Internal IRS documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that in 2013, John McCain's former staff director, Henry Kerner, pushed the Obama IRS to engage in "financially ruinous" audits of 501(c) organizations - 10 days before Obama's IRS publicly admitted to "inappropriate" targeting of groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names.
Sen. John McCain’s former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.” Kerner was appointed by President Trump as Special Counsel for the United States Office of Special Counsel.
The explosive exchange was contained in notes taken by IRS employees at an April 30, 2013, meeting between Kerner, Lerner, and other high-ranking IRS officials. Just ten days following the meeting, former IRS director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had a policy of improperly and deliberately delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative non-profit groups. -Judicial Watch
The meeting was first summarized by Judicial Watch in April of 2015, before they obtained the FOIA documents:
[Lerner] met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.” Among those attending the meeting were key aides to the committee minority ranking member, John McCain.
McCain issued a statement following the original Judicial Watch report on the 2013 meeting, decrying "false reports claiming that his office was somehow involved in IRS targeting of conservative groups."
Judicial Watch separately uncovered that Lerner was under significant pressure from both Democrats in Congress and the Obama DOJ and FBI to prosecute and jail the groups the IRS was already improperly targeting. In discussing pressure from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat-Rhode Island) to prosecute these “political groups,” Lerner admitted, “it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”
The April 30, 2013 meeting came just under two weeks prior to Lerner’s admission during an ABA meeting that the IRS had “inappropriately” targeted conservative groups. In her May 2013 answer to a planted question, in which she admitted to the “absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate” targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, Lerner suggested the IRS targeting occurred due to an “uptick” in 501 (c)(4) applications to the IRS but in actuality, there had been a decrease in such applications in 2010. -Judicial Watch
“The Obama IRS scandal is bipartisan – McCain and Democrats who wanted to regulate political speech lost at the Supreme Court, so they sought to use the IRS to harass innocent Americans,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama IRS scandal is not over – as Judicial Watch continues to uncover smoking gun documents that raise questions about how the Obama administration weaponized the IRS, the FEC, FBI, and DOJ to target the First Amendment rights of Americans," Judicial Watch said in a statement.