Emails released today by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee show that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has some explaining to do. The emails show that Cummings and the IRS were asking for nearly identical information from election integrity watchdog True the Vote. Further, the emails show communication as Lerner was feeding information to Cummings and his staff.
The communication occurred in 2012, before the public was ever aware of the ongoing and widespread IRS abuse of Tea Party and conservative groups. In a press release detailing the newly delivered emails, committee Chairman Darrell Issa asks Cummings to answer for himself.
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise,” wrote the Chairman and five Subcommittee Chairmen of the Oversight Committee. “As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
Cummings has stonewalled the investigation throughout, while President Obama has claimed that there wasn’t even a “smidgen of corruption” in it.
The communication between Lerner and Cummings and his staff shows that the IRS and Cummings made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, the Houston-based group dedicated to improving election integrity and rooting out election fraud. That Cummings and the IRS sought nearly identical information raises the strong probability of collusion between the government agency and the Democrats on the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
- Five days after Cummings contacted True the Vote seeking “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” the IRS sent True the Vote a letter requesting True the Vote provide “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “…the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed … following the training they receive by you.”
- On or before January 25, 2013, Cummings’ staff requested more information from the IRS about True the Vote. The head of the IRS Legislative Affairs office e-mailed several IRS officials, including former Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner, that “House Oversight Committee Minority staff” sought information about True the Vote. On Monday, January 28, Lerner wrote to her deputy Holly Paz: “Did we find anything?” When Paz informed her minutes later that she had not heard back about True the Vote’s information, Lerner replied: “thanks – check tomorrow please.”
- On January 31, 2013, Paz attached True the Vote’s form 990s, which she authorized the IRS to share with the Minority staff. Neither Cummings nor the IRS shared these requested documents with the Oversight Majority. None of the Minority’s communications about True the Vote with the IRS were shared with the Committee Majority even though Ranking Member Cummings frequently complains about the Committee Majority contacting individuals on official matters without the involvement of Minority staff.
- Cummings denied that his staff, “might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies” at a February 6, 2014, Subcommittee hearing:
Ms. Mitchell: We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out whether any – if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies. We don’t know that, but we – we’re going to do everything we can do to try to get to the bottom of how did this all happen.
Mr. Cummings. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Meadows. Yes.
Mr. Cummings. I want to thank the gentleman for his courtesy. What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.
Did Rep. Cummings lie during the committee hearings?
Update: True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht reacts in a press statement:
“Elijah Cummings has blocked the IRS abuse investigation all along. We now see clearly that two branches of government have colluded to target and silence private citizens.
“America has come to a tipping point,” Engelbrecht said. “No more lies. No more cover-ups. No more collusion. Enough is enough. Finally, we have a chance for the rule of law to be re-established, thanks to the bold efforts of Chairman Issa and Rep. Jordan.”
Engelbrecht added, “We filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Cummings in February. Today we’re amending that filing to include this latest revelation. As I have said in my testimony before Congress; I will not retreat, I will not surrender, I will not be intimidated. I will not ask Rep. Cummings, Lois Lerner, Barack Obama, or anyone else, for permission to exercise my constitutional rights.”