The IRS’ Tax-Exempt Backlog Is Gone? … Really?
by Mark Meckler
Forgive me for taking any statement from the public relations department of the IRS with a grain of salt.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says that the agency has eliminated a huge processing backlog of groups seeking tax-exempt status left over from the years it spent targeting conservative and tea party groups.
That’s more than 60,000 applications that have been processed in 15 months. It would be an impressive feat, which Koskinen attributes to a shorter application form that was rolled out last year.
The problem is, the claim isn’t true. There are several groups still awaiting an IRS ruling, including the Albuquerque Tea Party which has been waiting for over five years.
Koskinen’s spiel at the National Press Club attributed the long waiting times of some groups merely to volume and long forms, not politically motivated targeting. He said that “better training” and “better review” would ensure such alleged targeting will never happen again.
IRS employees will “let us know” when there appears to be a problem, since the agency has undergone “a re-dedication to the longstanding commitment of the IRS to be involved in tax administration, not be involved in politics.”
They’d be nice words, if they were true.
The IRS has continued to give individuals and groups who disagree with the liberal establishment a hard time. And in the same speech, Koskinen continued his support for regulations that would put even stricter limits on the activities of 501(c)(4) organizations.
Things are not as rosy at Koskinen’s IRS as the picture he paints. The backlog is not gone. Even worse, the backlash from a debacle now stretching into five years hasn’t been resolved. Neither has the eroded trust of the American people been restored in this corrupt agency.
It’s bad enough for an arm of the government to target its own people for disagreeing with its policies. It’s even worse for it to cover up wrongdoing and throw as many roadblocks as creatively possible in the way of those seeking the truth and justice in this scandal.
Koskinen has said the equivalent of “it’s over” too many times. We know better than to believe him.
Judge orders IRS to release list of tea party groups targeted for scrutiny
– The Washington Times – Thursday, April 2, 2015
A federal judge ordered the IRS this week to turn over the list of 298 groups it targeted for intrusive scrutiny as the agency defends against a potential class-action lawsuit by tea party groups who claim their constitutional rights were violated.
The IRS had argued it shouldn’t have to release the names because doing do would violate privacy laws, but Judge Susan J. Dlott, who sits in the Southern District of Ohio, rejected that claim and ordered the tax agency to turn over any lists or spreadsheets detailing the groups that were targeted and when they filed their applications.
Judge Dlott also ordered the IRS to say whether a partial list of targeted groups reported by USA Today is authentic as a number of tea party groups try to win certification for a class action lawsuit against the IRS.
“The return information sought is directly related to the issue of class certification in this federal court proceeding,” the judge said. “The names of the putative class member organizations and their control dates — the date which the putative class member organizations submitted their applications for tax exempt status to the IRS — are directly related to the issue of class certification.”
The judge has not yet certified the tea party groups as a class, and the information that they’ve obtained so far through depositions remains under seal. But backers say if they can be certified, then they will begin to try to pry loose some of the key information about how the IRS chose which groups it went after in its targeting.
“We’re at the precipice,” said Mark Meckler, a member of one of the tea party groups suing, and also president of Citizens for Self-Governance, which is funding the litigation.
The Ohio lawsuit is the only major legal jeopardy still remaining in the courts for the IRS — though the agency is still facing an FBI investigation, according to documents obtained by True the Vote, a tea party group, under the Freedom of Information Act.
Earlier this week the deporting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. informed House Speaker John A. Boehner he would not prosecute Lois G. Lerner, the former senior executive who’s at the center of the targeting scandal, for contempt of Congress. The prosecutor said Ms. Lerner didn’t waiver her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when she delivered an opening statement at a congressional hearing but then refused follow-up questions.
The scandal developed after the IRS acknowledged it singled out tea party groups for special scrutiny, and asked intrusive questions that agency executives later said were inappropriate. The IRS’s inspector general concluded that 298 groups were targeted, with all but a handful of them leaning toward the conservative side.
