What was the IRS's "Secret Research Project"?

"Joe was quite agitated yesterday when I told him what we were doing"


Judicial Watch's latest release of IRS discussions gives us a peek into why so many IRS emails are disappearing.

A subsequent IRS email thread on June 27, 2012, revealed that inappropriately obtained donor lists were being used for a “secret research project” and that a top official wanted then-Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller to decide how to handle the issue.  The email exchange, with the Subject line “donor names,” included the following:

June 27, 2012: 8:59 AM — David L. Fish, IRS acting director of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements, to Holly Paz:

Joseph Urban [IRS Technical Advisor, Tax Exempt and Government Entities] had actually started a secret research project on whether we could, consistent with 6104, argue that [REDACTED] Joe was quite agitated yesterday when I told him what we were doing. (He was involved when the initial question was raised, but we didn’t continue reading him in). At one point he started saying that this was a decision for Steve Miller–I told him we were already doing it, and that I didn’t know whether Lois had already talked to Nikole [former IRS Chief of Staff to IRS Commissioner Steve Miller] about this. Would not be surprised if he already started working on Lois.

So what was the secret project that disappeared into REDACTED?

U.S. Code 6104  refers to "Publicity of information required from certain exempt organizations and certain trusts". That suggests that we're on the right track. We don't have any details on which section was being referred to but the IRS officials involved were clearly doing something dubious and trying to justify it by referencing a provision of the code involving information from tax exempt groups.

A later exchange suggests that Miller approved it.

There's something very troubling when a bureaucracy with so much power over people launches secret research projects using non-profit donor lists.

Tags: IRS