WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The American Center for Law and Justice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 25 conservative organizations in federal court. The lawsuit accuses Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and the IRS of targeting Tea Party groups in a “pervasive” and “organized scheme.”
The lawsuit seeks a “declaratory judgment” against Holder, Lew and top IRS officials, stating they, “unlawfully delayed and obstructed Plaintiffs’ applications for a determination of tax-exempt status by means of conduct that was based on unconstitutional criteria.”
“The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, said in a written statement.
The lawsuit states that the government’s treatment of the applications violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the IRS’s rules and regulations.
The ACLJ represents a total of 25 organizations in the lawsuit, with additional groups likely to be added as it progresses. Of the 25 groups, 13 organizations received tax-exempt status after prolonged delays, with 10 still pending, and two having withdrawn applications because of frustration with the IRS.
Additionally, the ACLJ states it has letters signed by Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations, which suggest her personal involvement in sending invasive questionnaires to 15 of the listed conservative groups in March 2012 — nine months after she was told about the scheme and promised to halt such activity.
The IRS contends that the targeting scheme originated with a couple of “rogue” IRS agents out of the Cincinnati, Ohio office and argues that the abusive conduct has since been stopped.
Conservative groups from across the country are named in the federal lawsuit, among them: Allen Area Patriots of Lucas, Texas, Unite In Action of Livonia, Mich., Greenwich Tea Party Patriots of South Jersey, and the Shelby County Liberty Group of Sidney, Ohio.