The emerging controversy over how the Internal Revenue Service applied greater scrutiny to conservative groups is headed to federal court in Washington.
A Texas-based conservative group called True the Vote, Inc. filed suit Tuesday against the IRS in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint for declaratory action against the agency echoes revelations last week that the IRS used political criteria to target conservative groups for extra scrutiny on applications from tax-exempt organizations.
True the Vote says the IRS targeted its application—which has been pending for three years—because of the its political affiliation with Tea Party organizations. The group wants a judge to declare the IRS policy of targeting groups unconstitutional and enjoin the agency from the behavior in the future.
The lawsuit, filed by prominent Republican election law attorney Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the Washington office of Foley & Lardner, also asks $1,000 in damages for each unauthorized inspection of the group’s return information. The case was assigned today to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who has served on the federal trial bench since 2001.
The lawsuit claims the IRS employees engaged in other discriminatory conduct toward applicants for were perceived to hold philosophical views contrary to those held by the Obama administration. The complaint cites a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report issued last week that found the IRS used inappropriate criteria to target Tea Party groups.
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced May 14 that he had ordered a criminal investigation into whether the IRS had broken any laws. Lawyers say the scandal could lead to big changes in how the IRS regulates the political activity of tax-exempt organizations.
True the Vote, which seeks to ensure voter integrity, became controversial during the 2012 presidential elections when it mounted hundreds of pre-election challenges to voter rolls in targeted areas and swing states. While many look at that as protecting the integrity of elections, others, including Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have said it might border on voter suppression.