Relationship wasn’t strictly business, e-mails show.
E-mails obtained by a Republican lawmaker and a conservative organization, along with travel records and expense reports portray a wide-ranging relationship between Wisconsin’s controversial top elections official and the disgraced former head of the federal Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt division. The relationship between Kevin Kennedy, head of the Government Accountability Board, and Lois Lerner, the Obama Administration IRS official who used her perch to harass and threaten conservative non-profit groups, was first revealed by the Wall Street Journal and further explained by the MacIver Institute.
But the entire story found in the numerous e-mails – and verified by state travel records – has never been fully told.
Kennedy has been extremely defensive about his interaction with Lerner, accusing a state senator of being like U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who fear-mongered about communists in government in the 1950s, when that senator asked Kennedy this week about the nature of the relationship.
State Rep. Dave Craig, a Republican who is leading the fight to reform Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation process, first obtained e-mails between Kennedy and Lerner in an open records request. Under Kennedy’s leadership, the GAB worked in tandem with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office to use the state’s current John Doe law to harass, investigate and bully conservatives. The e-mails were also obtained by True the Vote, a conservative Texas-based election watchdog that was targeted by Lerner and the IRS. True the Vote also obtained several years’ worth of Kennedy’s travel schedules.
The e-mails show that Kennedy and Lerner, in addition to sending each other a few e-mails about professional work, would share travel details – including hotel addresses – with each other and circulate random photographs and generic poems with a tight circle of acquaintances.
For example, in January of 2013, Lerner wrote Kennedy saying that while she looked at her own calendar she noticed Kennedy would be in D.C. the following week. “I’m looking at my calendar and I see that you will be in DC [sic] soon,” the IRS official wrote. After explaining her husband’s schedule, she said “So, if you still want to get together…we can eat downtown…or we can come to Bethesda so I can do [walk] dogs and then go out after that.”
Kennedy wrote back “I am looking forward to seeing you,” and then mentioned he was staying at the Fairfax on Embassy Row. Travel records don’t indicate how much Kennedy spent at that hotel during the early January 2013 trip, but in 2010 the GAB official spent $948.08 on a four-night stay at that same hotel. This trip he expensed only $260.00 in meals and taxis, not including airfare and hotel costs.
In late January 2013, Kennedy tried to meet up with Lerner again when he returned to D.C. for a meeting of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED). But that fell through, according to e-mails, when Lerner became ill. Kennedy e-mailed the IRS official to say, “I missed you” and share how he took “a long walk to the monuments” on the National Mall. He also ruminated on his precarious position at GAB, “Things are unraveling at work. I may be over reacting but I think I will be able to retire.”
In March of 2013 the pair e-mailed about a restaurant in Minneapolis that Lerner liked and some bread she mailed to Kennedy. “Was in Minneapolis yesterday,” Lerner wrote on March 13, “Had a great dinner with one of my colleagues-not as good as dinner with you, of course.” She then said she was, “Glad to hear your [Kennedy’s] voice.”
In 2012 as Kennedy managed the Wisconsin recall elections, Lerner sent him the address of her hotel in Chicago when she visited the Windy City in May. A month later they attempted to make dinner plans again, but those fell through.
The schedule sharing stretches as far back as 2011 and 2010 according to the records, with the two exchanging information about monitoring the work of non-profits in between e-mails with pictures of wildlife, sandcastles and hotel addresses.
Although Kennedy may think his relationship with Lerner is off-limits to questioning, simply dismissing it as McCarthyism doesn’t explain why Wisconsin’s top elections official would work so closely with an IRS official who had to leave her job in the Obama Administration because of her targeting of conservative organizations. Kennedy’s own work targeting conservatives may offer more insight than his manufactured outrage in front of a legislative committee.
Kennedy-Lerner E-mails: Craig Combined_Final_7_24_15r