IRS Must Approve Tax-Exempt Status for 10 Tea Party Groups Calling IRS Targeting Scheme "Dishonest" and "Notoriously Disgraceful"
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents nearly 30 Tea Party organizations nationwide, today sent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a letter demanding that it grant tax-exempt status immediately to 10 Tea Party groups which have been targeted for additional review. Of the 27 Tea Party groups represented by the ACLJ, 15 have been granted tax-exempt status and today’s demand letteraddresses the status of the 10 organizations that are pending. The ACLJ demands that the IRS respond by Friday, May 17th or face possible legal action.
“This is one of the most abhorrent breaches of trust imaginable,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “We now know this coordinated intimidation scheme went beyond Tea Party groups to include Jewish organizations and even groups that discussed the Constitution. The IRS must be held accountable for this dishonest and notoriously disgraceful conduct. We are demanding that the IRS grant our remaining clients tax-exempt status immediately. If that does not occur by Friday, we will advise our clients of their right to sue the IRS for the redress of their grievances. The targeting scheme employed by the IRS not only violates their own rules and regulations, but is certain to result in a growing mistrust of the IRS by the American people.”
In its letter to the IRS Acting Commissioner, the ACLJ demands that the IRS take the following action:
(1) That the IRS approve immediately, and without further delay, the pending requests for either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) tax exempt status of the following organizations: Albuquerque Tea Party, Allen Area Patriots, Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots, Greenwich Tea Party Patriots, Laurens County Tea Party, Linchpins of Liberty, Myrtle Beach Tea Party, North East Tarrant Tea Party, Patriots Educating Concerned Americans Now (PECAN), and Unite in Action.
(2) That the IRS identify and appropriately discipline all IRS employees who either concocted, knowingly carried out, knowingly failed to stop, or knowingly misinformed Congress or the public about, the scheme to target Tea Party and similar groups in violation of IRS rules and regulations, thereby unlawfully politicizing the IRS and its approval process.
Further, the letter, which is posted here, notes that the IRS conduct violates its own rules and regulations.
"First, by singling out Tea Party and related groups for special scrutiny based on their political views, IRS agents violated the IRS mission to operate with integrity and fairness. Second, by singling out Tea Party and related groups for special scrutiny based on their political views, IRS agents violated the requirement to act impartially. And third, by singling out Tea Party and related groups for special scrutiny based on their political views, IRS agents engaged in dishonest, notoriously disgraceful conduct. The same can be said of IRS leaders who knew of, but failed to rein in, such biased, politically-motivated conduct, thereby allowing the politicization of the IRS. Each such action was prejudicial to the Government and impacted negatively on the reputation of the IRS. It is no wonder that, in light of the open and notorious politicization of the IRS vis-a-vis Tea Party and other conservative groups, many Americans view with outright alarm the called-for expansion of the IRS to implement the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). Agencies like the IRS must be scrupulously apolitical to retain the confidence and trust or the American people. With respect to its treatment of Tea Party and other conservative groups, the IRS failed miserably. The growing mistrust of the IRS is the inevitable (and totally understandable) result of its unwise actions."
The ACLJ began representing Tea Party groups after the IRS launched an effort to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violated the First Amendment. The IRS demanded that groups reveal the internal workings of their organizations - including the identification of members, how they are selected, who they associate with, and even what they discuss.
Sekulow, who served as a trial lawyer with the Office of the Chief Counsel for the IRS earlier in his career, said many of the questions were simply inappropriate and fall well outside the scope of legitimate IRS inquiry. A sampling of the problematic questions is posted here.
The ACLJ is launching a national petition calling on President Obama and members of Congress to hold those responsible for this conduct accountable. The Petition to End IRS Abuse states: “The Internal Revenue Service cannot be used as a weapon against political enemies. There must be a thorough investigation of IRS abuse, and those responsible must be punished. There is no for excuse turning the full power of the IRS on American citizens.”
The ACLJ represents 27 Tea Party organizations. Fifteen have been granted tax-exempt status. Ten groups are pending and two organizations asked that their applications be withdrawn because of frustration with the IRS inquiry.