President Donald Trump’s administration settled two class action lawsuits filed by conservative “Tea Party” groups alleging former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice discriminated against them due to their ideological commitments.
The DOJ reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with over 400 conservative groups that had their applications for tax exempt status delayed “based solely on their viewpoint or ideology,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday.
“The [Internal Revenue Service]’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday. “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.”
The Trump administration reached a settlement in two separate cases, one including 41 groups and another filed by 428 plaintiffs.
The targeting scandal emerged in 2013 after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report exposing the intentional delay of tax exempt status applications filed by conservative groups. The bombshell report sparked widespread media coverage and multiple congressional investigations.
This ideologically motivated screening process applied to groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their name and other organizations that explicitly opposed government spending.
Court documents reveal the IRS admitted wrongdoing and apologized for the nefarious conduct.
“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong,” the IRS said in court documents. “For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”
The settlement comes days after the House Judiciary Committee released internal Obama DOJ emails, that revealed the agency selectively funneled big banks’ predatory lending settlement money to liberal non-profits to the exclusion of conservative organizations.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer celebrated the victory in a statement to Fox News Thursday, but complained about the IRS’ lack of transparency.
“The Government’s generous settlement with the Class Plaintiffs fully vindicates their claims that the IRS targeted Tea Party and conservative groups based on their viewpoint,” lead counsel for the conservative groups, Eddie Greim, told Fox News in an email. “However, like Lois Lerner’s stated apology back in 2013, any recent so-called “apology” by the IRS has little value. That is because the Service continues to suggest that its targeting was really just ‘mismanagement.’”