First lawsuit filed against IRS
May 20th, 2013
07:32 PM ET
5 years ago

First lawsuit filed against IRS

Washington (CNN) – A Northern California tea party group filed the first lawsuit against the U.S. government stemming from the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups for more scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status.

"The IRS and its agents singled out groups like NorCal Tea Party Patriots for intensive and intrusive scrutiny, probing their members' associates, speech, activities and beliefs," the suit claimed on Monday.

"NorCal and its members suffered years of delay and expense while awaiting the exemption and spending valuable time and money answering the IRS' questions. The result was a muffling and muzzling of free expression" the lawsuit claimed.

The group alleged violations under the Privacy Act as well as violations of its constitutional rights guaranteeing free expression and equal protection under the law.

It is asking for unspecified damages and named the IRS, Treasury Department and unnamed current and former IRS employees.

NorCal Tea Party Patriots first applied for the tax-exempt status in March of 2010 but it took more than two years to receive it.

The inspector general for the IRS found this month the agency developed and followed a faulty policy to determine whether applicants for tax-exempt status were engaged in political activities, which would disqualify them from receiving tax-exempt status.

The inspector general confirmed that agents from 2010 through early 2012 used inappropriate words, such as "tea party" and "patriots," and other criteria off and on to single out applications for more examination.

The watchdog who conducted the audit, J. Russell George, found the criteria resulted in substantial delays and the request of unnecessary information from the groups.

The lawsuit alleged that the "IRS engaged in a tactic of suffocating NorCal Tea Party Patriots and other similarly situated groups with requests that were so searching and extensive that they would have presented a serious challenge even for sophisticated businesses."

Group officials said the IRS asked for a wide variety of information. This included a list of all events and activities conducted since July 2010 and information about their website; Internet related activities; materials they distributed; information about their board of directors and the names of donors, contributors and grantors.

They were also asked if they conducted or would conduct rallies or exhibitions for or against public policies, legislation, public officers, political candidates, the officials said.

Mark Meckler, president of a Tea Party-aligned group Citizens for Self-Governance, helped bring the lawsuit and told CNN that he expects other groups to join.

Meckler and the president of the NorCal group will hold a news conference on Tuesday in Washington to talk about the case.

"When the federal government runs amok, it is up to us to reign it in. Neither party in Congress can be relied upon to satisfactorily resolve this issue. They created the IRS, fund the IRS, and oversee the IRS. All of this abuse happened on their watch," Meckler said in a press release.

The IRS did not respond to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit, which was filed in Cincinnati where the IRS office responsible for the tax-exempt determinations is located.

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller answered questions before a House committee on Friday.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and for the poor service we provided. The affected organizations and the American public deserve better," Miller told the Ways and Means Committee.

"I do not believe that partisanship motivated the people who engaged in the practices" described in the inspector general's report. "I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people who were trying to be more efficient in their workload selection," he said.

IRS officials are expected to testify at congressional hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Several other groups have said they plan to sue the IRS.

CNN Senior Producer Bill Mears contributed to this story.

Filed under: IRS • Tea Party
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. g

    one way to stop all this is every group pay taxes .churchs and all the rest of the moochers

    May 20, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    Suit is null and void. Idiots can sue but has no locus Standi...

    May 20, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  3. jpmichigan

    Obama is just the front man, his senior advisors run the show, make all the decisions and make the decision when/how to let him know what is really going on in this country. It will all eventually bite them all.

    May 20, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. king

    i hope the right wingers are happy, the agency they've been hooping against is about to go down the drain, now corporations can do what they want, and suck money out of the American people and build china into the next superpower. these repubs are idiots, they are flaring around talking about our country is in debt and going broke, yet they are fighting for the corporations to sneek out the backdoor to china with america money. keep on fighting the corporations war, and leave your country in ruins, why dont you guys ask these corporations, why they are not bringing their trillions back home, even though they're paying some of the lowest taxes in this country's history.

    May 20, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  5. Dave Thomas

    The discovery by lawyers in these civil suits will uncover more and more wrongdoing by the Internal Revenue Service.

    I'll toast tonight to Tea Party lawyers putting the hurt on the criminals at the IRS!

    May 20, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  6. jinx9to88

    Did progressive groups sue when they were targeted back when Bush was president? Tax reform ASAP!!!

