Attorneys representing The Daily Caller News Foundation filed an administrative appeal Friday arguing that the IRS turned the Freedom of Information Act “on its head” by improperly rejecting and closing a request for documents related to the Clinton Foundation’s tax exemption.
In its Aug. 26, 2016, FOIA request, TheDCNF sought copies of documents related to the Clinton Foundation’s application for tax exemption, official determination letter “and related memoranda, telephone messages, correspondence, including digital and U.S. mail, and any other official documents for the tax-exempt 501(c)(3).”
In a Sept. 14, 2016, response, the IRS rejected the request and declined to conduct a search for the documents while claiming that if the requested documents exist, they are protected against disclosure in the interest of protecting the privacy of tax returns. The federal tax agency also unilaterally closed the case without prior discussion with TheDCNF.
“The IRS is ignoring its responsibility to conduct a search in response to a FOIA request. Instead, it’s using sophistry to argue that just because some of the records ‘may’ implicate exempt materials, it can ignore the request all together,” said Cause of Action Institute President and CEO Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.
Lechner is a former federal judge.
Cause of Action Institute Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor R. James Valvo, III, also argued in the administrative appeal that the materials requested by TheDCNF “are not protected [from disclosure] and must be disclosed through FOIA because Section 6104 of the Internal Revenue Code requires such documents to be ‘open to public inspection.’ As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently explained, ‘applications for tax-exempt status are very different from tax returns.’”
The FOIA followed the Sept. 7, 2016, article by TheDCNF reporting that “Clinton Foundation officials repeatedly skirted or ignored federal laws and regulations while converting the non-profit from its tax-exempt purpose of building a presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, into a $2 billion global machine selling political influence and access on an unprecedented scale.”
Non-profits like the Clinton Foundation are required to host activities that advance their approved tax-exempt purpose and to tell the IRS if they want to change or expand their programs.
“During the foundation’s first six full years of existence from 1998 to 2004, the tight-knit circle of Clinton insiders progressively mis-represented in annual tax filings the non-profit’s activities and compliance with its exempt purpose,” TheDCNF reported.