WASHINGTON—The National Organization for Marriage intends to sue the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) next week amid allegations that the government tax-collecting agency leaked confidential donor information to a key political rival.
The accusation is one of many coming to light this week against the IRS, which has admitted to targeting conservative groups for audits and denying others tax-exempt status. But John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), told me Friday that his organization’s lawsuit has been in the works since 2012.
“We asked for an investigation a year ago,” he said.
On March 30, 2012, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which advocates for the legalization of gay marriage, released confidential NOM donor lists and addresses on its website. HRC attempted to conceal the source of the information, but Eastman said computer technicians were able to see redacted portions of the PDF document, proving it had originated from the IRS.
Eastman said NOM has not determined how much it will seek in damages, but he underscored the significance of the illegal disclosure. “One of the charges for impeachment drawn up against President [Richard] Nixon was the abuse of the IRS for political purposes,” he said.
Eastman said HRC had been trying to secure the donor lists in order intimidate and harass groups and companies that supported the cause for traditional marriage. He said that is exactly what happened: Then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came under fire after the disclosure revealed his political action committee had donated thousands of dollars to NOM.
“What a coincidence,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor, noting the leak occurred in the lead-up to a national election. What’s more, McConnell pointed out, at the time HRC was “headed by a guy who was named a co-chair of the Obama campaign.”
“There are allegations here that someone at the IRS committed a very serious crime that had the effect of chilling the speech of a political organization that happened to be on the wrong side of the current administration,” he said.
McConnell said Sen. Orrin Hatch—the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee—sent a letter to the IRS inquiring about reports of the illegal disclosure, but he never received a response. NOM’s complaints also failed to spark an investigation, so it began working toward a lawsuit.
Eastman said donors often gave to NOM under the condition that the donations were kept anonymous, and the disclosure led to some donors refusing further gifts out of fear of retribution. Last year NOM battled homosexual activists in four states where the definition of marriage was considered in separate ballot initiatives. NOM was heavily outspent by its opponents, who won narrow victories in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota.
ActRight Legal Foundation will file the lawsuit on NOM’s behalf in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. Illegal tax return disclosures are punishable by fines and up to five years in prison.