It took eight years of frustration, court battles and waiting. It took the complete change of a presidential administration. And it took the persistent fighting of a top-level team of lawyers.
But the Albuquerque Tea Party now is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)4 organization, even though it was one of the hundreds of conservative groups obstructed by the agency under Barack Obama.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has represented dozens of those groups in court fights, said the Albuquerque Tea Party now has its exempt status nearly eight years after originally filing its application.
“This is a major victor for free speech,” ACLJ said.
The legal team the Obama administration had “orchestrated a complex scheme to dump conservative and tea party nonprofit applicants into a bureaucratic ‘black hole.'”
The conspiracy to delay the conservative groups’ application for tax-exempt status, hindering their ability to raise funds, likely came from the top, ACLJ said.
“Hundreds of documents have been uncovered in recent years that clearly establish that ‘top IRS officials in Washington, including Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, knew that the agency was specifically targeting ‘Tea Party’ and other conservative organizations.'”
ACLJ said December would have marked eight years since the IRS cashed the application check of its client.
“The IRS literally took their money and then ignored their application requesting tax-exempt status for eight long years. This is outrageous. No organization should ever be forced to wait that long for a determination,” the legal nonprofit said.
The Obama administration called the scandal “phony.”
But ACLJ and its clients beg to differ.
“As you may remember, the IRS constructed a special group to send all ‘applications associated with the Tea Party’ to … ‘Group 7822.’ It was apparently designed as a ‘special team’ developed to snare targeted organizations’ tax exemption applications in order to severely limit the impact of their advocacy on the 2012 elections,” ACLJ explained.
“The IRS was able to protect its politically targeted scheme by hiding its operations and activity behind the hundreds of layers of the bureaucracy festering within the IRS and with the cooperation of other government agencies.”
When its application check was cashed by the government, ACLJ reported, the Albuquerque group was given a letter from the Department of the Treasury in Washington “that their file was under review.”
No explanation ever followed.
The ACLJ report said: “To be clear, the IRS did not want to approve their application. Last year, the IRS proposed a denial of their application. We fought their denial, and we won. This result was long overdue. The targeting, the delay, and this type of unconstitutional discrimination should have never happened.”
WND reported another such victory in April when, after seven years, the Tri-Cities Tea Party obtained tax-exempt status.
It was in 2013 when Lerner, then the director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, admitted publicly that the IRS had been targeting conservative, Christian and tea-party groups, and ACLJ sued on behalf of dozens of organizations from more than 20 states.
While the IRS targeting scandal was just one of several dozen major controversies to plague the Obama administration, it was one of the more egregious, as the official weight of government power bludgeoned activist groups that wanted to participate in the political process.
Judicial Watch, the Washington watchdog that has for years been fighting to access IRS documents that reveal the extent of its discriminatory actions against Christians and conservatives, has asked President Trump to consider criminal counts against the much-feared federal agency.
Tom Fitton, the group’s president, called for President Trump to reopen a criminal investigation.
Evidence has revealed the IRS agents would deliberately delay issuing a decision on organizations that were in conflict with Obama’s agenda. That meant they couldn’t obtain tax-exempt status, and they couldn’t even appeal.
Among the IRS strategies was to ask inappropriate questions, such as what was the content of members’ prayers.
The IRS also was found to have been making inappropriate demands, such as that a conservative group denounce opposition to Planned Parenthood’s abortion agenda.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled at one point that the IRS “did, in fact, discriminate against tea party groups.”
Back in April, a federal judge ordered the IRS to open its records to groups victimized by its obstruction tactics.
The order came in a case brought by ACLJ 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.”