The Department of Justice, righting the wrongs that the Obama IRS committed when it waged an egregiously partisan campaign against Tea Party and other conservative groups, has reached settlements with the roughly 400 groups that were targeted.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision that affected groups whose tax-exempt status was significantly delayed by the IRS dating back to 2013, “based solely on their viewpoint or ideology.” Not only will the groups be paid, but the IRS has offered an apology.
Sessions said that groups with names involving “Tea Party” or “Patriots,” or groups that argued policy positions concerning government spending, were subject to “inappropriate criteria” to “screen” applications. He stated, “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.”
Court documents reveal that the IRS apologized in this fashion:
The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TIGTA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.
Eddie Greim, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, told Fox News: “The Government’s generous settlement with the Class Plaintiffs fully vindicates their claims that the IRS targeted Tea Party and conservative groups based on their viewpoint. However, like Lois Lerner’s stated apology back in 2013, any recent so-called 'apology' by the IRS has little value. That is because the Service continues to suggest that its targeting was really just ‘mismanagement.’”
Greim added, “This story was dismantled in our case. For taxpayers to be truly confident that the IRS has changed, it needs to be truthful about its past abuse of power.”
Sessions’ full statement below:
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.