A court has allowed Judicial Watch to file an amicus brief requesting that the depositions of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials — Lois Lerner and Holly Paz — be unsealed, the nonprofit government watchdog organization revealed Wednesday.
“Judicial Watch played a central role in uncovering the IRS scandals, in which Lerner and Paz were primary actors,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement Wednesday.
Fitton added: “Judicial Watch uncovered 41,100 pages of records. Our work led to the discovery of IRS collusion with the [special counsel Robert] Mueller-run FBI to plan prosecutions of the very groups the Obama IRS was persecuting.
“Judicial Watch also uncovered the revelation that thousands of Ms. Lerner’s emails were destroyed by the IRS while Judicial Watch’s lawsuits and other investigations were pending.”
Lerner served as director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit, and Paz served as Lerner’s deputy. Lerner became the face of the 2013 IRS targeting scandal in which the federal tax agency was exposed as having illegally harassed conservative, Tea Party, and evangelical applicants for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.
Conservative organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status were disproportionately subjected to intense scrutiny and slow-walking from 2009 to 2012. Groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement particularly found their applications targeted.
The scandal led to an FBI criminal investigation and spurred the affected conservative groups to file a class-action lawsuit. Both Lerner and Paz gave taped depositions in court to explain their version of the targeting scandal, but their lawyers argued for the depositions to remain sealed. They cited “death threats and harassment” as a reason for keeping the deposition from the public.
IRS officials finally admitted in court in October 2017 that it inappropriately targeted Tea Party groups.
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“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determinations process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding of some Plaintiffs’ information that TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong,” the IRS’ consent order read.
“For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology,” IRS officials added.
The court order allowed Judicial Watch to seek the unsealing of Lerner and Paz’s deposition and set a hearing for Thursday in which the two women may respond.
The order read, “To the extent Defendants Lois Lerner and Holly Paz intend to respond to Judicial Watch’s amicus curiae brief beyond what has already been provided to the Court, Defendants Lois Lerner and Holly Paz will be permitted to make that presentation at the hearing on this matter.”
The IRS targeting may have cost 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney more than enough votes to defeat President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term, according to a statistical analysis by the American Enterprise Institute’s Stan Veuger.