Whether Democrat or Republican, do you really want your private tax information leaked with impunity?
On March 9, 2010, around 10 a.m., I announced my plans to run for senate representing Delaware.
Later that same day, my office received a call from a reporter asking about my taxes.
It’s since come out, after a halting and unenthusiastic investigation, that a Delaware Department of Revenue employee named David Smith accessed my records that day at approximately 2 p.m. — out of curiosity, he says.
That these records ended up in the hands of the press is just a coincidence, the IRS claims.
To add insult to injury, the tax records given to the reporters weren’t even accurate. I had never fallen behind on my taxes, and a supposed tax lien was on a house I no longer owned.
The lien was highly publicized and used as political ammunition by my political opponents. The IRS later withdrew the lien and blamed it on a computer glitch but, at that point, the damage — and the invasion of my privacy — was done.
I wasn’t the only one preyed upon by the IRS, of course. The agency admits to targeting conservative nonprofits, asking them for membership lists and other data not required while delaying their tax-exempt status. And opponents of President Obama have been subjected to audits soon after criticizing the administration.
What we all have in common: no answers.
In January 2013, a US Treasury Department special agent told me that my tax records were compromised and misused. That was three years after my campaign. Now, in the 12 months since, no one has been called to testify, no more answers given.
How did Smith’s curiosity become an erroneous tax lien? How did the material end up in the hands of a journalist? Neither Smith, nor anyone else in the Delaware Department of Revenue, nor anyone at the IRS has never been placed under oath to explain this.
Fortunately, two congressional committees are working hard to break the stonewall and get answers. The House Ways and Means Committee has joined the Senate Judiciary Committee in an investigation into what happened and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has publicly raised questions about this case.
In a brutal irony, even if Congress does track down answers, they may not be able to share what they discover with me.
This is because the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the agency looking into my case alongside Congress, cannot publicly disclose any information about what it finds in this investigation.
That’s supposedly according to Section 6103 of the US code which is intended to protect the privacy of personal tax information.
Too bad it didn’t protect mine.
What was written as a well-meaning law to protect taxpayers has inexplicably transformed into a shield for the perpetrators. Unless the law is changed, there will be no public accountability for those who committed this crime, no one will be brought to justice and there will be no deterrent preventing such crimes from being committed again.
While there has been bipartisan support for resolving these cases, Congressmen Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) and Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.) are attempting to further impede investigations into my case as well as others. Shortly after the Ways and Means Committee confirmed it was investigating my case, these congressmen attacked TIGTA, accused that agency of being pro-Republican and called for an ethics investigation.
Let’s imagine if the situation was reversed. What if, while a Republican was president, the IRS leaked the tax records of Democratic candidates to the press? What would the reaction look like then?
Would journalists be dismissing this as “not a scandal”?
You may not agree with my politics, but is this the kind of precedent Democrats really want to set — that leaking private information is no big deal?
Surely if either of Connolly or Cartwright had a family member, neighbor, friend or constituent who was targeted by the IRS this way, they would be doing everything in their power to get justice.
One would think they realize if they don’t use their power in Congress to stop these illegal activities, the same crimes could be committed to smear them.
President Obama recently said there was “not a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS, even though evidence continues to mount and investigations continue to be pursued. It has already been 10 months since Sen. Grassley and I were told by Treasury Department officials that we would be given information about my case. What is taking so long?
The only way people will be confident the government is truly on their side is if these cases are resolved with the perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice. Until then, any taxpayer is a potential target.