Politics & Policy

The Tea Party Isn’t Giving Up against the IRS

Judge Reggie Walton in 2005 (Joe Raedle/Getty)
A judge dismisses lawsuits protesting the IRS’s targeting of conservatives, but the fight continues.

Thursday, Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia dismissed almost all counts in two major lawsuits brought by conservative groups against the IRS.

So why would Judge Walton — a George W. Bush appointee — make this decision?

Believe it or not, he says that claims for injunctive relief are moot because there is “no reasonable expectation” that the IRS would continue to target conservative organizations based on their viewpoint.

But this defies what we know to be true. The IRS has repeatedly insisted its actions were for “tax-administration purposes” and were otherwise legitimate functions to determine the groups’ tax-exempt status. The IRS has concealed evidence, obscured facts, and — evidence shows — still harassed conservative groups after their scheme was revealed.

Judge Walton also missed the mark by dismissing the claims against the IRS for its unauthorized inspection and disclosure of taxpayer information. In reaching his decision, Judge Walton embraced a flimsy dichotomy promoted by the IRS that distinguishes between an improper acquisition of taxpayer information and an improper inspection of the information. By focusing on how the information was obtained, Judge Walton failed to consider or appreciate the actual reasons IRS employees inspected the taxpayer information. Although inspecting an application for tax exemption may be lawful for some IRS employees, it certainly was not lawful for those employees whose inspections occurred because of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

For instance, the IRS designated a “Tea Party Coordinator” who would inspect applications with increased scrutiny based on the protected views of selected groups. The IRS’s wrongful inspection of taxpayer information permeated multiple levels of the organization and cannot simply be dismissed as “separate and apart” from the initial, unlawful acquisition of that information. The application of this dichotomy to the plaintiffs’ claims was incorrect under the law and should not have been adopted by Judge Walton.

Despite the setback to the two cases in D.C. (which may yet be appealed), the claims asserted in Cincinnati against the IRS in NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. IRS continue to strengthen as we obtain discovery into the IRS’s conduct. We remain confident in the propriety of Judge Dlott’s decision maintaining our claims for injunctive relief and for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of taxpayer information, and her ruling against the IRS on those issues in their motion to dismiss. This is particularly true for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose information was actually disclosed to the public by the IRS.

True the Vote is considering its legal options. Linchpins of Liberty and forty other groups included in its suit are planning to appeal the decision.

There is no question that Judge Walton’s ruling is a disturbing development in the search for justice. Fortunately, the NorCal Tea Party case, funded by Citizens for Self-Governance, is still alive, and we intend to win. We continue to pursue our claims, as the case continues to proceed into the discovery phase. We won’t stop until the light is shed on the corruption and misdeeds at the IRS. The public has a right to know, and the plaintiffs who were unjustly abused by the IRS have a right to be vindicated.

We won’t rest until justice is done.

— Mark Meckler is the founder of Sue the IRS, which survived the IRS’s motion to dismiss and is proceeding in Ohio.

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