Federal Judge Dismisses Tea Party Lawsuits Against IRS

A federal judge has sided with the IRS against the Tea Party (gasp!) in their lawsuits alleging that the revenue agency wrongly targeted right-wing groups for added scrutiny of their applications for non-profit tax-exempt status. Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, dismissed the lawsuit, and now, True the Vote and Linchpins of Liberty, along with dozens of other organizations, need to appeal, or tuck tail and go back from whence they came.

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation decried the decision, saying to The Daily Signal:

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“It’s a disappointing ruling because it basically leaves targets of bad behavior by the IRS without a remedy.”

Perhaps. The Heritage Foundation leans rather far to the right, so one has to wonder what they’d say if these were liberal groups suing the IRS for the same thing. However, the ruling didn’t come from any liberal leanings, or liberal interpretations of the law and the IRS’ job. Rather, they came from the fact that the IRS did eventually grant these groups tax-exempt status. Judge Walton decided that rendered their case moot. Had the IRS held them up for years, and then denied them their tax-exempt status, the situation would likely be different.

There’s more to it, however. The investigation into what happened to Lois Lerner’s emails in 2011 is still going on. The Hill reported earlier this year that Judge Walton also said that True the Vote provided no evidence that the IRS had intentionally destroyed those emails. They disappeared in 2011 after a hard drive crashed, and have been the subject of intense scrutiny. Indeed, many have speculated that Lerner and the IRS intentionally destroyed those emails to cover up wrongdoing.

The Tea Party groups also failed to prove that they’d suffer irreparable harm if he ruled against them. Furthermore, the groups asked to have an independent investigator go in and find out what happened. The Hill says that Judge Walton felt the problem with appointing an independent, third-party investigator was that doing so would put confidential taxpayer information at risk. Because the Tea Party groups couldn’t prove they had a compelling interest that warranted such a risk, Walton ruled against them there, too, instead deferring to the inspector general currently carrying out this investigation.

The Daily Signal reports that other Tea Party members are dismayed by the decision, too. The founder of True the Vote said she was stunned, saying that the idea of the IRS being allowed to hold up applications for years based on their political leanings is “reprehensible.”

However, what this boils down to is that Judge Walton feels the plaintiffs’ case had already been resolved by the time they went to court, so the court had no grounds to render a decision. To read all of Judge Walton’s opinion, click here.


Featured image by Matthew Bisanz. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike via Wikimedia Commons

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