    May 20, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  7. Anthony in California

    But isnt it the IRS' job to do such scrutiny??? Its called an audit. Especially if you are trying to file for "tax-exempt status".
    These guys want to not pay taxes, but still go around taking political stances... treat them like the churches and strip or deny all of those exemptions, and treat them all like tax paying political organizations that they are.

    May 20, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. U.S. Citizen

    Will 'Equal Justice Under the Rule of Law' be served?

    May 20, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. Kevin

    Good for them - hopefully anyone who was wrongly targeted sues and collect money

    May 20, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  10. Thomas

    @just sayin
    well, well, well,... it didn't take long to reach the door of the white house now did it??? there is no way a couple of low level irs agents decided on their own to start targeting obama political opponents. they need to get these people under oath and find out where their marching orders came from. do people honestly think low level irs agents are going to openly target poltical opponents without being orders and cover from above to do so?
    They need to get these people under oath and find out where their marching orders came from, evan if that means water boarding a few of them !

    NorCal Tea Party Patriots for intensive and intrusive scrutiny ? Why not NorCal Tea&Weed patriots for an Intensive high with no taxes ?

    May 20, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    A tax exempt group wants to sue the IRS for an unspecified amount of tax payer dollars. Tea Party looking out for the tax payer.

    May 20, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. Very Sad

    All of this makes me very sad. Can we trust our government that they agencies will not be political and vengeful? I don't feel that anybody is looking out for the average American any longer. And to hear Steven Miller's testimony really disgusted me. He seemed so arrogant and untouchable and indifferent.

    May 20, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  13. silentcount

    The government is coming after you for opposing their propaganda. This is why it's so important to not let them have your guns. The country's forefathers knew exactly what they were doing when they insisted on all citizens being able to stand up to tyranny. Obama was already corrupt and he's gotten worse, while the gullible still live a life of denial.

    May 20, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  14. bbk

    Any group with tea party in their name should automatically be denied tax exempt status – fast, efficient, accurate.

    May 20, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    So – in 2009 Bachmann goes to Congress to get the Tea Party recognized, and then they start suing because they are non-political. Sweet.

    So much hate coming from a charitable group. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    May 20, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    I guess the next earthquake or fire and we'll see them providing homes, food, clothing, etc., since they are exclusively a charity and collected millions in tax free money. Way to go.

    May 20, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. John

    It appears that many Tea Party Groups are experiencing increased membership and contributions since the IRS scandal unfolded. So how have they been damaged? Perhaps they should be thanking the IRS for all of the free publicity instead of whining.

    May 21, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  18. sally-ann

    The IRS centralized the huge influx of these types of applications to their Cincinnati office. Some of the phases to sort them were insensitive. Out of the 300 applications they looked into 75 were tea party and none were denied. No laws were broken. Tea party will lose the law suit.
    Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush. His 6-year term ended in November.
    And the primary function of tea party is political activities not social welfare. The IRS makes the determination. The IRS has been kind to tea party in that respect.

    May 21, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  19. Smeagel4T

    They'll basically have to prove that they actually were treated any differently than any other political group that wanted to pretend to be a social welfare group.

    May 21, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  20. lesleysthoughts

    This is such a crock. I can't believe they are suing over this. You can't call yourselves the tea party and not expect a little extra scrutiny by the IRS. If you wear a t-shirt to an airport that says "there's a bomb in my butt" guess what the TSA is going to take an extra look at? Is that not an assumption of the risk? By suing, they are advertising to America that they are completely unconcerned with the well-being of this country, and are, therefore, unpatriotic. Shame on them.

    May 21, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  21. Steve

    What social programs are the NorCal Tea Party Patriots involved in?

    May 21, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  22. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    For a bunch of people who are constantly complaining about government waste ... does the term "frivolous lawsuit" sound familiar?

    May 21, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  23. Name Uche Agonsi

    The rush hour situation is at work again...2 years described as years, muzzling & muffling of expressions/views without awareness of harmful decision cannot have psychic effects, admittance of irregularity by irs does not support criminal intent, imaginary damage from imaginary illegality, information requirements by irs not outside its duty scope, no links to politics yet still Norcal is already politicising the situation, ..... Norcal should have waited for investigation result..... However let the legal show begin....Goodluck.

    May 21, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  24. stick it

    Obama knew ! ...

    May 21, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  25. Iamnotfooled

    Sue the Supreme Court for passing Citizens United. All political parties should not be tax exempt. No 501 (c) (4)'s Period. Pay your taxes.

    May 21, 2013 03:41 am at 3:41 am |
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