National Organization for Marriage sued the IRS in 2013. NOM lost the suit. In fact, because they lost the suit NOM was not awarded one dime in legal fees (NOM claimed to have spent over $690,000). Federal District Court Judge James C. Cacheris concluded that the IRS made an inadvertent clerical error. A clerk failed to white out donors from the information provided to someone claiming to be a reporter. Rather than submit the damages to trial NOM and the IRS settled on $50,000. In other words NOM took a loss of $640,000. Imagine my surprise on Wednesday when Brian Brown wrote:
In March 2012, NOM’s confidential tax return and donor information was published by our main political rival, the grossly misnamed Human Rights Campaign (HRC). … NOM conducted a high-level investigation and determined that the confidential donor information published by the HRC was leaked by the IRS itself. At the time of the illegal action by IRS officials, the head of the HRC was serving as a national co-chairman of President Obama’s reelection campaign. … — but after NOM filed a federal lawsuit, the tax agency was forced to admit wrongdoing and paid NOM $50,000 in damages.
About the only thing that isn’t bullshit in that paragraph is the $50,000 settlement. In January of 2012, a guy by the name of Andrew Meisel
requested 2007 and 2008 returns from the IRS. Later in the month, a
clerk at the IRS named Wendy Peters provided Meisel with the requested
information. Peters simply forgot to redact the donor information. She
made a clerical error.
As Judge Cacheris notes, “The evidence is unrefuted that
Peters did not know Meisel or have any connection to the HRC
when she disclosed the information.” So much for a conspiracy or illegality.
Two months later, in March of 2012, Meisel contacted Kevin Nix at HRC
and asked if they (HRC) would be interested in seeing the documents. HRC
forwarded the material to the Huffington Post and the rest is history. Both published what was relatively irrelevant information to their websites.
For the record, Judge Cacheris ruled:
- That the disclosure was not willful. “In short, NOM’s allegations of willfulness are unsupported by any evidence and thus insufficient.”
- This did not constitute gross negligence. “The record is equally deficient concerning NOM’s assertion of gross negligence.”
- There are no punitive damages to be awarded. “NOM has made no showing from which a reasonable jury could find that the disclosure of its Schedule B was the result of willfulness or gross negligence.”
- There is no cause of action for having tax returns unlawfully inspected by government employees. “because there is no evidence before the Court upon which NOM could prevail, the Court will dismiss its unlawful inspection claims.”