Arizona Republican representatives are calling for justice after the IRS admitted in federal court that it targeted conservative groups. The IRS, which under the Obama administration singled out groups with words such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their title, apologized for the use of “inappropriate criteria” when determining tax-exempt status.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice has entered into settlements, pending approval by the district courts, in two cases brought by groups whose tax-exempt status was significantly delayed by the Internal Revenue Service based on inappropriate criteria. The first case, Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, comprised claims brought by 41 plaintiffs, and the second case, NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. Internal Revenue Service, was a class action suit that included 428 members.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, co-founder and former president of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party expressed relief on Friday upon hearing that the case against the IRS is now settled, nearly a decade later. “When we started the group back in 2009, I insisted that we form a legitimate 501 (c)4 non-profit organization and subordinate ourselves to IRS so that we would establish legitimacy and operate with integrity, and in return expected fair treatment from the Internal Revenue Service. Instead, we were met with the most vile form of political abuse,” Townsend said.
Townsend said she learned of the settlement from the current president of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party, Chris Rossiter, who shared an article published by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
“Although I am grateful for the efforts of the ACLJ,” Townsend added, “I believe in this situation, apologies are best left for kindergarten and true accountability should be exacted upon this agency. I want to see indictments.”
Arizona State Rep. Bob Thorpe added, “Our second President, John Adams said that we are a government of laws, not of men. I am pleased that there was a settlement in the IRS case, however I am once again not surprised that no bureaucrat was fired or criminally charged! People will continue to mistrust government when no one is held accountable or prosecuted when they are caught violating our laws. And in this case, the Democrat Obama administration used the immense power of the federal government to punish their political opponents, which is shameful, unacceptable totalitarian behavior.”
“Chief Justice John Marshall wrote ‘that the power to tax involves the power to destroy … [is] not to be denied.’ And it should also be without question that our First Amendment prohibits the federal government from treating groups differently based solely on their viewpoint or ideology,” said Session in his announcement on Thursday.
“But it is now clear that during the last Administration, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to screen applications for 501(c) status. These criteria included names such as “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” or “9/12” or policy positions concerning government spending or taxes, education of the public to “make America a better place to live,” or statements criticizing how the country was being run,” continued Sessions. “It is also clear these criteria disproportionately impacted conservative groups.”
“As a result of these criteria, the IRS transferred hundreds of applications to a specifically designated group of IRS agents for additional levels of review, questioning and delay,” explained Sessions. “In many instances, the IRS then requested highly sensitive information from applicants, such as donor information, that was not needed to make a determination of tax-exempt status.”
“The IRS’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred. It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions,” said Sessions. “Any entitlement to tax exemption should be based on the activities of the organization and whether they fulfill requirements of the law, not the policy positions adopted by members or the name chosen to reflect those views.”
Sessions stopped short of supporting indictments however. “There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS.” Sessions concluded, “We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”