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IRS Looking at Clinton Foundation After GOP Complaint

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IRS Looking at Clinton Foundation After GOP Complaint

The IRS has referred GOP complaints about the Clinton Foundation’s tax exemption to the agency’s exam unit, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told House Republicans this week.

“We have forwarded the information you submitted to our Exempt Organizations Examinations program,” Koskinen said in a July 22 letter responding to Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.) request for an investigation.

“This program considers all referrals,” Koskinen added.

Blackburn led more than 60 other House Republicans in calling on three federal agencies to investigate the charity earlier this month. They pointed to “unresolved media reports raising significant issues of public corruption regarding Foundation activities” in a July 15 letter to Koskinen, FBI Director James Comey and FTC Chair Edith Ramirez.

“These reports, along with recently discovered information about the Foundation’s initial tax-exempt filings, portray a lawless ‘Pay to Play’ enterprise that has been operating under a cloak of philanthropy for years and should be investigated,” they wrote.

A referral to the Exams unit is routine, but a letter from the Commissioner himself – before a letter from the Dallas examinations unit acknowledging receipt – is unusual.

“The IRS response shows that the inquiry has been elevated,” Blackburn said in an e-mailed statement to POLITICO. “The letter we recently received was a referral signed by the Commissioner himself. The IRS knows that it can no longer ignore the Foundation’s activities, as a result of multiple letters from Congress and mounting public pressure.”

The IRS issued a brief statement Wednesday noting it “receives referrals from a variety of sources.”

“We forward all referrals to the appropriate area for consideration of whether there are issues that justify further review,” IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland said in an e-mail. “We have standard processes and procedures we follow when we receive information or referrals from outside groups. Due to federal privacy protections, the IRS cannot comment on individual taxpayers or organizations.”

After the referral reaches Dallas, according to the IRS’s public “complaint process” guidance , an Exempt Organizations revenue agent “uses a ‘reasonable belief’ standard to evaluate the facts and to determine whether EO should take further action.”

“Before taking action, the revenue agent must determine that the facts create a reasonable belief that the allegations may be true when considered fairly and in light of other reliable information,” the guidance states.

The GOP letter called attention to discrepancies between the Foundation’s global activities and the charity’s initial filing for 501(c)(3) recognition in 1997.

Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin, in comments to POLITICO earlier this month, dismissed the letter as “another baseless political attack from House Republicans who just spent two years and $7 million of taxpayer money on the sham Benghazi Committee and are now just regurgitating the debunked claims from the widely discredited book ‘Clinton Cash.'”

The FBI and FTC have not yet responded to the congressional request, a Blackburn aide said.

Comey raised eyebrows earlier this month during a House Oversight hearing when he declined to answer a question about whether the agency “look[ed] at the Clinton Foundation” during the course of its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“I’m not going to comment on the existence or nonexistence of other investigations,” Comey said.

When Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) pressed him, asking if the Foundation was “tied into this investigation,” Comey responded, “I’m not going to answer that.”

The July 15 request from the GOP lawmakers was the third such letter from House Republicans. They requested that the IRS “review the appropriateness of the Foundation’s tax-exempt status” in a May 19, 2015 letter and called on the FTC to “review the [Foundation’s] charitable status” and “investigate [its] lack of transparency” in an April 12, 2016 letter.

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