Darrell Issa says emails suggest Elijah Cummings prompted IRS targeting of True the VoteThis story was published at 4:33 p.m. and has been updated with a response from Rep. Cummings.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has accused the panel's top Democrat of prompting the Internal Revenue Service in 2012 to target a conservative organization applying for non-profit status.
Issa said records obtained last week from the IRS show communications from the office of ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., about True the Vote, a Texas-based, non-profit conservative group that aims to prevent voter fraud.
The communications at one point involved Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official whom Issa's panel is poised to hold in contempt of Congress on Thursday for refusing to provide testimony about her involvement in targeting conservative groups.
“The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff,” a statement from the Oversight panel reads.
According to Issa, Cummings and his staff sought “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” from True the Vote.
Five days after the Cummings inquiry, the IRS sent True the Vote an email requesting “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.”
Issa said Cummings and his office asked for more information in January 2013 about True the Vote, this time getting Lerner involved.
At one point, an email revealed, Lerner asked her deputy, “Did we find anything?”
When the deputy said she had not received any new information, Lerner responded, “thanks – check tomorrow please.”
Issa said Cummings had previously denied asking the IRS about True the Vote.
At a February subcommittee hearing, when Issa asked whether his office may have put True the Vote “on the radar screen” of the IRS, Cummings said the accusation was “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”
Issa and other GOP panel members have sent a letter to Cummings, asking him to respond to the newly uncovered emails.
In his response, Cummings said the GOP has falsely accused him of wrongly contacting the IRS about True the Vote. Cummings said in the letter that he has publicly stated his interest in finding more about True the Vote, which supports voter ID laws that Cummings opposes.
Cummings said in his letter that his inquiries were appropriate and did not violate any rules. His requests, Cummings added, were for publicly available information.
One request, Cummings said, was to gather information about True the Vote's $5,000 donation to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a move that suggested partisan and political motives.
Cummings said the letter from Issa and others Republicans is "a desperate attempt to shift the focus on tomorrow's contempt vote away from the serious Constitutional deficiencies in these proceedings."