IRS Ordered to “Put it out there” and Disclose Hidden Details of Tea Party Targeting
This week we secured a major victory against the IRS bureaucracy that has been wrongfully targeting conservative groups, ensuring that the truth will finally come to light.
The IRS stall tactics first employed against Tea Party organizations during the agency’s discriminatory treatment of the groups in the tax-exempt application process has only continued during our four-plus years of litigation, as the agency has fought every attempt by the wrongfully targeted organizations to discover the full scope of the IRS targeting scheme. This week, however, a federal court told the IRS it is finally time to “lay it on the line” and disclose the details behind the agency’s conduct.
Last month we filed a motion to compel the IRS to provide responses to our requests for information and documents concerning its inappropriate screening, intrusive scrutiny, and inordinate delays in considering the tax-exempt applications of the conservative plaintiff organizations. The motion was necessitated by the Government’s positions that (1) the IRS should not have to produce information about past conduct or potentially discriminatory conduct following the application process and (2) it would be too burdensome to search for other relevant information concerning the agency’s treatment of Plaintiffs.
These arguments amounted to nothing more than a continued cover-up attempt for the bureaucratic agency’s wrongdoing. Like us, the court was not persuaded.
The court held a hearing on the motion Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday morning issued an order largely rejecting the Government’s positions and requiring the IRS to finally disclose the following information:
- why the information supplied by Plaintiffs to support their applications for tax-exemption was deemed insufficient,
- why those applications were delayed,
- the identities of the individuals responsible for the agency’s treatment of Plaintiffs,
- what corrective actions the IRS has taken, and
- any other IRS treatment of Plaintiffs that is outside the normal course of business following an organization’s receipt of tax-exempt status.
The order additionally mandates that the IRS produce all documents relevant to these issues.
While the IRS’s attorneys sought to produce documents confined to the time period of January 2009 through May 2013 (information the agency has already compiled in a Custodian Database used to respond to congressional inquiries and discovery requests in a related case), the court rejected this position. The court instead held that the relevant time period extends through the issuance of the 2015 TIGTA Report concerning the IRS treatment of conservative organizations.
Consequently, the court instructed, “[t]he government is required to search for responsive documents in its Custodian Database and all other relevant sources containing documents from the relevant time period.” And to the extent evidence indicates there are additional relevant documents, “the government must search all relevant sources to ensure that all documents responsive to the document request [are] identified and produced.”
In sum, the IRS has run out of viable options in its years-long effort to withhold the probative evidence about its inappropriate treatment of conservative organizations, and, as the adage predicts, it appears that “at the length truth will out.”
We will continue aggressively pursuing justice in federal court to ensure that those responsible for targeting conservative groups are held accountable. We will continue to update you as our case – continuing to represent 36 targeted conservative groups – progresses.