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Several top Internal Revenue Service executives accused of targeting conservatives because of their faith and political beliefs have been added to a lawsuit against the tax agency.
The American Center for Law and Justice filed the case against the government in May on behalf of dozens of conservative organizations that had their applications delayed or denied because of their beliefs.
Added to the suit are former IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, former Tax Exempt Division chief Sarah Hall Ingram, Tax Exempt Division Commissioner Joseph Grant, acting manager Michael Seto and senior technical advisers Nikole Flax and Judith E. Kindell.
They are being sued as individuals as well as in their official capacities.
ACLJ claims the evidence shows there was a “politically motivated attack on conservative organizations by the IRS – a secret and illegal targeting campaign – aimed at the organizations because of their political beliefs.”
Jay Sekulow, ACLJ chief counsel, said “the intimidation campaign conducted by the IRS is much more politically motivated and coordinated than previously thought.”
The lawsuit is believed to be the largest of its kind against the IRS, representing 41 different organizations who claim biased treament.
“We now know that President Obama through his public comments initiated actions that resulted in the unlawful targeting of our clients – a self-induced unconstitutional act,” Sekulow said. “In addition to the president’s remarks, congressional Democrats along with the media created a climate of hostility – making it impossible for our clients to exercise their First Amendment freedoms.”
Sekulow said the “hostile climate set the stage for the unprecedented illegal targeting by the IRS.”
“The Obama administration and the IRS objected to the conservative message of our clients which resulted in the unlawful and unconstitutional scheme to keep our clients on the sidelines – out of the political debate,” he said. “This filing strengthens our case and underscores our commitment to holding those responsible for this scheme accountable.”
The amended complaint adds individuals who were in positions of authority over the Obama administration’s campaign against the conservative groups.
“The facts of this case reflect a course of conduct by a faction of the United States government that would make the Founders weep and which should outrage every American,” the complaint contends. “The defendants, acting in their official and/or individual capacities, have, based upon their constituencies or benefactors, obstructed other law abiding citizens from freely associating together and giving voice to their beliefs. This deprivation occurred solely and unconstitutionally based on the perceived beliefs of those citizens whose rights have been deprived.”
The amended complaint also adds an additional claim for violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. It blames the White House, congressional Democrats and the media for pressuring the IRS to attack conservatives.
It alleges that as early as 2010, “Obama joined what the IRS and the Democrat members of Congress had already started: a relentless campaign to stifle the free speech of those protesting his and Democrats’ policies and the direction of the federal government.”
The IRS response was to engage “in a campaign of unlawful targeting.”
Of the 41 groups bringing the case, 22 received tax-exempt status after lengthy delays, 12 still are pending and five gave up because of frustration. Two had their files closed by the IRS because they refused to answer unconstitutional demands for private information, ACLJ said.
The IRS discrimination has been well documented. One IRS official pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to respond to questions from Congress. But others in the agency have admitted to cases cited by conservative groups. One group was told, for example, it had to reveal the content of members’ prayers or make promises about what they would or would not say.
The discrimination, which started before the 2012 presidential election, limited the effectiveness of nearly 500 activist organizations as Barack Obama and his liberal agenda rolled to victory.
The lawsuit against the IRS alleges the Obama administration has been violating the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and breaking the Administrative Procedure Act in addition to violating various rules and regulations.
It asks that the court issue a declaratory judgment that the IRS “unlawfully delayed and obstructed the organizations’ applications” for tax status determinations.
And it alleges those actions were based on unconstitutional standards and “impermissibly disparate treatment.”
Further, the legal claim asks for an injunction to protect the groups and their officers and directors from further IRS abuse.
The IRS also has faced criticism over lavish spending at conventions, shady contracts, censorship of targeted groups, a real “enemies list” and the exposure of thousands of taxpayers’ personal Social Security numbers.
In an editorial for Fox News headlined “Obama’s fingerprints all over IRS tea party scandal,” Sekulow charged: “A president singling out citizens groups for targeting and intrusive questioning merely because he dislikes their message and fears their political influence? Now that is a ‘threat to democracy.'”