In the last 24 hours, my colleagues at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) have been in contact with literally dozens of tea party organizations that have received intrusive information demands from the IRS, demands that seriously implicate their First Amendment rights. These information demands follow Tea Party requests for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status and include questions like the following:
Do you directly or indirectly communicate with members of legislative bodies? If so, provide copies of the written communications and contents of other forms of communications.
Please describe the associate group members and their role with your organization in further detail. (a) How does your organization solicit members? (b) What are the questions asked of potential members? (c) What are the selection criteria for approval? (d) Do you limit membership to other organizations exempt under 501(c)(4) of the Code? (e) Provide the name, employer identification number, and address of the organizations.
Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party? If so describe fully the nature of that relationship.
The quoted requests are merely the tip of the iceberg. We're still reviewing the IRS letters and will have more information as we complete our review. Each of these questions -- in their content, breadth, and vagueness -- implicate the free speech rights of the affected Tea Party groups. Moreover, such intrusive membership requests also run afoul of NAACP v. Alabama and implicate their rights to freedom of association.
Critically, the demands we've seen are made not in response to complaints of wrongdoing but instead in response to applications for exemption. In other words, the IRS appears to be conditioning the grant of exemptions on the extensive violation of the Tea Party's fundamental First Amendment freedoms.
As I said, our review is ongoing, but the early indications are the IRS is using the routine process of seeking and granting tax exemptions to undertake a sweeping, top-down review of the internal workings of the Tea Party movement in the United States. Such a review is far beyond its mission and directly implicates the First Amendment rights of all citizens.
This article is crossposted at National Review Online.
It’s taken years, but IRS approvals are still slowly—very slowly—rolling in. The ACLJ first sounded the alarm against the Obama Administration’s unlawful targeting of grassroots conservative groups in the spring of 2012. It was not until the following year, in May of 2013, when Lois Lerner admitted...
This week in federal court in Philadelphia, the American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pediatrician who was fired after requesting a religious accommodation of her beliefs against dispensing contraceptives – including the morning-after pill – to her pediatrics patients.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He is author of the New York Times Bestseller, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. He hosts “Jay Sekulow Live” – a daily radio show which is broadcast on more than 850 stations...
A new Inspector General (IG) report exposes yet more abuse and cover-up at the IRS. As the Washington Examiner reports : A review of the Internal Revenue Service's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act found the agency intentionally withheld or failed to "adequately search" for requested...