Politics

ACLJ files suit against IRS on behalf of 25 tea party groups, more could follow

The conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on behalf of 25 tea party groups over IRS targeting Wednesday.

“The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups,” ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said. “As this unconstitutional scheme continues even today, the only way to stop this flagrant and arrogant abuse of our clients’ rights is to file a federal lawsuit, which we have done.”

The lawsuit names Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, IRS’ Tax Exempt Division Director Lois Lerner, Office of Rulings and Agreements Director Holly Paz, and “unnamed” IRS officials as defendants.

The suit comes as Washington is in the midst of four investigations into the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.

ACLJ charges that the Obama administration violated the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the IRS’ own regulations, and calls for a declaratory judgment that the Obama administration unlawfully delayed and obstructed the organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status.

The suit further calls for injunctive relief to protect the organizations from further IRS attacks or possible retribution, as well as punitive monetary damages to be determined later.

ACLJ is suing some of the officials named in the suit not only in their official capacity, but also their individual capacities, including Miller (who is only named in his individual capacity), Lerner, Paz, and the “unnamed officials.”

“We are trying to get to individual accountability because these people made individual choices to violate the Constitution in intentionally targeting these groups,” ACLJ senior counsel David French explained to The Daily Caller in an interview. “The scale of the targeting and the deliberateness of it is unlike anything I have seen in almost 20 years of litigation.”

French added that down the road, if the court awards the organizations compensatory and punitive monetary damages, the individual defendants would likely be responsible to pay.

French said that he expects ACLJ will likely engage in additional action over the targeting as more conservative groups seek their assistance.

“I do expect future litigation,” he said. “We are receiving contacts from groups that are just now beginning to tell us their stories and we’re following up on all the contacts that we get.”

He noted that there could be additional lawsuits or more parties added as plaintiffs to the suit filed Wednesday.

Of the 25 groups the ACLJ is representing, 13 received their tax-exempt status after long delays; 10 continue to wait for an answer; and two withdrew their applications due to the IRS’ process.

Follow Caroline on Twitter