Archives for February 2015

Washington Examiner: Cause of Action presses IRS on taxpayer data shared with White House

Read the full story: Washington Examiner 

A government watchdog group fired another shot in its legal battle to obtain records of the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information to White House officials when it filed a motion late Tuesday against the IRS inspector general. Cause of Action, a nonprofit oversight group, pressed the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on why it had cited a law written to protect taxpayers against the government in an attempt to instead protect the government against the taxpayers’ inquiry.

Supreme Court Restrains The Government: A Financial Fraud Law Does Not Criminalize Undersized Fish

The Supreme Court today ruled that John Yates, a commercial fisherman, could not be prosecuted under a financial-fraud law [18 USC §1519] for catching undersized red grouper. Cause of Action, together with the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, filed a brief in support of Mr. Yates arguing that upholding the conviction would mean a potential twenty year federal prison sentence for anyone who conceals evidence of a surfboard being used on a beach designated for swimming, throws away a bag of chips from a workplace restroom prior to an OSHA inspection, or discards an empty container of medicine purchased from a foreign pharmacy.

CoA and the other amici also noted that Captain Yates’ case raises troubling questions about the government’s inconsistent application of the law, given the multiple cases of document destruction by federal officials. For example, in 2011, during the course of an Inspector General investigation into NOAA’s Office of Enforcement, then director Dale J. Jones, Jr., actually shredded documents to conceal evidence.  Jones was not prosecuted—instead, he was given a different job. Similarly, Charles Edwards, former Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General, allegedly destroyed documents to impede a federal investigation. Edwards, too, was reassigned to another federal job.

According to Justice Ginsburg: “A fish is no doubt an object that is tangible; fish can be seen, caught, and handled, and a catch, as this case illustrates, is vulnerable to destruction. But it would cut [the law] loose from its financial-fraud mooring to hold that it encompasses any and all objects, whatever their size or significance, destroyed with obstructive intent. Mindful that…Congress trained its attention on corporate and accounting deception and cover-ups, we conclude that a matching construction…is in order: A tangible object….we hold, must be one used to record or preserve information.” Even the dissent, filed by Justice Kagan, noted: “That brings to the surface the real issue: overcriminalization and excessive punishment in the U. S. Code… [§1519] is a bad law— too broad and undifferentiated, with too-high maximum penalties, which give prosecutors too much leverage and sentencers too much discretion. And I’d go further: In those ways, §1519 is unfortunately not an outlier, but an emblem of a deeper pathology in the federal criminal code.”

Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein applauded the decision:

“We are gratified by the Court’s decision. The Supreme Court has today protected individual rights against arbitrary government prosecutions. The government’s conduct in this case was quintessential Executive Branch overreach because Congress never imagined, much less intended, that the law it passed to deter corporate financial scandals would be applied to fish. Further, this case stands for the principle that overzealous prosecutions should not be broadly applied to private citizens while taxpayer-funded government officials engage in unremediated violations. The rule in this case, requiring courts to read statutes in context and in the fashion Congress intended, will help numerous individuals stand up to government abuses of its authority.”

A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision can be found here. A copy of the Cause of Action, Southeastern Legal Foundation and Texas Public Policy Foundation amicus brief can be found here. Gus Coldebella of Goodwin Proctor was counsel of record for amici on this case.

Yates v US Amicus Brief by Cause of Action

TIGTA Undermines Taxpayer Privacy

Cause of Action is asking a federal court to grant its motion for summary judgment against the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Cause of Action is seeking enforcement of a prior court order requiring the government to produce records relating to the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information to unauthorized White House officials.

Earlier this month, after being forced to admit that it had investigated unauthorized White House access, TIGTA asked the court to allow it to withhold documents under Section 6103 of the tax code. However, section 6103 is meant to protect taxpayers, not the government.

Dan Epstein, Executive Director of Cause of Action, released the following statement:

“Section 6103 was passed to stop White House and other officials from obtaining the tax return information of government critics and political opponents. TIGTA, however, has asked the Court to make the unprecedented ruling that the taxpayer protection law actually shields the identities of the government lawbreakers who requested or obtained tax data without proper authorization. Such a ruling would be both bad law and bad policy. Congress never intended such a thing when it passed the law. And, such a ruling will limit government accountability and encourage future abuse.”

Read the filings below:

The Hill: Group files suit for IRS records

Read the full story: The Hill 

A government oversight group on Tuesday filed a motion in federal court to force the Obama administration to release thousands of records linked to the IRS’s targeting of conservative-leaning groups. Cause of Action is seeking the enforcement of a prior court order requiring the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to produce more than 2,500 documents. The group argues that TIGTA continues to protect the White House by denying the disclosure of the records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Washington Free Beacon: Watchdog Group Asks Court to Force Release of Docs on IRS Targeting

Read the full story: Washington Free Beacon

The watchdog group Cause of Action is asking a federal court to force the Obama administration to release thousands of documents related to the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. Cause of Action asked a court in a motion filed Tuesday to compel the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to disclose roughly 2,500 documents related to unauthorized leaks of taxpayer information to White House officials.


Cause of Action’s Amicus Brief in O’Keefe v. Chisholm

Cause of Action filed an Amicus brief in support of Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club For Growth on February 20, 2015.

Read the brief below:

Cause of Action Capitol Hill Fellowship Program

2015 Cause of Action Capitol Hill Fellowship Program

Cause of Action seeks applicants for its Capitol Hill Fellowship Program. Applications are due by November 15, 2015 (11:59PM EST), and must be emailed to Cause of Action will begin accepting applications on or about August 7, 2015.

Download the Full Application

Overview & Goals

Mission Statement: The CoA Capitol Hill Fellows Program (COACH) allows for attorneys at all levels to develop the skills necessary for understanding and executing effective government oversight. COACH is effectively a “legislative clerkship” that aims to equip fellows with the skills and professional development opportunities to be more effective public law advocates. Because CoA is committed to government accountability as necessary for the promotion of societal well-being, COACH seeks applicants who are committed to principles of limited government, regulatory fairness, and economic liberty.

Fellows: Fellows are to be placed in Senate and House oversight committees and subcommittees. Fellows will work full-time for one year within the structure of the Congressional office. Fellows must have a J.D., a minimum of 2 years of legal work experience after law school, and be admitted to a state bar. It is also essential that Fellows be willing to learn new ways to think, investigate, and digest information.

Stipend: A monthly stipend to help cover living and other costs will be paid directly to the Fellow (range: $5,000 to $12,500). CoA does not provide housing, health insurance, or any other benefits other than a monthly stipend, and Fellows are not considered employees of CoA.

Selection Process: A committee comprised of CoA’s senior staff, management, and/or individuals designated by CoA will review applications and make recommendations of Fellowship finalists. The finalists will be invited to interview with a selection committee consisting of CoA staff and/or individuals designated by CoA. From the pool of finalists, it is envisioned that up to four (4) fellowships will be awarded per year. The accepted fellows will be notified shortly thereafter. Acceptances by Fellows are due within a week of notification from CoA. Selection will occur on a rolling basis.

Application Information

Cause of Action seeks applicants for its 2015 Capitol Hill Fellowship Program. Applications are due by November 15, 2015 (11:59PM EST), and must be emailed to Cause of Action will begin accepting applications on or about August 7, 2015.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and citizens or lawful residents of the United States. Applicants must also be admitted to a state bar. Applicants will not be considered if CoA makes a determination that an applicant is related to any member of the selection committee.

Incomplete applications will not be considered. Complete applications must include the application form, a resume, a writing sample, and other information contained on the application form.

Download the Full Application