The Internal Revenue Service, the much-feared federal agency, has been ordered by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to open its records to groups victimized by its obstruction of conservative political activist groups seeking tax-exempt status prior to the 2012 election.
The order came in a case brought by the American Center for Law and Justice on behalf of some of the targeted organizations.
ACLJ said in a report on its website the ruling stated the groups are "entitled to seek additional information about the IRS's targeting scheme."
"Like the D.C. Circuit, which previously rejected the IRS's position – essentially a 'just trust us' plea without the evidence necessary to back it up – the district court rightly confirmed that the IRS may no longer hide behind its unsupported assertions but instead must turn over information about its discriminatory treatment of these organizations."
ACLJ said it "will now be able to dig in to discover the IRS's 'past acts of alleged discrimination stemming from the alleged illegal targeting scheme,' as well as 'the current status of the [IRS's] tax-exemption application process,' in order to determine not only the entire scope of the IRS's discriminatory treatment of these organizations but, more importantly, whether any such discrimination is continuing to affect the groups, including one group of citizens that has a pending application for tax-exempt status and will therefore be subjected to whatever policies and practices the IRS is currently using to make tax-exemption determinations."
The bad news for the IRS comes in a case in which an appellate court criticized the agency.
WND reported in August 2016 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to let the agency off the hook. It ruled that the IRS "did, in fact, discriminate against tea party groups" and that its word was not enough. It had to prove it had halted the negative actions.
The Washington Times at the time described the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as a "rebuke."
The higher court ordered the case, launched on behalf of 41 organizations the IRS had targeted, back to the district court, and the IRS sought to dismiss the case.
The judge wasn't convinced.
"While it has taken far longer than it should have for them to get here (several years of waiting for determinations, plus nearly four years of litigation), these organizations are, at long last, poised to pull back the curtain behind which the IRS has been hiding, discover the full extent of the IRS's discrimination against them, and ensure that it is finally brought to an end," ACLJ said.
In a commentary Monday on FoxNews.com, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow wrote that the IRS official in charge of the tax-exempt division at the center of the scandal, Lois Lerner, "got off easy."
"She was never prosecuted. She was permitted to retire – with a taxpayer funded pensions."
He pointed out, as WND reported, GOP lawmakers are urging the Trump Justice Department to review evidence that Lerner engaged in criminal misconduct by targeting tea-party and conservative groups for their political beliefs.
Sekulow said not only should Lerner be held accountable, "We have repeatedly called for the removal of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen."
He said the most recent court order was encouraging, as it means, "We will be able to obtain critical documents from the IRS – documents that will be instrumental in determining how this scandal unfolded and who was involved."
He cited former President Obama's claimed that there was "not a smidgeon of corruption" at the IRS, calling it "an assertion [that] was never based on facts."
When the case was at the appeals court, Judge David B. Sentelle said the IRS still was causing trouble because some organizations were still awaiting approval years after they applied.
ACLJ said last week an organization from Washington state finally got its tax-exempt status, seven years after making the request.
It was revealed that IRS agency workers at the time deliberately delayed processing tax-exemption applications for some groups that clearly were opposed to Obama's agenda.
The IRS investigators asked invasive questions, such as the subject of group members' prayers. They also tried to coerce groups to promise they would drop their opposition to the Planned Parenthood abortion business agenda.
WND reported a year ago Sentelle had noted the IRS actions "intruded upon the constitutional rights of tea-party groups by delaying their applications for nonprofit status, and by asking questions that went above and beyond what was necessary to process their paperwork."
"It's hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust," Sentelle said at the time.
The IRS inspector general confirmed the allegations that hundreds of conservative groups were targeted.
ACLJ has explained a lower court had dismissed the constitutional violation claims of the groups, "opining that there was no remedy that the court could provide for the IRS's misconduct."
The appeals court then took an interest in what was going on.