News reports from the time indicate the now-chief counsel of the IRS, William Wilkins, helped a church connected to President Barack Obama’s friend Rev. Jeremiah Wright get out of an IRS probe in 2008 while working as a private attorney.
“Lawyers from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr have won the dismissal of an IRS case against United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s denomination,” The American Lawyer’s Zach Lowe wrote on May 22, 2008.
The IRS initiated an investigation early this year after a speech by Obama at a 50th anniversary celebration of the church last June. It was a reference by Obama to his presidential candidacy in a talk otherwise focused on faith that caught the agency’s attention. Tax laws prohibit non-profits–including churches–from engaging in political speech or promoting candidates. The IRS can withdraw an organization’s tax-free status if the organization is found to violate the rule.
Lowe noted that Obama had been a “member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago–a UCC congregation–for more than 20 years. The church has been in the headlines for several months now as the congregation lead by the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright.”