Dozens of tea party organizations that have sued the Internal Revenue Service over the agency’s targeting of their kind because of their beliefs are demanding that the government appoint an independent prosecutor to take up the evidence and decide what, if any, criminals charges should result.
“We have seen a deliberate and systematic effort by the IRS to delay, deflect, and deceive Congress in its effort to hold those responsible for this unlawful targeting scheme accountable,” said Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“We’re encouraged by the announcement of a criminal probe now underway by the IRS watchdog group. With this development, it is clearer than ever, that an independent prosecutor must be appointed – a move that would greatly assist in the recovery of evidence and bring an end to the repeated stonewalling by the IRS.”
When the discovery was made that the federal tax collectors under President Obama had used their federal authority and power to attack various tea party and Christian organizations, the ACLJ sued,
The case involved 41 groups from 22 states, and a district judge dismissed it. However, the legal team promised an appeal and of the 39 groups remaining in the case, 29 eventually and belatedly got their requested tax-exempt status.
Seven other groups withdrew their applications “because of the frustration with the IRS process,” Sekulow’s organization reported. And the applications for the last three still are pending, some two years after the scandal erupted into the headlines.
The call for the independent prosecutor comes on the heels of stunning admissions from the federal government that thousands of emails from Lois Lerner, the IRS executive supervising the division that attacked the tea party groups, suddenly have been found.
Lerner twice refused to answer questions from Congress and eventually, after cashing in on an estimated $134,000 in bonuses, left the IRS.
At issue have been her communications with others about the targeting of conservative groups: who gave her instructions, who did she consult with, who did she give instructions to, and the like.
IRS officials previously had said that the hard drive for her computer was destroyed and the email messages were irretrievably gone.
However, before Congress just this week, IRS Inspector General Timothy Camus told the House Oversight Committee another 424 tapes possibly containing Lerner emails were found.
Camus also confirmed, “There is potential criminal activity.”
That prompted the ACLJ, which is been in the middle of the legal fight from the outset, to say enough is enough.
The legal team said the case has been going on “for years,” and the American people want justice because they understand the severity of a government agency attacking groups of citizens based on their beliefs.
The admission of a criminal investigation underscores the need for an independent prosecutor to uncover what actually happened, the ACLJ said.
Actually, several congressional committees continue to investigate the IRS misbehavior, which targeted organizations that were seeking to begin operating just as the 2012 president election approached.
They were almost exclusively organizations that would have advocated a message on social events and policy contrary to what President Obama was promoting in his campaign at that point. In 2013, the IG admitted the IRS repeatedly delayed action on the pending applications, asked intrusive questions of some groups, including about the content of their prayers, and even demanded of others for their members to promise, for example, not to protest against abortion businesses.
Camus said the newly uncovered emails, some 32,000 of them, were being analyzed.
The Justice Department also is investigating, but critics have little confidence in that agency, given its politicization of its own duties.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and Oversight Committee chairman, told the Washington Times the ongoing investigations undercut Obama’s claims last year that there was no evidence of corruption in the IRS’s targeting.
“I have no idea how the president came to such a definitive conclusion without all the facts,” he said.
As recently as a few weeks ago, the Obama administration was refusing to release publicly documents about the IRS targeting program.
And when a federal judge at one point dismissed the claims by the tea party groups, ACLJ officials promised to pursue appeals.
District Judge Reggie B. Walton said the claims were moot because the IRS took steps to address the scandal and “publicly suspended its targeting scheme.”
But the ACLJ’s Sekulow said, “It does not deter our efforts to seek justice for our clients.”
He pointed out that it was a violation of the groups’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection that the IRS inflicted with its secret targeting of their applications.