WASHINGTON — A federal court has ordered the U.S. government to pay $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage after the group claimed that confidential donor information from its tax returns was “leaked” to an activist and later published by the Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post.
The judgement stems from a case brought by the NOM that an employee of the Internal Revenue Service deliberately leaked the confidential tax document.
NOM said that an investigation revealed that its 2008 tax return and list of major donors was released to Matthew Meisel, an openly gay employee of Bain & Company, a former employer of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Email correspondence from Meisel allegedly revealed that he told a colleague that he had “a conduit” to obtain NOM’s confidential information.
According to various court records, Meisel contacted the IRS in January 2011, identified himself as a member of the media, and requested a copy of NOM’s 990 form for the years 2007 and 2008.
Meisel’s request was forwarded to IRS clerk Wendy Peters and, within the month, the forms were sent to Meisel, including names and addresses of donors that is normally redacted.
Meisel then forwarded the 2008 form to HRC’s then campaign media director Kevin Nix. And Nix forwarded the form to a Huffington Post reporter who published an article noting that an Alabama political action committee associated with Romney made a $10,000 contribution to the NOM.
While testifying in a deposition in the litigation, Meisel reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, and refused to disclose the identity of his conduit.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris dismissed the majority of the NOM’s lawsuit, and said the NOM failed to provide any evidence that the disclosure was deliberate and politically motivated; but, he said the IRS may bear some responsibility for the legal expenses NOM incurred as a result of that error.
NOM board chairman John Eastman said Tuesday that his group still wants to learn more about how the information from a 2008 tax form emerged from the IRS.
Late last month, an ethics panel in Maine fined the NOM $50,250 and ordered it to file a campaign finance report that would reveal the donors behind the 2009 repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage law after finding that the NOM violated Maine’s campaign finance laws.