House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) wrote Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding answers about continued leaks of personal financial information and any efforts to stop ProPublica from publishing additional articles containing taxpayer return information.
“No exception exists for providing information to a news or so-called public interest organization. It is therefore deeply disturbing that ProPublica—or anybody outside of those with authorized access—has obtained, let alone analyzed and reported, tax information on any individual taxpayer,” wrote Ranking Member Comer.
Soon after the publication of the first ProPublica story on the private tax information of Americans, Republican Committee staff began to investigate the extent of the information gathered, how confidential returns were accessed, and the source of the leak. During the investigation, Republicans have learned the IRS’ audit trail system is inadequate to protect Americans’ sensitive information from rogue IRS employees and contractors, leaving the IRS unprepared to protect private data from improper use and disclosure.
“Despite Americans expecting and deserving privacy concerning the tax information that the federal government requires from them, ProPublica has unilaterally determined it is in the public interest to reveal this private information,” continued Ranking Member Comer. “By publishing this information and doing the public bidding for this ‘IRS Snowden,’ ProPublica, therefore, is capitalizing on criminal behavior and encouraging future acts of criminal conduct for those who make a judgment that it serves the public interest.”
In the letter to Commissioner Rettig, Ranking Member Comer demands the IRS provide information to determine the extent of the IRS’ audit trail vulnerabilities. The request includes the audit trail for return information for those whose financial information was leaked, the roster of all employees and contractors with access to the leaked financial information, a list with dates and times for any contact with ProPublica, and more.
The full letter is available here.
Earlier this year, when ProPublica published an article detailing federal tax filings of Americans, Republicans urgently called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to swiftly investigate the IRS leak and bring those responsible to justice. Republicans also called on Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to hold a hearing on the leaks, but she has refused.