Former IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner refused to testify about targeting conservative groups

Former IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner refused to testify about targeting conservative groups

At least now we know who the Internal Revenue Service is looking to for its political talking points these days.

Back in February, former Attorney General Eric Holder, who was once held in contempt during a tenure pockmarked by scandals from spying on reporters to handing out weapons to Mexican drug cartels, sounded off on the agency.

He was unhappy about the apologies the IRS issued to various tea party groups that came under unconstitutional scrutiny by the IRS in an effort to curb their activities in opposition to Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

WND has reported as courts hearing various cases have rebuked the IRS.

Holder, however, said the targeted organizations deserved no apology for the infringement of their constitutional rights. He claimed the apology amounted to the Trump administration “undercutting career people” at the Justice Department.

Those “career people” may be members of the “deep state,” career bureaucrats undercutting the Trump administration about whom Franklin Graham, the CEO and president of Samaritan’s Purse, has warned.

Holder stated: “That apology was unnecessary, unfounded and inconsistent, it seems to me, with the responsibilities that somebody who would seek to lead the Justice Department should have done.”

WND reported in January that 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.

But now the IRS is claiming that True the Vote, and the other tea party and conservative organizations, didn’t actually win their cases, meaning they’re not the “prevailing party” and, therefore, are not entitled to legal fees and costs.

Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, explains the IRS’ claims as they stand now:

Her lawyers said they will respond in court.

She said it took three years of government intimidation under the Obama administration for her group eventually to go to court and obtain tax-deductible status from the IRS. Besides the judicial scolding, the IRS ended up changing its ways.

She said the nation was stunned that the Obama administration was using the IRS to “round up conservatives and bully them out of existence.”

During that time, and the five years since the case was filed, she’s had 23 audits by the IRS, DOJ, ATF, OSHA and other agencies.

“No American should have to go through this,” she said.

Finally, the IRS agreed to “a laundry list of wrongdoings” to settle the case, specifically agreeing True the Vote could petition for lawyers’ fees.

That promise, however, didn’t last long.

In response to the request from True the Vote’s current lawyers, Bopp Law, the IRS said True the Vote didn’t win and doesn’t deserve any reimbursement.

The law firm called the reversal a “stunning turn of events.”

In fact, the government claims that in addition to True the Vote not being the “prevailing party,” the IRS’ position essentially was right all along. It claims none of the agreements it signed to settle the lawsuits contained any admission of any violations.

The attack on True the Vote was from Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman as well as Joseph Sergi and Laura Conner.

They told the court, “Even if plaintiff qualified as a ‘prevailing party’ … it still would not be entitled to recover any of its attorneys’ fees because the United States’ position in this suit was substantially justified.”

They elaborated on what they used as a definition.

“The United States’ position is substantially justified if it is ‘justified to a degree that could satisfy a reasonable person’ or, in other words, has ‘a reasonable basis in both law and fact.'”

The lawyers noted that U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton will have the final say on the issue.

When Englebrecht’s organization reached agreement with the IRS for reforms and a conclusion to the case, she explained, “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.

“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 deliberately delayed the applications of conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The IRS specifically targeted groups with “tea party” or “conservative” in their names.

The True the Vote case wasn’t 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.”

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.

Sometimes it simply didn’t take any action for months on end.

In one case, the IRS demanded to know the subject of group members’ prayers. And in another, the IRS demanded that members stop opposing Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

The Obama administration had claimed the scandal was “phony.”

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