But the IRS has resisted releasing the official list, arguing that is private information.
“The Internal Revenue Service cannot disclose the identities of the potential class members because that is return information protected,” the administration said in its court filings.
The judge disagreed, saying exemptions in law apply to a case like this.
Several other cases had been filed in Washington, D.C., by tea party groups trying to force a judge to proactively halt any future targeting. The judge tossed those cases, saying that the IRS insists the targeting has ended, so there is no further action needed.
But some groups are still awaiting approval, including one that’s been pending for more than five years, which their lawyers argue means the IRS is still targeting despite its insistence that its program has ended.
Commissioner John Koskinen has said groups that are still waiting could take a deal, promising to limit their political activities to 40 percent of their business, but the groups argue that would mean giving up rights since they believe under current law politicking can be almost 50 percent of their activities.
Judge Orders IRS To Turn Over 298 Names Of Targeted Conservative Groups
Randy DeSoto – Western Journalism – April 16, 2015 at 5:14pm
A federal judge in Ohio ordered the IRS to turn over a list of 298 names of groups targeted by the agency for increased scrutiny in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election. The ruling comes as a setback to the IRS, potentially opening the door to a class action lawsuit against the agency by all the targeted groups.
The IRS argued that the agency could not hand over the list due to privacy laws; however, Judge Susan J. Dlott, who sits in the Southern District of Ohio, rejected that claim. She ruled that while the IRS does have the duty to protect the groups’ internal financial information, the public should know of the existence of those organizations on the list.
Judge Dlott also ordered the IRS to confirm whether a list of targeted groups obtained by USA Today and published by the newspaper in September 2013 is accurate.
The judge ruled that since those currently involved in the litigation are seeking to certify a class action lawsuit (i.e. confirm the criteria is met to bring the larger suit):
The return information sought is directly related to the issue of class certification in this federal court proceeding. The names of the putative class member organizations and their control dates — the date which the putative class member organizations submitted their applications for tax exempt status to the IRS — are directly related to the issue of class certification.
Mark Meckler, a tea party member and president of Citizens for Self Governance, which is funding the suit,stated that “We are at the precipice” of certifying the class action suit. The plaintiffs in the suit currently consist of 10 groups, among them the NorCal Tea Party Patriots, the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Ohio, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The groups initiated their suit in 2013.
With the entire list, coupled with the scope of a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs believe they will be able to gain further access into the IRS internal workings, including how the agency chose which groups to target.
As reported in the Daily Signal, they describe themselves as:
“comprised of individual citizens who have joined together to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and expression” and who “dissent from the policies or ideology of the” current administration. They claimed that, on the basis of their beliefs, they had been subjected “to delays and intrusive scrutiny during the tax-exempt status application process.” According to the ten plaintiffs, this violated the Privacy Act, the First and Fifth Amendments, and 26 U.S.C. §6103, a federal statute that protects the confidentiality of tax return information.
The named defendants in addition to the IRS include the Treasury Department, Lois Lerner, and other individual IRS employees.
As reported by Western Journalism, Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax exempt division, admitted wrongdoing on a conference call with reporters in May of 2013. She said that her division had set aside groups with the terms “tea party” or “patriots” in their names for intrusive scrutiny and delayed their approval. She added that the conduct by IRS “front line” personnel was “absolutely inappropriate” and apologized to those groups affected. She has pled the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination twice when brought before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Days after Lerner’s admission, the independent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released the results of its months-long investigation. The IG determined that “The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”
The report determined that the wrongful conduct had gone on for 18 months under Lerner’s leadership and resulted in “substantial delays” in processing applications for the targeted groups–and allowed “unnecessary information requests” to be issued to those groups. The IG investigation uncovered the list of 298 targeted groups.
No Criminal Charges For Targeter-In-Chief Lois Lerner
by Mark Meckler
On his last day in office, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen absolved Lois Lerner of any contempt charges for refusing to answer questions in a Congressional investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.
