The IRS Mystery Man Calling the Shots

When it comes to the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, the media has focused its attention on Lois Lerner, who oversaw the tax agency’s Exempt Organizations Unit. But they may want to pay more attention to William Wilkins, the IRS chief counsel, whose office, according to sources, had unprecedented involvement in applications for tax exempt status and the special scrutiny of conservative applications.

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Wilkins is one of just two of the tax agency’s roughly 90,000 employees who was appointed by the White House, according to reports.  He came to the IRS in 2009 from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, where he had worked as a lobbyist since 1988. At WilmerHale, as the firm is now called, he was part of the tax practice group and as part of his responsibilities he advised nonprofit organizations on tax compliance. Prior to that, Wilkins served as staff counsel to the Democratic side of the Senate Finance Committee from 1981 to 1988.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, who is suing the IRS to force the issuance of emails related to the tax exempt scandal, is highly critical of Wilkins. He says, “The counsel’s office was up to its neck in tea party targeting. I don’t understand why he is still there.” Wilkins also led the defense team of former Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ in 2008, when it faced an IRS probe regarding its tax exempt status.

The IRS has refused to immediately release the 6,400 emails that Fitton’s group is requesting, telling a U.S. district court that they needed to be “de-duplicated” before circulating them more widely. Judicial Watch responded yesterday by requesting that the court order the IRS to produce the emails immediately.

Adding fuel to the fire, Americans for Tax Reform issued a statement yesterday saying that the IRS was moving at a “snail’s pace” in releasing emails, and that the delay was “unacceptable.”

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