The IRS is being sued by 25 Tea Party groups in federal court over the political witch-hunt the agency has been conducting against conservative and libertarian grassroots organizations since the start of the Obama presidency.
The action comes three weeks after the Internal Revenue Service apologized to Tea Party groups and similar organizations for what it described as overzealous investigations of their requests for tax-exempt status. The White House denies directing the IRS to crack down on the groups.
Apart from Obama shills like Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who slavishly lap up whatever propaganda the administration feeds them, not too many informed observers believe the White House. The White House position was undermined significantly when it was revealed that then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the Obama White House a minimum of 157 times. “Even Attorney General Eric Holder, one of Obama’s closest allies, visited only 62 times according to the records,” a Daily Caller report noted.
Lois Lerner, the now-suspended head of the IRS division that deals with tax-exempt organizations, admitted the agency had singled out nonprofit applicants for tax-exempt status that had “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. Going after those groups was “absolutely inappropriate and not the way we should do things.” Last week Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in congressional testimony about the affair. Congressional leaders say she will be recalled for further testimony.
Of course the IRS is only doing what left-wing lawmakers like Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mt.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pressured it to do. The Obama administration’s desire to hurt Tea Party groups appears to grow out of the Left’s sick obsession with the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. That decision recognized that business corporations have political free speech rights and allowed them to spent money on ads urging the election or defeat of specific political candidates. Left-wingers were horrified at how many new Tea Party-related nonprofits sprouted up in light of the decision and have been angrily pulling their hair out ever since, plotting to take away those groups’ free speech rights.
The new 29-page lawsuit, filed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm, asks the court to find that the Obama administration overstepped its authority and in the process violated the free speech and equal protection rights of the groups, along with federal law and the tax agency’s own rules and regulations. The suit also seeks monetary damages and to protect the groups from future retaliation by the IRS.
“The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups,” said Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ’s chief counsel.
“As this unconstitutional scheme continues even today, the only way to stop this flagrant and arrogant abuse of our clients’ rights is to file a federal lawsuit, which we have done. The lawsuit sends a very powerful message to the IRS and the Obama Administration – including the White House: Americans are not going to be bullied and intimidated by our government. They will not be subjected to unconstitutional treatment and unlawfully singled out and punished because of their ideological beliefs. Those responsible for this unprecedented intimidation ploy must be held accountable.”
Among the plaintiffs are: Albuquerque Tea Party Inc.; American Patriots Against Government Excess (Ohio); Hawaii Tea Party; Kentucky 9/12 Project Inc.; Laurens County Tea Party (South Carolina); Linchpins of Liberty (Tennessee); OKC PIA Association (Oklahoma); Shelby County Liberty Group (Ohio); Unite in Action Inc. (Michigan); and Wetumpka Tea Party Inc. (Alabama).
This is not the first lawsuit from a Tea Party group mistreated by the Obama IRS.
Colfax, California-based NorCal Tea Party launched a lawsuit against the IRS on May 20.
True the Vote, which fights for electoral integrity, filed suit against the IRS in federal court May 21. (Read the complaint here.)
The group aspires to teach 1 million poll workers across America to identify election fraud.
Based in Houston, Texas, True the Vote sought 501c3 nonprofit status under the federal tax code early in 2010. It has yet to receive the determination from the IRS. Soon after applying, multiple federal agencies began investigating the group, along with the family businesses of founder Catherine Engelbrecht.
IRS agents “came to a small family farm, counted the cattle, looked at the fence line,” she explained.
Early last year, the IRS sent True the Vote a 10-page letter that contained 39 questions including a demand for “all of your activity on Facebook and Twitter.” The tax-collection agency went on a fishing expedition.
“They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future.”
True the Vote attorney Cleta Mitchell said she will demand accountability from the IRS. “We are going to find out through the process of discovery in this lawsuit exactly what the IRS was doing, who was doing it, why they were doing it,” she said.
Lerner was reportedly served with the True the Vote lawsuit at her home in affluent Bethesda, Maryland yesterday.
Evidence is emerging that the IRS isn’t only going after limited-government groups on the political Right. It is also carrying out a harassment campaign against pro-life organizations.
Sue Martinek of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told McClatchy News that the IRS approved tax-exempt status for her group, Coalition for Life of Iowa, in 2009, but attached an unusual condition.
The IRS official said members of her group’s board had to sign a letter promising not to picket Planned Parenthood offices. “We were pretty surprised. But we had never gone through the process before,” Martinek said. “I was sort of, ‘If we have to, we have to, but this doesn’t seem a good thing to do.’ ”
Marie McCoy, executive director of Texas-based Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County, said the IRS also asked her group if it planned to carry out protests. “I was quite surprised to see that our application wasn’t just immediately accepted,” she said.
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