Robert Wood summarizes the “considerable back story” on Forbes. Suffice it to say that, by all appearances, Lois Lerner was among the original instigators at the IRS who wanted to go after conservative groups. She tried to cover her tracks electronically when reports started to circulate and made sure to beat the Inspector General to the punch when she admitted targeting in a May 2013 press conference.
Several investigations were opened against the agency, centered around Lerner. But when she was called before Congress, she said she was innocent of any wrongdoing, then pled the Fifth – twice. While all this was going on, she was placed on administrative leave and then retired with a full pension.
Congress placed her under contempt — after refusing to answer questions a second time — and referred her to the Department of Justice for prosecution. One simply isn’t allowed to testify that she did nothing wrong, then refuse to testify further.
Which brings us to this latest news.
It’s not that we expected the Department of Justice to do the right thing. We’ve long known that they were in cahoots with the corrupt IRS, going so far as planning to cook up false charges to hassle the same conservative groups both agencies disliked.
But one could at least hope that the DOJ would live up to its name. Well, to the “J” part of the name.
Instead, Machen decided that Lerner’s statement protesting her innocence (17 times, to be exact) wasn’t actually a statement, and thus by making it, she didn’t waive her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz issued the following statement in response to the Department of Justice’s decision to not proceed with a criminal contempt prosecution of Lois Lerner:
Today’s announcement is disappointing and exhibits a disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Machen attempted to absolve Ms. Lerner of her actions by substituting his judgment for that of the full House of Representatives. It is unclear whether the Administration directed Mr. Machen not to prosecute Lois Lerner, or whether he was motivated by an ideological kinship with IRS’s leadership. The Committee will continue to pursue its ongoing investigation into the targeting of American citizens based on their political beliefs. Our goal is to ensure that the people responsible, including Lois Lerner, are held accountable, and that appropriate reforms and safeguards are put into place at the IRS to guarantee that the rights of Americans are not trampled on again by overzealous bureaucrats with political agendas.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan reacted, “As one of his final acts as U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., Ronald Machen used his power as a political weapon to undermine the rule of law. Machen was legally bound to convene a grand jury, but instead he ignored his obligation and unilaterally decided to ignore the will of the House. … This is wrong, and a great example of why so many Americans distrust their government.”
The targeting took place. No one believes Obama’s statement denying “a smidgen of corruption” anymore. And, there’s no doubt that Lois Lerner was involved. But the administration and its offshoots demonstrate time after time their determination to never let the American people hear the truth about the extent of her involvement.
Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ says this ruling only confirms what he’s been saying for a year: “This investigation was phony from the start.”
Lerner is probably enjoying the congratulations of her lawyer right about now, but the IRS is far from off the hook. The same day, a judge ordered the agency to release a full list of all the organizations targeted by the IRS. This prepares the way for Citizens for Self-Governance’s class-action lawsuit to go to trial.
Did John McCain Know about IRS Targeting?
by Mark Meckler
When the IRS scandal broke, Sen. John McCain sent out a press release claiming to be shocked at the news. But was he?
Three years’ of IRS e-mail evidence continues to build against the federal government. The most interesting and possibly disturbing piece of information deals with the fact that Republican Senator McCain and Democrat Senator Carl Levin were both aware of the targeting eleven days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions.
E-mails reveal that staffers from McCain’s office met with IRS personnel for six hours, 11 days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions. Judicial Watch summarizes:
[Lerner] met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.” Among those attending the meeting were key aides to the committee minority ranking member, John McCain.
The meeting notes were blacked out, but we can still connect the dots: Sen. Carl Levin and McCain had both expressed frustration with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, to which the IRS targeting appears to have been a response. Senator Levin put extensive pressure on the IRS to shut down conservative-leaning tax-exempt organizations, and Senator McCain has been “vociferous in his calls for reining in free and open political discussion.” It’s not hard to believe that the Senators were happy to see the IRS impose – by regulation – what the Supreme Court had already ruled to be out of bounds.
