The Corner

IRS to Pay $50K in Damages for 2012 Leak

Last summer, National Review Online reported on the suspicious leak of National Organization Marriage (NOM) donor information. As we reported then, “When it comes to IRS abuse, NOM is in a league of its own: As-yet-unknown IRS personnel may have dug into the records of NOM specifically and leaked confidential tax documents to its principal political opponent.”

After long denying that it had anything to do with the 2012 leak — which resulted in NOM’s donors being listed on the website of the Human Rights Campaign, NOM’s principal political opponent — the IRS has agreed to pay $50,000 in damages, admitting that it was, in fact, the source of the leak.

However, the settlement marks only a partial victory for NOM. As the organization noted in its press release:

We learned during the course of the litigation that the tax return was disclosed to a gay rights activist in Boston by the name of Matthew Meisel, and that Meisel subsequently disclosed the illegally-obtained donor information to NOM’s political adversary, the Human Rights Campaign, which posted it on the internet.  We also learned that Meisel claimed to have a “promising conduit” who could obtain the tax return donor information.  That sure sounds like a lot more than an inadvertent mistake, as the IRS has claimed.  But Meisel refused to answer our questions during his deposition, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 

Without that information, there is no proof that the IRS leak was intentional; it was just an “inadvertent mistake” that, coincidentally, worked to the benefit of NOM’s political rivals. Moreover, because the IRS maintains that the leak was unintentional, the $50,000 is compensation for legal hassles, not punitive damages.

There is much still unknown about NOM’s case, but this most recent development is, without a doubt, progress.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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