Judicial Watch Sues IRS for Tea Party Scandal Records
OCTOBER 15, 2013
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on October 9, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)) against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asking the District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the agency to produce records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) non-profit status since January 1, 2010. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the IRS to provide records of communications by former IRS official Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process.
The lawsuit comes in response to the refusal of the IRS to comply with four FOIA requests dating back to May 2013. Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records from its initial three FOIA requests, filed on May 20, 2013:
- Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the number of applications received from organization seeking tax exempt status under 501(c)(4).
- Any and all record concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and members of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
- Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any other government agency regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
- Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any office of the Executive Branch regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4).
- Any and all records concerning, regarded, or related to the preparation of questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status;
- Copies of any questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
On May 22, 2013, Judicial Watch submitted a fourth FOIA request seeking the following:
- Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with other IRS employees regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations;
- Any and all communications concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with any government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations.
The Judicial Watch FOIA requests came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.
Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, refused to testify at a May, 2013, hearing before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight Committee, demanding immunity concerning her role in the targeting scandal. Eventually, the agency acknowledged that while she was in charge, IRS agents improperly targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012. Lerner retired from the IRS on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports.
“The Obama IRS suppressed the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “One of the most pressing questions, of course, is ‘What did the president know, and when did he know it?’ We know that former IRS Commissioner Doulas Shulman and his political aide, Jonathan Davis, visited the White House hundreds of times during the Obama IRS witch hunt. This may help explain why the IRS is now stonewalling our FOIA requests and forced us to go to federal court. This major FOIA lawsuit is designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal.