The ACLJ has recently found victory against the IRS in a four-year-long legal battle to prove that the IRS did in fact target Tea Party and Conservative organizations during the Obama Administration. This is an unprecedented victory for conservatives nation wide.
The IRS has issued an apology to the ACLJ’s clients for the unconstitutional attack against them. In addition, the IRS consented to a court order that would prohibit it from ever engaging in this type of unconstitutional discrimination in the future.
This started in March of 2012 when the ACLJ began receiving requests by literally dozens of Tea Party and conservative groups who were being harassed by the Obama IRS after submitting applications for tax-exempt status. It seemed that their tax-exempt applications were held up for years, seven years in many cases to be exact, and the organizations began receiving outlandish and unconstitutional requests for their donor and member information.
That is what began the now more than five and a half year fight with the red-tape bureaucracy at the IRS. On May 10, 2013, Lois Lerner, the then head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Division, publicly exposed the IRS in one of the biggest and ugliest political targeting scandals of the century.
Just days later, the ACLJ filed their massive lawsuit against the IRS for the unlawful targeting scheme where the IRS was singling out the applications of conservative organizations, delaying processing said applications, and then harassing, probing and making unnecessary requests for additional information that often forced applicants to disclose, among other things, donor lists, communications with members of legislative bodies, internet passwords and usernames, and political and charitable activities of officers and their family members.
The following is an outline of the IRS’s activity and the subsequent courts decisions against the financial agency.
According to ACLJ :
In a proposed Consent Order filed with the Court yesterday, the IRS has apologized for its treatment of our clients (36 Tea Party and other conservative organizations from 20 states that applied for 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) tax-exempt status with the IRS between 2009 and 2012) during the tax-exempt determinations process. Crucially, following years of denial by the IRS and blame-shifting by IRS officials, the agency now expressly admits that its treatment of our clients was wrong.
As set forth in the proposed Order:
Upon approval by the court, entry of the Order will mark the end of a four-year legal battle initiated by the ACLJ on behalf of forty-one conservative organizations targeted by the IRS for their political viewpoints.
Throughout litigation of this case, we have remained committed to protecting the rights of our clients who faced unlawful and discriminatory action by the IRS. Our objective from the very beginning has been to hold the IRS accountable for its corrupt practices.
This Consent Order represents a historic victory for our clients and sends the unequivocal message that a government agency’s targeting of conservative organizations, or any organization, on the basis of political viewpoints, will never be tolerated.
This Order will put an end, once and for all, to the abhorrent practices utilized against our clients, as the agreement includes the IRS’s express acknowledgment of – and apology for – its wrongful treatment of our clients. While this agreement is designed to prevent any such practices from occurring again, rest assured that we will remain vigilant to ensure that the IRS does not resort to such tactics in the future.
In October 2014, the district court dismissed our claims and concluded that the IRS had voluntarily ceased all unlawful conduct. We appealed that decision, and in August 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, specifically finding that the IRS had failed to provide sufficient evidence demonstrating that either the targeting scheme, or its effects on our clients in the case, had actually ended. Since that time, the ACLJ has been successful in obtaining discovery in the case – requiring the IRS to give an account for its conduct.
Documents released earlier this year in our lawsuit revealed that the IRS, under the Obama Administration, constructed a special group to review “all applications associated with the Tea Party.” The group was apparently designed to snare targeted organizations’ tax exemption applications to limit their impact during the 2012 elections.
Many conservative organizations, including our clients, were placed on “Be-on-the-Lookout” (BOLO) lists if their names or policy positions gave the appearance they were affiliated with the Tea Party. The IRS was able to protect its politically targeted scheme by hiding its operations and activity behind the layers of bureaucracy festering within the IRS and with the cooperation of other government agencies under the Obama Administration.
The IRS even colluded with Obama’s FBI and DOJ in an attempt to “piece together” false criminal charges against the Tea Party groups it was wrongfully targeting.
The Consent Order filed by the Parties is designed to prevent such events from occurring again and contains declarations to that effect. In addition to the IRS’s admissions of and apology for its wrongful conduct, the Consent Order would specifically award Plaintiffs the following:
A declaration by the Court that it is wrong to apply the United States tax code to any tax-exempt applicant or entity based solely on such entity’s name, any lawful positions it espouses on any issues, or its associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position or viewpoint;
A declaration by the Court that any action or inaction taken by the IRS must be applied evenhandedly and not based solely on a tax-exempt applicant or entity’s name, political viewpoint, or associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position or viewpoint; and
A declaration by the Court that discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint in administering the United States tax code violates fundamental First Amendment rights. Disparate treatment of taxpayers based solely on the taxpayers’ names, any lawful positions the taxpayers espouse on any issues, or the taxpayers’ associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position or viewpoint is unlawful.
In the Order, the IRS has also agreed that (unless expressly required by law) certain actions against the Plaintiffs– i.e. the sharing, dissemination, or other use of information unnecessarily obtained by the IRS during the determinations process (such as donor names, the names of volunteers, political affiliations of an organization’s officers, etc) – would be unlawful. In addition, the IRS promises not to take any retaliatory action against our clients for exposing the targeting scheme.
Finally, and of crucial significance, the IRS admits it targeted conservative and Tea Party groups based on their viewpoints (i.e., “policy positions”) and that such viewpoint discrimination violates fundamental First Amendment rights. This is the first time the IRS has admitted that its targeting scheme was not just “inappropriate” – as TIGTA found – but, as our clients alleged and we have vigorously and persistently argued for years, blatantly unconstitutional.
As Attorney General Sessions acknowledged in this regard, “[t]here is no excuse for [the IRS’s] conduct,” as it is “without question” that the First Amendment prohibits the conduct that occurred here, i.e., subjecting American citizens to disparate treatment “based solely on their viewpoint or ideology.” Sessions further confirmed his Department’s commitment to ensuring that the “abuse of power” in which the IRS engaged here “will not be tolerated.”
This victory against one of the most feared and over-reaching agencies in the United States is not one to be taken lightly. The winning of this case lets those within the deep state bureaucracy know that violating American’s Constitutional rights to try and shut down any side of our political choices will not be tolerated. Conservatives should be free to enjoy their freedoms without attack by governmental agencies just as much as any other party affiliated person does.
The $3.5 Million settlement isn’t too shabby either. The non-profit organizations that were targeted by the IRS should be extremely happy with this result. Not only the monetary settlement, but the victory itself.