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IRS, officials sued over tax reviews

The still-smoldering political scandal over federal tax officials’ targeting of conservative groups for closer review of their pleas for tax exemption has now gone into federal court. Three lawsuits have been filed in recent days, the latest filed Wednesday in Washington by a group of twenty-five Tea Party and conservative organizations — the first to aim at high-ranking government officials.

The new case, Linchpins of Liberty v. United States (District Court docket 13-777) will be heard by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.  That judge already had on his docket a case filed last week by a single organization, True the Vote, Inc., a Texas-based patriot group (docket 13-734).  A similar case, a class action, was filed in federal court in Cincinnati last week, and is now pending before Chief Judge Susan J. Dlott (Norcal Tea Party Patriots v. IRS, docket 13-341).

If a group does not yet have tax-exempt status, it should be granted immediately, two of the lawsuits argued.  The third lawsuit involves a group that says it waited for two years and five months before it gained an exemption.  That is the group that is pursuing its claim as a class action; the case was filed in Cincinnati because that is the location of the IRS office in charges of tax-exemption rulings.

Each of the lawsuits claims violations of constitutional rights, and seek rulings not only that the IRS had acted illegally in its examination of “tea party” and “patriot” organizations, but also seek money damages from several key officials allegedly involved in the extra scrutiny — including intrusive questioning — of the conservative groups.

The Linchpins lawsuit filed Wednesday in Washington seek to reach two of President Obama’s Cabinet members — Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew — along with IRS officials.  That case is the most sweeping of the three, involving thirteen organizations that were granted exemptions but, they said, only after lengthy delays, along with ten that have applications still pending, and two that said they had given up out of frustration with the delay and the process.

All of the organizations contended that the IRS singled them out solely because of its assumptions that they were conservative organizations affiliated with the tea party movement, and thus discriminated against them on the basis of their political views.    In effect, the lawsuits claimed, the organizations were being punished because of their constitutionally protected political ideas.  They argued that there was no evidence that liberal-leaning organizations were similarly targeted for such reviews.

In the Cincinnati lawsuit, the California-based Norcal Tea Party Patriots contended that it, and other organizations in the class it seeks to represent, are small “mom and pop” organizations without the money and resources to deal with the lengthy and intrusive review process to which they said they were subjected.


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, IRS, officials sued over tax reviews, SCOTUSblog (May. 29, 2013, 5:38 PM),