(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, said it is representing nearly 20 Tea Party organizations nationwide against what appears to be a coordinated attempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to intimidate and silence these organizations in this election year. The ACLJ says IRS information demands sent to Tea Party groups include probing questions that violate the free speech and freedom of association rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
"This appears to be a coordinated attempt to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violates the First Amendment," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "These organizations have followed the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades. The problem here is the IRS has gone beyond legitimate inquiries and is demanding that these organizations answer questions that actually violate the First Amendment rights of our clients. The IRS is demanding 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. This intimidation campaign is as onerous as what the IRS did to the NAACP in the 1950's and is simply unacceptable. We will aggressively defend our clients and are prepared to take the IRS to court if necessary."
The ACLJ says the IRS information demands sent to the Tea Party groups are not in response to complaints of wrongdoing, but instead in response to applications by the organizations for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
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 are simply inappropriate and fall well outside the scope of legitimate IRS inquiry. A sampling of the problematic questions are posted here.
The ACLJ is also calling for Congressional oversight hearings on this issue. In just two days, the ACLJ has heard from more than 30,000 Americans urging Congress to conduct hearings concerning the IRS actions in this matter.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, is based in Washington, D.C.
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