Tea Party Groups Set to Sue IRS

More than a dozen Tea Party groups will file suit against the IRS this week, Fox News reports.

The groups will be represented by the American Center for Law and Justice. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow believes the number of plaintiffs will grow, although he doesn't know if the groups will file individually or as part of a class action suit.

One of the plaintiffs will be Jay Devereaux who started his educational group Unite in Action following the Wall Street bailout. He's been waiting two years for IRS approval of the group's tax exempt status:

Litigation could take months or years and for some like Devereaux, time isn’t on their side.

While initially waiting for IRS approval, Devereaux dipped into his own bank account, maxed out credit cards and even borrowed money from friends so his group could put on a civic-engagement training session at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington. His goal was to eventually set up a steady stream of revenue for a tax-exempt nonprofit.

The next time Devereaux heard from the IRS, they had requested details and credentials on every single speaker and all the educational materials provided in the 78 classes held at the hotel. The IRS also wanted information on all 45 vendors, their credentials and a donor list.

Devereaux refused.

Five rounds of IRS letters later, and United in Action’s tax-exempt status is still in limbo.

If they are denied, Devereaux’s group would owe the federal government “somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 in back taxes,” he said, referring to money he would owe the government on donations.

“It’s more than we have in our bank account,” he said.

He's not alone.

Waco Tea Party President Toby Walker said her group applied for a 501(c)(4) status in July 2010. She’d call the IRS from time to time to check on the progress but was basically told, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ she said.

Then in February 2012, the IRS finally made contact.

Walker said she was asked questions that went well beyond the purview of the agency's authority. They wanted to know everything about the Waco Tea Party group, their relationships with public officials, lists of volunteers and every single news story the group had ever been mentioned in.

Walker said the request was so lengthy and intrusive that had she complied with the demands, she “would have needed a U-haul truck of about 20 feet.”

"Rogue" employees? The remarkable thing about the stories that are emerging from various Tea Party groups is how consistent the IRS in the kinds of information they want -- information that is clearly beyond the purview of their mandate and could even be considered trivial or harassing. Someone at the IRS took the time and effort to develop questions which they knew that organizations run out of a home would find burdensome and even impossible with which to comply.

The entire process seems to have been designed to delay, intimidate, and harass groups opposed to the re-election of the president. As has been pointed out before, the IRS excuse -- that there was an avalanche of applications for tax exempt status and the IRS employees were only trying to be more efficient -- is given the lie by Garance Franke-Ruta writing at The Atlantic:

But Todd Young, a Republican congressman from Indiana, pointed out at Friday's House Ways and Means Committee hearing with former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George that this was not the case, according to the very data the IRS provided to the Treasury IG's office.

There were, he noted, actually fewer applications for tax-exempt status by groups seeking to be recognized as social-welfare organizations that year than the previous one, according to this IRS data. The real surge in applications did not come until 2012 -- the year the IRS stopped the practice of treating the Tea Party class of groups differently from others.

In short, the evidence does not support the reasons given for the targeting by IRS officials. More fodder for the suits that will be filed by Tea Party groups wronged by IRS bullying.