May 10th marks the one year anniversary of the admission that the Obama Administration’s IRS was responsible for targeting conservative Americans.
This unlawful and unconstitutional targeting scheme has been well documented.
Over the course of at least three years and fueled by the harangues of the Left, the IRS systematically targeted, held up applications, and devised a coordinated plan to demand unconstitutionally intrusive information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
The IRS asked pro-life groups for the “content of your members’ prayers.” It demanded donor lists, resumes, and other documentation far outside the purview of the IRS from conservative groups. In multiple instances, the IRS is alleged to have released private taxpayer information in violation of federal law, the latest such accusation in the form of a new lawsuit last month.
On May 29, 2013, the ACLJ filed a federal lawsuit – the largest of its kind – on behalf of targeted conservative and pro-life organizations. We now represent 41 groups from 22 states in that litigation, detailing the IRS’s unlawful targeting and demanding justice for the thousands of American citizens impacted by the IRS dragnet.
Our lawsuit not only directly challenges the IRS, but names former top IRS official Lois Lerner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and other key Obama Administration officials as defendants. In a nutshell, the lawsuit contends:
“[IRS officials,] working in offices from California to Washington, D.C., pulled applications from conservative organizations, delayed processing those applications for sometimes well over a year, then made probing and unconstitutional requests for additional information that often required applicants to disclose, among other things, donor lists, direct and indirect communications with members of legislative bodies, Internet passwords and usernames, copies of social media and other Internet postings, and even the political and charitable activities of family members.”
The harm caused by the IRS targeting in unfathomable. As our lawsuit alleges:
“The IRS scheme had a dramatic impact on targeted groups, causing many to curtail lawful activities, expend considerable unnecessary funds, lose donor support, and devote countless hours of time to responding to onerous and targeted IRS information requests that were outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.”
Despite the fact that Lois Lerner herself admitted the IRS was wrong and apologized, and that President Obama even feigned outrage when the targeting scheme came to light a year ago this month, the first thing the Obama Justice Department did after we filed our suit was attempted to have it thrown out of court. We’ve responded and our lawsuit continues on in federal court. We will get to the bottom of this scandal and when we reach the discovery phase of our suit we, will unearth the truth.
The reality is we’re not just searching for justice for Americans who were targeted by their government and had their constitutional rights violated. Astonishingly, the abuse is still ongoing. We’re just days away from the one-year mark of when the targeting was exposed, not when it began. With all the promises, with all the assurances, and new IRS personnel who were going to swiftly clean this up, eleven of our clients still have not received a determination from the IRS. For many, it’s been three years since they applied with no answer from the IRS. For one, it’s been about 1,600 days of waiting. A lot’s happened since then.
It’s unconscionable the IRS has continued to hold these American citizens, who merely wish to exercise their free speech and free association rights, in IRS tax-exempt purgatory.
This week’s full House of Representatives vote on contempt of Congress for Lois Lerner will unleash one more tool to get to the bottom of this burgeoning scandal. If she is held in contempt, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be able to bring civil contempt charges in federal court, in an attempt to force Lerner to come clean and comply with a congressional subpoena.
Each lawsuit and each congressional investigation bring us closer to the truth. But the fact remains that as long as this Administration uses every obstacle it can throw in the way of justice, including its own Justice Department, it will be a long and difficult road, but an effort well worth the fight.
We will continue to fight to ensure that those who were targeted by their government for their political beliefs receive the justice they deserve, that the Constitution is defended, and this unthinkable government abuse never happens again.
Matthew Clark is Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the ACLJ in the Washington, D.C. headquarters. Matthew Clark has authored numerous articles for such publications as the Washington Post and the ACLJ’s Docket Blog on critical constitutional and policy matters facing our nation and the fight for human rights worldwide. Prior to rejoining the ACLJ, where he clerked while in law school, Matthew Clark served as Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Walter S. Felton, Jr., Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia. Matthew Clark earned a Juris Doctor and Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University where he served as the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Regent Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.