The NorCal Tea Party Patriots, a northern California-based advocacy group, sued the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for allegedly breaching its federal privacy rights and the rights of like-minded organizations.
The IRS has acknowledged that employees in its Cincinnati office targeted for special review groups seeking tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations that were also advocates for limited government and free markets.
President Barack Obama has called the conduct “outrageous.” Four congressional committees are reviewing the matter and acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller resigned.
“Under pain of denial of tax-exempt status, the IRS and its agents singled out groups like NorCal Tea Party Patriots for intensive and intrusive scrutiny,” the group alleged today in a complaint filed at the U.S. court in Cincinnati.
The IRS probed the group members’ associates, speech, activities and beliefs, according to the complaint. Those actions, which began in 2010, allegedly violated the U.S. Constitution and laws permitting the agency to retain only those records “relevant and necessary” to accomplish its purpose.
The agency is accused of requesting information to which it wasn’t entitled and then using it for intimidation and delay based on a group’s viewpoint.
“The IRS has no immediate comment,” an agency spokesman, Dean Patterson, said of the lawsuit today by phone. The agency generally doesn’t comment on pending litigation, he said.
Groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names received tougher questioning and had longer delays than others in a practice that the IRS acknowledged May 10.
NorCal Tea Party Patriots, based in Colfax, California, describes itself as a non-profit and non-partisan social welfare group advocating fiscal responsibility, limited governance and free markets.
It seeks group status for “all conservative and libertarian groups targeted for additional scrutiny” between March 2010 and May 2013, together with unspecified money damages for the alleged violation of their constitutional rights and costs of compliance with the unlawful demands.
The case is NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. The Internal Revenue Service, 13-cv-00341, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati).
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