The National Organization for Marriage is filing suit Thursday against the Internal Revenue Service, attacking the agency for allowing one of its private donor lists to be leaked a year and a half ago. The document showed that then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had donated $10,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign, a donation that may have been hidden in violation of disclosure laws. An investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is still pending.
NOM originally called for a federal investigation for the IRS leak, something that only this week did Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) agree to do. The organization had grown quiet about the leak until this past May when it came to light the IRS had supposedly targeted conservative Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny, though a report found no evidence of such political targeting. Nevertheless, NOM joined the right’s campaign against the IRS, renewing its complaint about the document leak and threatening the lawsuit now being filed.
According to NOM’s lawyer, Cleta Mitchell of the ActRight Legal Foundation, this is a campaign of vengeance against the IRS:
MITCHELL: Somebody did this deliberately and it was planned, and we need to know who it was. The IRS needs to pay. Ultimately, the IRS is responsible for the damages.
But the facts don’t all add up. When the document was first published at the Huffington Post, the source was identified as a “whistleblower.” Former NOM chair Maggie Gallagher, however, told a slightly different version of the story in May:
GALLAGHER: You may recall that a low-level employee also released NOM’s private tax-return information to a guy claiming to be a NOM employee, who then posted it on the Internet.
Gallagher argued that if nobody was fired, then the IRS is still culpable. But if, as she suggested, an employee was simply duped, then there was no intentional violation of law.
In addition to just fueling a broader conservative campaign against the IRS, this suit is also no doubt part of NOM’s ongoing efforts to flout campaign finance disclosure laws. Indeed, the very document that was leaked suggests a cover-up of Romney’s donation to the Prop 8 campaign. Maine’s courts have also ruled against NOM’s attempts to shield its donors during the 2009 marriage fight in that state, though documents have not yet been revealed as a result of those decisions. Activist Fred Karger, who seeks to hold NOM accountable, filed a new challenge in Iowa recently about the group’s fundraising when campaigning against Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. NOM called the investigation a “witch hunt” and even attacked the chair of the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, calling her “biased and incredibly unprofessional.”