The Tea Party settlement

Finally, after four and a half years, harassment of conservative groups by the Obama IRS is put to rest, with the media downplaying the story.

A William McGurn column in the Wall Street Journal, November 21, stated that IRS-Tea Party litigation has been settled.  A New York Times story on October 27, 2017 reported that the government, in one lawsuit involving 428 groups, "agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement" and that, in a second lawsuit comprising 41 groups, damages will not be paid, "but the I.R.S. acknowledged its conduct was wrong." 

It is not clear why the matter dragged on four and a half years.  The original Times report on the front page, May 14, 2013, quoted President Obama stating that revelations "that the Internal Revenue Service has singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny" were "outrageous" and "completely contrary to our traditions."  It is fair to ask: If the former president was indeed so outraged by partisan performance at the IRS, why didn't he order an immediate end to the practice and compensation to the politically aggrieved?  But it is the Trump administration that settled the lawsuits.

The Consent Order Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, the lawsuit with 41 plaintiffs, includes a Declaratory Judgment:

49. The Court hereby declares that it is wrong to apply the United States tax laws, including any and all tax rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and standards of review, to any tax-exempt applicant or entity based solely on such entity's name, any lawful positions it espouses on any issues, or its associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position, or viewpoint.

51. The Court hereby declares that discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint in administering the United States tax code violates fundamental First Amendment rights[.]

In a statement announcing settlement of the two lawsuits, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated:

But it's now clear that during the last Administration, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to screen applications for 501(c) [tax-exempt] 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 government was being run. It is also clear these criteria disproportionately impacted conservative groups[.] ... 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.

And yet the Times and the Treasury Department bureaucracy still tried to excuse this conduct, desperate to deny that conservative groups had been singled out for IRS harassment.  The Times story went on the assert, "The Treasury Department's inspector general reported that the I.R.S. had also targeted groups with liberal and progressive leanings[.]"  The Times did not mention that Appendix IV of the September 28, 2017 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration could find only ten organizations that seemed "to be liberal/progressive leaning groups based solely on name[.]"  The number of plaintiffs in the two lawsuits comprises more than 450 politically active groups, who suffered, quoting from the Declaratory Judgment, "discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint," the sort of thing that happens under repressive regimes.

If the IRS had not singled out conservative groups for enhanced scrutiny and harassment, would Lois Lerner be trying to keep her testimony under wraps?

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