State officials have released dozens of emails sent between the head of Wisconsin’s elections agency and a former IRS official, following accusations of possible coordination between the two in efforts to go after conservative groups.
The 138 pages of emails were made public Monday morning because of an open records requests from Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend), who asked for contacts between the Government Accountability Board and IRS earlier this month. The inquiry was sparked by an unsigned opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, which called into question the relationship between GAB director Kevin Kennedy and former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner.
Lerner came under fire after the IRS was accused of targeting conservative non-profit groups. Wisconsin Republicans have made similar claims about the GAB under Kennedy’s leadership, after the agency consulted with prosecutors in a John Doe investigation that was probing the operations of conservative groups.
Of the emails released Monday, a handful show Lerner inquiring about political situations in Wisconsin or Kennedy making brief mentions about state events, during a time period that covered efforts to recall Governor Scott Walker and several state senators from office. In one email, dated January 27 of 2013, Kennedy wrote “Things are unraveling at work. I may be over reacting but I think I will be able to retire. Much sooner than I thought.”
Most of the messages though discuss dinner and travel plans, or updates about family. A handful of messages include IRS policy updates or repost articles about campaign finance debates. Lerner also included Kennedy on several lengthy email forwards featuring humorous photo collections about friendship and other jokes.
Kennedy highlighted that content in his written response to Craig, noting that there was actually very little material to send along. He said “that is because there was very little contact with the IRS by agency staff. You will also note the vast majority of the documents reflect a professional friendship that goes back almost 25 years and does not relate to any regulatory activity.”
Republicans have stepped up calls for Kennedy to resign and to reform the GAB, in the wake of the WSJ article and a recent state Supreme Court decision that halted the John Doe investigation. Governor Scott Walker has called for replacing the agency entirely, with something that would be “more accountable” to the public.