May. 22, 2013  

Revisiting an IRS FOIA request: did the government do it’s due diligence?

By: Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh

When I submit a FOIA I expect the laws in place to followed. If information exists, I am entitled to receive it unless it falls under an exemption. If it does, the agency is supposed to tell me so.

A FOIA request from 2010 came back into play for me last week.

Yes, 2010 was a couple of years ago, but the recent IRS allegations regarding possible “anti-tea-party” policies being employed had me searching my email inbox.

A friend was applying for nonprofit status for a constitutional law organization in Columbus, Ohio. While going through the process he received a letter from the IRS asking for more information, including an answer to the following question: “Please explain in detail your organization’s involvement with the Tea Party.”

He had concerns that the IRS may have been employing an “anti-tea-party” policy and contacted me. As a journalist, I was curious.

I wanted to know if this was happening to other people applying for tax-exempt status and if the IRS was implementing any sort of policy that would hinder an organization from gaining tax-exempt status.

I drafted a FOIA request and sent it along. I received several letters from the IRS, stating it would need more time to find the information I was asking for. Finally a response came in the mail saying it did not have any documents responsive to my request. (Click here to read their response.)

I set the FOIA aside and moved on to other stories. But, after reading the Treasury Inspector General report released last week and reviewing my FOIA request, I now have more questions.

The IG report says there were reports compiled identifying tea party groups. There was even a “Be on the Look Out” list developed.

Did the agency do it’s due diligence to find documents responsive to my request? I have made calls to the contact person listed on my FOIA letter but have yet to hear back. I also am re-submitting the original request to the IRS.

I will keep you posted on what the IRS’s response is.



Lynn Walsh in the Investigative Producer at WPTV, NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach, Florida. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter, @LWalsh and on Tumblr.


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