case and tells NRO that an IRS agent working in the Exempt Organizations Division — the same division that, until May, was under the direction of Lois Lerner, who retired under duress last month — leaked NOM’s Schedule B to Matthew Meisel, a former employee of Bain & Company, the management consultancy where former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney worked in the 1970s and 1980s and where he served as interim CEO in the early 1990s. Between his stints there, Romney founded the private-equity firm Bain Capital in 1984. After he obtained NOM’s donor list from the IRS employee, the committee says, Meisel then turned it over to the Human Rights Campaign. Neither Meisel nor the Human Rights Campaign returned calls seeking comment.
NOM’s confidential Schedule B was cited and posted publicly in a March 30, 2012, report on the Huffington Post and quickly spread to outlets including the Daily Beast and New York magazine. The emergence of Meisel, a 2007 graduate of Harvard University, and his connection to Romney’s firm may shed light on the motivation behind the leak, which was used to hammer Romney for supporting California’s Proposition 8.
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