Cause of Action files lawsuit against DOJ relating to Lois Lerner-IRS data scandal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sept. 14, 2018 – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking records relating to the infamous Lois Lerner-IRS scandal. In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improperly released 21 CDs of confidential taxpayer information to the DOJ. This illegal release of confidential tax information resulted in several internal investigations, but the government has refused to release any of its internal reports or communications relating to the scandal.

“Taxpayers deserve to a have a full and clear picture of what took place nearly a decade ago when the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service were partnering in an effort to target nonprofits,” said Ryan Mulvey, counsel at Cause of Action Institute. “We have repeatedly requested the release of the internal investigation reports and the records revealing when and what the DOJ shared with Congress about this improper release. Taxpayers deserve a clear picture of who knew what and what really took place in the targeting of nonprofits by the DOJ and the IRS.”

In its investigation of this matter, CoA Institute has engaged with various DOJ components and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), filed multiple unanswered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and sought records regarding the potentially illegal access to and disclosure of this confidential taxpayer information.


  • In 2013, the public learned that the IRS Exempt Organizations Section, led by then-Director Lois Lerner, had been involved in unfairly targeting nonprofits, allegedly for political purposes.
  • Before then, the IRS and DOJ met on several occasions to discuss targeted prosecutorial efforts.
  • At one of those meetings, the IRS improperly provided the DOJ with 21 CDs containing statutorily protected confidential taxpayer information. That information could have been disclosed to the DOJ pursuant to statutory exemptions, none of which applied to this disclosure.
  • DOJ returned to the IRS, the CDs contained 1.1 million pages of confidential information regarding tax return information of various tax-exempt groups.
  • CoA Institute wrote to both the TIGTA and the DOJ Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG) to request investigations into this illegal access to and disclosure of confidential taxpayer information. TIGTA and DOJ OIG both opened investigations of this matter.
  • TIGTA refused to release its findings.
  • DOJ OIG, in a letter to CoA Institute, explained that, “[b]ased upon [its] initial inquiries, it appears that some protected taxpayer information was included on compact disks (CDs) that the IRS provided to the Department in response to a Department request.” Once “the Department learned of this, it returned the CDs to the IRS and informed Congress about it.” Citing “the absence of available information,” DOJ-OIG “determined that [CoA Institute’s request] does not warrant further investigation.”
  • In October 2016, CoA Institute sent a FOIA request to the DOJ-OIG seeking records of its communication with Congress relating to this unauthorized disclosure.
  • In October 2017, CoA Institute sent two additional FOIA requests to various DOJ components to ensure that CoA Institute received all relevant records pertaining to the IRS’s unlawful disclosure, particularly regarding the DOJ’s communications with Congress.
  • DOJ has refused to respond to any of the CoA Institute FOIA requests for this matter.
  • On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 Cause of Action Institute filed the following complaint against the U.S. Department of Justice, Cause of Action Inst. v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 18-2126 (D.D.C.)

Full complaint can be viewed below.

About Cause of Action Institute

Cause of Action Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to enhance individual and economic liberty by limiting the power of the administrative state to make decisions that are contrary to freedom and prosperity by advocating for a transparent and accountable government.

Media Contact:

Matt Frendewey


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