The American Center for Law and Justice plans to file a lawsuit in federal court next week against the IRS on behalf of several clients, charging the IRS is continuing to target and harass conservative groups applying to create 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 tax-exempt groups, despite White House claims to the contrary.
The ACLJ represents 27 conservative organizations from 17 states that it claims the IRS targeted.
“The White House continues to pursue a narrative that doesn’t square with the facts,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, told WND in an email.
“The assertion that this targeted abuse ended in May 2012 is simply not the case,” he said.
Sekulow said “intrusive and unlawful questioning continued after May 2012 with 18 of our clients receiving 26 questionnaires from the IRS from May 2012 through May 2013.”
“Even more troubling is the fact that the IRS sent a letter to one of our clients dated May 6, just four days before the IRS admitted to launching this targeting scheme,” he said.
On May 20, White House press secretary Jay Carney in his daily press briefing claimed IRS targeting of conservative groups had ended in May 2012.
Two days later, Carney changed his story, adding a year to the timeline.
On May 22, Carney told the press President Obama had acted immediately after the release of the inspector general audit of the IRS, taking steps to make sure the agency practice of targeting conservative groups had come to an end: “Let me say that, as you heard from the president immediately after the release of the independent inspector general’s audit, he is absolutely committed to finding out everything that happened here, finding out who’s responsible for the failures, holding them accountable and ensuring that the IRS take steps so that this will never happen again.”
The Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration released its audit in early May. On May 10, Lois Lerner, then director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, told reporters the targeting of conservative groups was “absolutely inappropriate,” suggesting the actions were undertaken by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati who singled out groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12”in their names.
In filing a federal lawsuit against the IRS, the ACLJ has concluded the White House is covering up continuing abuse, implying that Carney’s statement of President Obama’s orders to the IRS has no basis in fact.
“The intrusive and unconstitutional conduct continues – with the IRS demanding donor lists and even requesting lists of what reading materials that organizations used,” Sekulow charged.
“It’s our belief that the only way to stop this ongoing abuse is to take the federal government to court. We are planning to file a federal lawsuit next week in Washington, D.C., on behalf of numerous organizations. This abusive conduct by the IRS must be stopped.”
26 IRS letters
The ACLJ has documented that since May 2012, the date the White House initially said the targeting stopped, the ACLJ received 26 IRS questionnaires sent to 18 clients.
The 26 IRS letters posed further intrusive and intimidating questions, including demanding donor lists and requesting lists of what reading materials the organizations used, with the latest inquiry coming just days before the IRS revealed its targeting scheme.
None of the IRS questionnaires received by the ACLJ in the 26 IRS letters have been rescinded by the IRS, made inoperative or been revised since the release of the inspector general’s audit earlier this month – the second date the White House said Obama had order the abusive and possibly illegal practice to end.
The ACLJ rejects the IRS contention the abuse was limited to a few low-level employees in Cincinnati.
“While letters were sent from that office, our clients received letters sent from other IRS offices around the country – including two in California and from the main office in Washington D.C.,” he said. “There is no question that the IRS scheme emanated from beyond the IRS office in Cincinnati.”
Acting IRS commissioner also lying?
Attorney Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the Washington-based law firm Foley & Lardner extends the ACLJ accusations to claim acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller made serious misstatements and misrepresentations in his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee earlier May 17.
Foley & Lardner has more than 40 years of experience in law, politics and public policy, including providing legal advice to non-profit and issue organizations.
Specifically, Mitchell objected to Miller’s claim that “foolish mistakes were made by people [in the IRS] who were trying to be more efficient in their workload selection.”
In a legal memo to “Interested Parties,” dated May 20, 2013, Mitchell pointed out the inconsistency of claiming IRS employees were trying to be more efficient, when the questionnaires submitted to conservative groups were typically multi-paged “dragnet” type questions probing into every aspect of the applying organizations, including the content of prayers by leaders of the groups.
“So the decision to change a system that (prior to 2010) might ask five to six short questions specifically about an application to one that consisted of dozens of questions, necessitating volumes of materials and documents to be filed with the IRS, was done in order to ‘be more efficient’?” Mitchell asked.
Mitchell noted Miller also spoke about IRS employees “taking shortcuts.”
“This was hardly a ‘shortcut’ when it lengthened the process substantially, as documented in the Treasury Inspector General Tax Audit report,” she said.
Michell also objected to Miller’s attempt to scapegoat two “rogue” employees in the Cincinnati IRS office as being responsible for “overly aggressive” handling of tea party requests for tax-exempt status over the past two years, echoing the claim made by Lerner.
“This is completely false,” Mitchell continued.
“In 2011, at least one of the Cincinnati IRS agents assigned to handle two clients’ applications advised me that the Washington, D.C., office was actively involved in the decisions and processing of my clients’ applications for exempt status. This was memorialized in a letter to the agent, Ron Bell, on November 8, 2011. When I called him in December 2011 for an update, he advised me that the applications had been transferred to a special task force in Washington, D.C., for further review.
Mitchell said the “effort by senior IRS officials to lay this scheme at the hands of a few low level’ IRS employees is despicable and must not be tolerated.”