U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Former ProPublica reporter subpoenaed over IRS lawsuit

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 22, 2023
Miami, Florida

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
August 22, 2023

ProPublica and five of its journalists — including former reporter Mick Dumke — were each subpoenaed on Aug. 22, 2023, in connection with an ongoing lawsuit filed by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin against the Internal Revenue Service, the nonprofit newsroom confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Griffin filed the suit in federal court in Miami in December 2022, alleging that the IRS failed to establish “appropriate administrative, technical, and/or physical safeguards” to protect his private data.

A ProPublica spokesperson told the Tracker via email that the outlet and journalists received “sprawling subpoenas for documents” in an apparent attempt to identify ProPublica’s source following the publication of its series, “The Secret IRS Files,” which relied on what it called “a vast cache” of tax documents.

“As we reported from the first day the series appeared, we don’t know the identity of the source who provided this trove of information on the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are deeply committed to protecting our sources — who are the lifeblood of our journalism — and maintaining the independence of our newsroom. These principles are sacrosanct at ProPublica and will remain our priority as we address Griffin’s subpoenas. If necessary, we are prepared to defend our rights in court.”

ProPublica declined to provide further information about the content of the subpoenas or how the outlet is responding to them.

A joint status report filed in the underlying lawsuit identified the journalists subpoenaed as Dumke, who left the outlet in December 2022; senior editor and reporter Jesse Eisinger; senior data reporter Jeff Ernsthausen; reporter Paul Kiel; and reporter, designer and developer Ash Ngu. According to the report, responses to the subpoenas were due on Sept. 26 and the deadline to begin production of materials is Oct. 6.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].