Another federal court has rebuked the IRS for its targeting of conservative groups that opposed Barack Obama’s policies during the 2012 presidential-election campaign.
In a consent decree settling a case against the IRS brought by the voter-integrity non-profit True the Vote, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared “discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint in administering the United States tax code violates fundamental First Amendment rights.”
“Disparate treatment of taxpayers based solely on the taxpayers’ names, any lawful position the taxpayers espouse on any issues, or the taxpayers’ associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position, or viewpoint is unlawful,” the judge said.
Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, said the consent decree is a starting point for needed reforms.
“Our consent decree is a stringent admonishment of the IRS’s admitted discrimination, but much more is needed to ensure that IRS employees engaging in unconstitutional conduct will face real, actionable penalties,” she said.
“We are working together with Senator John Cornyn, who will introduce legislation to ensure the rights of Americans are protected from rogue government employees whose discrimination and abuse has now been well documented in our court case.”
The IRS was sued a number of times and investigated by Congress after the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division at the time, Lois Lerner, publicly admitted her employees delayed the applications of conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
The IRS specifically targeted groups with “tea party” or “conservative” in their names.
It’s not the first time the IRS was rebuked over the issue by a court. WND reported late last year the IRS issued a formal apology and reached a $3.5 million settlement with a coalition of conservative organizations.
Several individuals and groups that were victimized by the IRS then called for the reopening of a criminal investigation into Lerner’s activities.
WND reported the IRS apologized for the Obama administration’s manipulation of the feared federal agency to target conservative organizations when Obama was seeking re-election.
“For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology,” the agency said in the earlier consent order to resolve a number of lawsuits against the government brought by the injured organizations.
The IRS tax-exempt division admitted it deliberately delayed action on groups that opposed Obama’s agenda, which included state-controlled health care, abortion and same-sex marriage.
However, the IRS apology is insufficient for some.
The Washington Examiner reported Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., called for the Department of Justice to review whether or not it should prosecute Lerner.
He’s chairman of the oversight subcommittee responsible for the IRS.
“Lerner betrayed the nation’s trust yet managed to avoid prosecution,” Buchanan said. “Heads should roll and people should be held accountable for this gross abuse of power.”
Leesa Donner of the Liberty Nation blog, one of the targeted groups, commented on the apparent settlement.
“It seems that IRS Senior Executive Lois G. Lerner is in the crosshairs again,” Donner wrote.
“And for many who have been persecuted by the most powerful agency of the most powerful government in the world – this comes not a moment too soon.”
The IRS used tactics such as demanding donor lists, copies of communications, Internet passwords, and personal political and charitable activities of officers and their family members.
In one case, the IRS demanded to know the subject of group members’ prayers. And in another, the IRS demanded that members stop opposing the Planned Parenthood abortion industry.
The Obama administration had claimed the scandal was “phony.”
Cleaning up the vote
Engelbrecht said a forensic audit was under way and she was working with technologists, statisticians, researchers, auditors, scholars, futurists, election-law experts and process specialists on elections.
True the Vote’s five-point plan:
- A forensic audit of the election processes
- Developing an American voter ID program
- Evaluating election technologies
- Identifying dynamic voter registration verification processes
- Developing model legislation
Engelbrecht noted to WND that the nation’s elections are run by 50 state systems, all with a range of variables.
She said her organization has done years of research, gathering all the public information about who is registered to vote and who votes. She’s working now on compiling all the available information and putting it in a format that shows comparisons.
It’s a starting point, and she hopes eventually it leads to processes that can provide information on illegal voters and have them removed from voter rolls.
The judge, in his ruling, said the IRS violated True the Vote’s constitutional rights by screening its tax-exempt application, “significantly delaying the processing of the application, and making harassing, probing, and unconstitutional requests for information.”
The conclusions were similar to those released earlier by the Senate Committee on Finance. IRS managers were “delinquent” and the Treasury Department’s inspector general released a long list of criticisms.
That report also noted that the IRS had taken significant steps to repair the violations.