Despite a so-called apology by the IRS for targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups during an election season, this rampant IRS abuse is still ongoing.
On Friday, the IRS admitted to intentionally targeting groups with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their names but claimed that this targeting was limited to a small group of “low level” staffers in one single Cincinnati office and that no senior IRS official was aware.
However, it has now been revealed that the head of the IRS division which targeted conservative groups, Lois Lerner, knew of the illegal targeting by at least June 29, 2011 and that there were discussions with chief counsel about this issue on August 4, 2011.
Yet with these senior IRS officials aware that conservative groups were being intentionally and illegally targeted for further onerous review, this unconstitutional abuse of government power remains ongoing to this day.
The ACLJ has represented 27 of these targeted groups. IRS demands for additional information from these targeted groups continued well after senior IRS officials knew of the scheme. To this day, at least ten of the intentionally targeted groups we represent, and ostensibly numerous others, remain in an ongoing heightened state of IRS inquiry and review. Their tax-exempt application has not been approved.
The IRS “apologized,” but nothing changed. None of these targeted groups has ever received a communication from the IRS withdrawing the now admittedly improper, targeted inquiry. The IRS cannot “apologize” on the one hand and continue to withhold tax-exempt status from these targeted conservative groups on the other.
Moreover, not only were they improperly singled out, but the intentional targeting of these conservative groups for further review during an election season had a significant chilling affect on their ability to fulfill their mission.
The IRS notes on its website that while an organization’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is pending, “contributors to the organization do not have advance assurance of deductibility because the organization’s exemption is pending.” In other words, legally, anyone who contributed to conservative organizations while their 501(c)(3) applications are being held up by these targeted inquires has no assurance that their donation would in fact be tax-deductible. For 501(c)(4) applicants, the long delays led to uncertainty and the wide-range targeting of conservative groups led to the wrongful implication that these groups somehow deserved to be investigated, limiting the effectiveness of their message and purpose.
Not only did this targeting of conservative groups limit the effectiveness of their fundraising ability and thus their mission, it also limited the organizations themselves. At least two of our clients found the targeted inquiry process initiated by the IRS to be so burdensome that they withdrew their application for tax-exempt status. The IRS admits that at least 25 groups singled out for further review have withdrawn their application for tax-exempt status.
It is also now clear that the IRS targeting went well beyond just organizations with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in the name but extended to a whole range of conservative groups in which “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” This was a systematic targeting of conservative groups during a contentious election cycle.
The IRS’s assertion that this intentional targeting of conservative (and nothing but conservative) groups was in no way politically motivated, is outrageous in and of itself. The IRS targeted conservative groups, and it targeted them because they “criticize how the country is being run,” specifically related to spending, government debt and taxes. You can’t intentionally target conservative groups for being conservative and call it anything but politically motivated.
Further, somewhat lost in the discussion of who the IRS was targeting is the equally disturbing fact of what they were seeking from these organizations. The IRS targeted conservative groups and demanded that they turn over donor lists, “indirect” communications with elected officials, resumes of board members, and much more. The requests were clearly unconstitutional and admittedly in direct violation of IRS policy.
The IRS’s targeting of conservative groups during a contentious election is a draconian abuse of government power and smacks of McCarthyism. The investigation into this matter should delve wide and far. But the first step must be by the IRS. It must stop the ongoing abuse. It must stop targeting these groups, immediately withdraw the targeted inquiries, and approve their long-pending tax-exempt status.
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