I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpayers

The outrageous privacy actions of our Government continue to come to light.

The News Tribune reports that the I.R.S. tracked the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states.

As it hunted down tax scofflaws, the Internal Revenue Service collected information on the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of an appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the IRS, said the practice was an “outrageous violation of the public trust” that could undermine the agency’s credibility.

...Murray said she learned about the problem from the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelly. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.

An I.R.S. spokesperson acknowledges that one of its "vendors" did collect the information and that it is illegal. It says it has never used the information and since told the vendor to "screen the information out." (It seems that a vendor is a private collection agency.)

But a Deputy IRS Commissioner defended the practice and said it is lawful.

In a letter to Kelly, Deputy IRS Commissioner John Dalrymple said the party identification information was automatically collected through a “database platform” supplied by an outside contractor that targeted voter registration rolls among other things as it searched for people who aren’t paying their taxes. “This information is appropriately used to locate information on taxpayers whose accounts are delinquent,” he said.

If you have received a tax collection call from a collection agency and you live in one of these states, you may be a person aggrieved.

According to Murray’s office, the 20 states in which the IRS collected party affiliation information were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

[hat tip Patriot Daily.]

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    Buh...buh...but...Bill Clinton! Filegate! Monica! I can't wait to hear the 'wingers rationalize this one.

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#2)
    by Punchy on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 09:17:20 PM EST
    In other blogs, this has been discussed at being illegal. Here, it's being portrayed as legal. I cannot imagine that this is legal, for what keeps this from being abused by the controlling party? Why exactly would the IRS need to know one's voting preferences?

    Of course it's not legal. No one at this blog is defending it. I quoted an IRS guy who defended it.

    Any thoughts on why those states and not others?

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#5)
    by Punchy on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 10:26:37 PM EST
    TL-- You said "of course it's not legal". That makes it sound quite definitive, and as we all know, your legal interpretations are spot-on. So how in the world can the IRS claim otherwise? Are they attempting to "make it legal" simply by pretending it is? Is this the new Admin theme? No matter what the law says, they can say it doesn't apply/exist? My brain's about to explode imaging the abuse that could follow...

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#6)
    by Johnny on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 11:27:17 PM EST
    Well, I imagine the continuing war on terror will crop up and the supporters of this stupid policy will scare enough americans into thinking that if the IRS does not know your affiliation that al-qaeda will bomb their local shopping mall and/or desecrate local theme parks. Wake up America! Protecting your privacy will allow the terrorists to win!

    My own personal guess here is that its not legal to track party affiliation, but it is legal to use voter rolls to get current names and addresses. That would explain why the contractor was told to "filter" that data out. Mainly, the data source probably comes with that field when purchased/retrieved from the state.

    What I want to know is: Who are these vendors, or private contractors, who have access to our supposedly private tax information? Since we don't know who they are, how can we trust them with this information? Since a lot of private contractors are using prisoners in privatized jails to do various jobs these days, how do we know that our private information isn't getting into the hands of criminals who can rip us off later?

    Besides the issue of prisoners, there's also the possibility that work is being outsourced to countries where the data-privacy laws and enforcement are even worse than they are in the United States.

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#10)
    by Kitt on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:30:56 AM EST
    I got a letter Friday that my 2003 tax return is being um, looked at. I'm trying not to be paranoid.

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:52:01 AM EST
    Does any govt. agency follow the law anymore? Talk about a crime family. We need to take a good look at the advice of Jefferson, and start the revolution post haste.

    I'm not about to make any excuses for this kind of B.S., regardless of which party is in power at any given moment. The fact that Clinton misused the IRS to harass his political enemies DOES NOT excuse the fact that Bush may be doing so now. However, I do welcome this latest development. Maybe now enough liberals and "progressives" will be interested in finding out what is in Barrett's report that the Clinton's and their lawyers will finally stop fighting its release.

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#13)
    by Dadler on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:11:56 AM EST
    justpaul, how did Clinton misuse the IRS to harrass political enemies? perhaps i just need a memory refresher, but i'm not square on this.

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#14)
    by swingvote on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:29:15 AM EST
    Dadler, To start with, was it a mere coincidence that multiple conservative non-profit groups suddenly found themselves being audited after they had made negative comments about the administration? Beyond that: Since we have had a special prosecutor look into just that question, at a cost of over $20 million already spent, why don't we look at his report to see what he found?

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#15)
    by swingvote on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:33:38 AM EST
    Dadler, You also might want to consider that if this stuff did happen, and is still happening, it is being done by the career people at the IRS. They have shown themselves willing to engage in this kind of activity before, who says they won't do it again? It would be nice to know who they are and what, exactly, they did. Wouldn't it?

    A couple of years ago, the republican majority Congress (wanting to reward their constituents - you know who that is!) added a provision to a bill that would allow the IRS to hire private contractors to collect unpaid taxes of a very small amount, taking in a percentage of whatever they collected (I think about 30%, but I may be wrong). At the time, Coleen Kelly of the NTEU argued that the IRS can hire more "career employees" to collect this amount, at a fraction of the cost. The bill passed and now we have this. So, in reality, their are less "career employees" doing the collecting, and more taxpayer money going to the private sector (republicans love that!) and, less privacy (i think republicans love that too!).

    Re: I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpa (none / 0) (#17)
    by Dadler on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 05:36:23 PM EST
    justpaul, where in ken starr's report did is say clinton had used the IRS against political enemies? i'm curious, genuinely, so lemme know. and isn't it a crime for a president to go after enemies using a government agency?

    Dadler, For a guy who professes to know so much about so many things political, you seem oddly out of the loop on this one. The Special Prosecutor in question is not Ken Starr, it is David Barrett. He has spent 10 years and over 20 million taxpayer dollars investigating this issue of the Clinton's use of the IRS and a few other government agencies (like Justice) to hound their "enemies". But othet than Mr. Barrett, a judge or two, and a couple of laywers, no one knows what is in Mr. barrett's report, finished in August 2004, because David Kendall, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and several other lawyers have filed numerous lawsuits trying to get it didacted or just quashed (all of this, by the way, is summarized in the link I provided above). Is it illegal? I would say yes. But I think many liberals and "progressives" would say no, because it involves one of their own (alledgedly, what Bill Clinton's real political stance is is sometimes a mystery to me). And now for some contemperaneous reports, since you asked: The IRS is ordered to harass conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Justice. .....after congressional offices were bombarded with correspondence decrying the suspicious targeting for IRS audits of non-profit organizations critical of the Clinton administration An official with the Internal Revenue Service has admitted that legal opponents of former President Bill Clinton were singled out for tax audits In 1994, my non-profit news organization at the time, the Western Journalism Center, began investigating Clinton administration scandals. In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service came knocking on the door, explaining that this was no ordinary audit, this was a "political case" and the decision about our fate would be made "at the national level." White House officials ask for IRS files on White House usher Christopher B. Emery, before carrying out Hillary Clinton’s instructions to fire him.