The documents came in response to an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the agency refused to respond to four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)).
One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky "to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months." Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office. Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responds:
EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.
The reference to Rob is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS's Washington, DC, headquarters.
Another email string from February - March 2010 includes a message from a California EO Determinations manager discussing a Tea Party application "currently being held in the Screening group." The manager urges, "Please let ‘Washington' know about this potentially embarrassing political case involving a ‘Tea Party' organization. Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile' case." A co-worker responds: "I think sending it up here [DC] is a good idea given the potential for media interest." As with Ben Rhodes' Benghazi-related talking points email, Judicial Watch obtained a more complete version of this IRS email chain than was provided to a congressional committee.
The Judicial Watch documents also contain email correspondence to internal IRS investigators from Lerner, dated April 2, 2013, that tries to explain the "Be on the Lookout" (BOLO) criteria used to select organizations for screening and scrutiny:
Because the BOLO only contained a brief reference to "Organizations involved with the Tea Party movement applying for exemption under 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)" in June 2011, the EO Determinations manager asked the manager of the screening group, John Shafer [IRS Cincinnati field office manager], what criteria were being used to label cases as "tea party " cases. ("Do the applications specify/state ‘ tea party'? If not, how do we know applicant is involved with the tea party movement?") The screening group manager asked his employees how they were applying the BOLO's short -hand reference to "tea party." His employees responded that they were including organizations meeting any of the following criteria as falling within the BOLO's reference to "tea party" organizations: "1. ‘Tea Party', ‘Patriots' or '9/12 Project' is referenced in the case file. 2. Issues include government spending, government debt and taxes. 3. Educate the public through advocacy/legislative activities to make America a better place to live. 4. Statements in the case file that are critical of the how the country is being run. . . "