WorldNetDaily’s parent company, the Western Journalism Center, through its counsel Judicial Watch, announced yesterday that it would appeal a recent federal court ruling by Judge Garland E. Burrell of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, dismissing its case against former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson and Thomas Cederquist, an IRS agent.
The complaint alleges that Richardson and Cederquist had conspired, along with unnamed “John Does,” to audit the Western Journalism Center for political purposes thus violating the center’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. The center had been at the forefront of investigations into Clinton administration corruption and cover-up and had been placed on a White House “enemies list,” a 331-page report known as the “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” which outlined a “vast right-wing media conspiracy” against the president.
The White House Counsel’s Office targeted Western Journalism Center Executive Director Joseph Farah in the report in a personal biographical dossier. He was the only journalist in the country profiled in the report. Soon after the report, the Western Journalism Center received an audit notice.
When Cederquist launched the audit, he not only questioned the content of the center’s reporting — which was critical of Bill Clinton — but also the hiring of investigative reporter Chris Ruddy. Cederquist told the center’s accountant, John Roux, that the audit was political, was being run out of Washington, D.C. and that the national office would make the ultimate decision on whether to remove the Western Journalism Center’s tax-exempt status.
While the Western Journalism Center prevailed in the audit, it caused severe damage to the small journalism group because many of its donors were scared away, said Farah.
In dismissing the complaint, Burrell did not rule on the merits of the Western Journalism Center’s claims. Rather, he said that he was inclined to dismiss the case because the center had waited too long to bring it. However, upon argument from Judicial Watch counsel Larry Klayman, Burrell was provided with case law contending that the action was not barred by the passage of time.
“The case cited by the Justice Department — Wages v. Internal Revenue Service — does not stand for this proposition,” stated Klayman. “Indeed, the Ninth Circuit never reached the issues presented by the Western Journalism Center’s lawsuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and a federal court in West Virginia, have ruled that a civil rights claim against IRS agents is viable under the First and Fourth Amendments.”
Continuing, Klayman said, “We are confident that Judge Burrell’s ruling will be overturned. Given that Judge Burrell never even asked for argument in the Wages case hearing and stated that he only wanted to hear argument on the statute of limitations defense, which he ignored in his decision, it looks to us as if he was looking for a reason to dismiss the case. While Judge Burrell’s decision will delay this lawsuit, Judicial Watch will file (today) another complaint for the Western Journalism Center, addressing the issues of political audits by the Clinton administration.”
Klayman added that over 20 independent tax-exempt groups that have criticized the Clintons have been audited. A number of individuals, including Paula Jones and former White House travel office director Billy Dale, have also been high-profile audit targets.
Commenting on the issues in this case as well as other questionable audits by the IRS, Klayman said, “We will not rest until the Clintons and their band of ‘yes men’ at the IRS are held accountable for this.”