CINCINNATI (CN) – A Tea Party Patriots group filed a federal class action against the IRS, claiming the tax agency singled out it and others for scrutiny “based upon their names or policy positions.”
The NorCal Tea Party Patriots sued the IRS, the Department of the Treasury and Does 1-100 in Federal Court.
The plaintiffs, based in Colfax, Calif., sued in Cincinnati, presumably because that’s where the scrutiny of class members’ requests for tax-exempt status began.
Specifically, the scrutiny allegedly came in the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreement Office’s Determinations Unit in Cincinnati.
“NorCal has, from time to time, been comprised of a six-member board of directors, including its chairman/secretary, Virginia (‘Ginny’) Rapini, who associated together in a corporate, tax-exempt form to maximize the effectiveness of their expression,” the complaint states. “As discussed below, the Internal Revenue Service exceeded the bounds of the United States Constitution and the Privacy Act of 1974 in deciding to charge a special ‘price’ to Mrs. Rapini and her associates because of their decision to join their voices together. That price was two-fold: a lengthy and costly delay in recognition of their tax-exempt status, and the required disclosure of the personal political beliefs, writings, thoughts, and activities of Mrs. Rapini and her associates in Norcal.”
The plaintiff claims in the complaint that it is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization: “Its purpose is expressive – to support and conduct non-partisan research, education, and informational activities to increase public awareness of legislation and legislators. Its mission is three-fold: (1) fiscal responsibility; (2) constitutionally limited government; and (3) free markets.”
The complaint adds: “Beginning in or about March 2010, the Determinations Unit began singling out for special scrutiny requests for tax exemption for groups identified as ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Patriots,’ ‘912 Project,’ and applications involving political-sounding names that seemed to identify with the Tea Party, such as ‘We the People’ or ‘Take Back the Country.’
“These criteria were later expanded to single out groups whose issues included government spending, government debt, or taxes.
“Groups dedicated to educating the public by advocacy/lobbying to ‘make America a better place to live’ were also singled out.
“Also singled out for special scrutiny were groups who had a statement in the case file criticizing ‘how the country is being run.’
“The IRS’s knowledge that this discrimination was illegal is evidenced by their scheme to keep the people’s duly elected representatives in the dark about it. When members of Congress asked IRS officials whether the IRS was singling out conservative or libertarian groups for different treatment, the IRS officials provided misleading and deceptive responses to conceal the scheme. Further, the White House denied any knowledge of the IRS targeting conservative or libertarian groups until April or May of 2013. …
“On May 14, 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report entitled, ‘Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review’ (hereinafter, ‘IGR’). …
“There is no evidence that liberal or ‘progressive’ political groups or groups supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama or the election of Democrats were singled out for special scrutiny. Indeed, a May 15, 2013 Washington Post analysis of the IRS public database of nonprofit organizations showed that groups with the word ‘progressive’ in their names ‘suffered no similar slowdown pattern,’ and their number of approvals ‘increased each year from 17 in 2009 to 20 in 2012.’
“The IGR identifies 296 applications singled out for review based on the groups’ name or conservative or libertarian political views. Other reports suggest the number may exceed 500. Only through discovery will the full scope of this discrimination be identifiable. …
“Once forwarded to the specialist for greater review, the organization was subjected to unreasonable delays and often harassing, illegal, and discriminatory demands for private information.
“The intent of the IRS to focus on view point discrimination is further evidenced by the fact that from March 2010 until July 2011 the IRS simply referred to these cases as the ‘tea party cases.'”
(Citation to Washington Post URL omitted.)
The plaintiff claims: “The IRS engaged in a tactic of suffocating NorCal Tea Party Patriots and other similarly situated groups with requests that were so searching and extensive that they would have presented a serious challenge even for sophisticated businesses.”
The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment, destruction of any and all records obtained illegally, corrective training for IRS officers, monetary damages and costs.
They are represented by David Langdon of West Chester, Ohio.
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