The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is accusing the Obama administration of intentionally leaking one of the organization's confidential IRS documents, but congressional testimony and even NOM's former chairwoman have made clear that the release of the document was "inadvertent."
During the June 3 edition of Fox News' America Live, NOM president Brian Brown revived his claim that the IRS stole and leaked its Form 990 to the Human Rights Campaign last year, suggesting that the leak may have been linked to President Obama's reelection effort:
BROWN: It is a felony to use the private and confidential tax information, tax returns. This goes back to the articles of impeachment on President Nixon. And this was given to our political opponents, the head of which, the head of the Human Rights Campaign was a co-chair for President Obama's re-election campaign.
BROWN: We need Congress to move forward, we need a thorough investigation, and we need to know for certain if this goes, to see how high this goes. It is not at all encouraging that, again, this was given to a co-chair of President Obama's re-election campaign. That's just wrong.
Over the past few weeks, NOM's story has been picked up by a number of media outlets, including Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox News. In an op-ed for USA Today, NOM chairman John Eastman claimed, without evidence:
[T]he release of NOM's confidential data to a group headed by an Obama campaign co-chair suggests the possibility of complicity at the highest levels of politics and government. This wasn't a low-level error in judgment; it was a conscious act to reward a prominent Obama supporter while punishing an opponent.
In fact, NOM's conspiracy theory has been debunked by NOM's own former chairwoman Maggie Gallagher. In a May 10 column for National Review Online, Gallagher wrote that the leak of NOM's Form 990 had been an accident:
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.
That explanation was corroborated during the May 17 House Ways and Means Committee's hearing on the recent IRS controversy. When Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) asked Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller about NOM's accusation, Miller responded by explaining that an investigation had determined that the release of NOM's Form 990 had been "inadvertent":
MILLER: Can I suggest something, Mr. Camp, on those two, just to let you know?
CAMP: This would be the National Organization for Marriage and Pro Publica?
MILLER: On those two situations, we went to [the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)] and I think Mr. George can speak to what they found. We made the referrals and I believe what they found was that those disclosures were inadvertent and that there's been discipline in one of those cases for somebody not following procedures.
Miller's testimony was echoed by Treasury Department Inspector General Russell George, who explained that a review of NOM's claims had been conducted but was no longer ongoing:
In other words, the leaking of NOM's Form 990 wasn't part of some Obama administration plot to "punish" one of the president's political opponents; it was a mistake made by a "low-level" IRS employee.
NOM's attempt to link the leak of its Form 990 to the Obama administration is just the latest in the right-wing effort to baselessly blame the Obama administration for errors made by low-level IRS employees. NOM's accusations reveal more about the group's desperate desire to score political points than it does about a vast government conspiracy to target and punish conservatives.