A federal judge has sided with the Internal Revenue Service and dismissed lawsuits by tea-party groups seeking redress for the secret targeting of their applications for tax-exempt status, which the groups argued were intentionally delayed for political purposes.
The tea-party organizations immediately announced they would appeal the decision by Washington, D.C., District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
Walton ruled that two lawsuits by Texas-based True the Vote and Linchpins of Liberty, along with 41 other conservative groups, were moot because the IRS took steps to address the scandal and “publicly suspended its targeting scheme.”
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law & Justice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the tea-party groups, said he plans to appeal the case.
“The decision by the court is disappointing. However, it does not deter our efforts to seek justice for our clients. We are reviewing the decision and plan to appeal,” Sekulow said in an emailed statement.
In its federal lawsuit, the ACLJ represents 41 organizations in 22 states. Of the 41 groups, 28 organizations received tax-exempt status after lengthy delays, seven are still pending, five withdrew applications because of frustration with the IRS process, and one had its file closed by the IRS after refusing to answer the unconstitutional requests for more information, Sekulow said.
“It’s a disappointing ruling because it basically leaves targets of bad behavior by the IRS without a remedy,” Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Signal.
Walton decided that because the organizations eventually won tax-exempt status, any wrongdoing they suffered had been remedied.
“We are stunned by today’s judgment,” said Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote. “The notion that the IRS can target Americans for years because of their political beliefs is reprehensible.”
Although the tea-party groups argued there is no guarantee the IRS would not target conservative groups again, Walton ruled that the “prospect of future harm is speculative.”
Von Spakovsky, the Heritage legal fellow, told the Daily Signal that given the unapologetic behavior of Lois Lerner and other Obama cronies at the IRS, “and their total lack of remorse, I don’t think it’s ‘speculative’ that this could happen again in the future.”
Sekulow said previously that the IRS violated the groups’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection with its secret targeting of their applications. The lawsuit was initially filed on May 20, 2013, with 25 plaintiffs. But more have come forward.
“The floodgates opened after we filed our initial lawsuit,” Sekulow said after the complaint was amended in June 2013 to reflect the additional groups. “We have been contacted by many additional organizations that have been unlawfully targeted by the IRS — revealing that this unconstitutional scheme was pervasive and damaging.”