Both Senators did write a letter to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel following Lerner’s press conference, “claiming outrage that the subject had not even been broached in their committee staffers’ six-hour marathon meeting.” But their cries might have been a little too shrill to be believable.
The letter also says “the interview covered, among other topics, how the IRS determines which groups to review, what actions are taken in connection with the IRS reviews, and how the laws and regulations are used to examine those groups.”
This revelation served as chilling confirmation of a suspicion Tea Party groups had all along: they were under fire from both sides of the establishment in Washington, D.C. Republicans and Democrats worked together to crush their common enemy, actual conservatives.
McCain recently announced that he will run for re-election to the Senate in 2016. He certainly hit some self-governance buzz words in his announcement:
Over the last several years, Arizonans have been rightly frustrated with a wasteful, incompetent federal government bent on expanding its reach and power – from Obamacare to excessive financial and environmental regulation.
Yet to many Americans, John McCain is a card-carrying member of the establishment. He’s been in the Senate since 1986, which means that only three Arizona senators have held the seat longer.
But what about that six hour meeting? McCain has some serious explaining to do about just how much he knew about the targeting at the IRS. He’s certainly had his differences with the Tea Party and conservative Republicans in the past. And his positions on free speech and political action have more in common with liberals who prefer a one-way street over the marketplace of ideas.
Maybe, just maybe, Senator McCain did not mind the IRS’ attempts to stifle the First Amendment rights of Tea Party citizens. Maybe his shock at Lerner’s revelation was just as fake as the outrage from the White House.
McCain says he’s ready for a challenge from the Tea Party. Quitting may not be in his nature, but the tide may be turning against John McCain. If he used his clout on Capitol Hill to aid the IRS’ stifling of citizens, it’s time — past time — for McCain to retire.
Mark Meckler is an original founder of Tea Party Patriots and currently serves as President of Citizens for Self-Governance.
Our founder, Mark Meckler, recently appeared on Varney & Co., where he had quite a bit to say about Lois Lerner, Obamacare, Ted Cruz, and whether Cruz is dividing the GOP. Watch it here.
Filed on behalf of Tea Party, religious and other liberty groups victimized by IRS
Cincinnati, OH. – Today, counsel funded by Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) filed an amended complaint adding numerous named plaintiffs in the first and only class action in the nation against the IRS on behalf of tea parties, religious organizations and other liberty groups targeted for harassment and abuse.
Significantly, among other groups joining the NorCal Tea Party as named plaintiffs in the litigation, is one of the nation’s preeminent state think tanks, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose private and confidential donor list was illegally released by the IRS.
Brooke Rollins, President and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, issued the following statement today on the Foundation’s decision to join a class-action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service:
“Last year, the Texas Public Policy Foundation was surprised and disappointed to learn that the Internal Revenue Service released our donor list to the public. In light of recent revelations of a pattern of IRS harassment and suppression of citizens and organizations opposed to Washington, D.C.’s agenda, we must conclude that this Foundation may have been deliberately and illegally targeted. With donor and membership anonymity a cornerstone of freedom of association under the Constitution as held in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1958 NAACP v. Alabama, the release of our donor information is not a mere inconvenience, but a profound threat to basic liberties.
In response to the litigation, the IRS has recently filed a motion with the court to dismiss the suit. Commenting on the government’s actions, Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self-Governance, issued the following statement:
“In the last several days, we’ve heard that the President considers the IRS targeting of law-abiding citizens to be a ‘phony scandal,’ demonstrating his disdain for the American people and the Constitution. Meanwhile, government lawyers are moving to dismiss litigation intended to give affected citizens their day in court. This is indicative of the heavy hand of a federal government operating with a dangerous disdain for the American citizen. This cannot stand, and we will not rest until the many groups affected by the IRS abuses have their day in court.”
For more information, including a copy of the Amended Complaint please visit www.SueTheIRS.com