True the Vote, a leading voters' rights organization, has filed suit in federal court against the Internal Revenue Service following disclosures that the IRS has been targeting the tea party and other conservative groups for scrutiny.
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The suit filed in Washington on Tuesday asks the court to grant True the Vote its long-awaited tax exempt status, and seeks damages "for the unlawful actions by the IRS in the processing of its application for exempt status," the organization said in a press release.
ActRight Legal Foundation, a 501(c)3 fundamental rights and public interest law firm, represents True the Vote in the lawsuit.
"We've been waiting for three years to receive a decision from the IRS about our tax exempt status," True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said in the release.
"After answering hundreds of questions and producing thousands of documents, we're done waiting. The IRS does not have the power to pocket veto our application. Federal law empowers groups like True the Vote to force a decision in court — which is precisely what we aim to do."
Cleta Mitchell, counsel to True the Vote and of counsel to ActRight Legal Foundation, stated: "We are not going to allow the IRS to claim, as it has been doing in the past week, that the targeting of conservative groups is over and 'everything has been fixed.' It is not yet fixed and this litigation is a vital step both to resolve True the Vote's status and to learn exactly what happened inside the IRS."
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on May 14, Mitchell — who represents six groups that claim they were targeted — said she has tangible proof that high-ranking IRS officials in Washington were fully aware of the agency's campaign to target conservative groups for heightened scrutiny.
Mitchell said she was told by a Cincinnati IRS agent that applications by two of her conservative clients were being processed by — and would ultimately be approved or denied in — Washington.
She also said she doesn't believe the president or the White House was uninvolved in the IRS activities, as the administration has claimed.
The True the Vote release states that one count of the lawsuit seeks "recognition of True the Vote as a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization pursuant to 26 USC § 7428."
A second count seeks "damages and injunctive relief from the IRS and IRS employees and agents, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for violation of True the Vote's constitutional rights by virtue of the actions of the government in unlawfully targeting and delaying recognition of True the Vote's exempt status."
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A third count asks for injunctive relief against the IRS and IRS employees for their "unlawful intrusions" into True the Vote activities by requiring the filing of "voluminous materials with the IRS, then unlawfully inspecting and potentially disseminating the information."
Dr. John Eastman, Chairman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and of Counsel to ActRight Legal Foundation, said: "This is just the first of several cases ActRight Legal Foundation plans to file against the IRS and those within the agency who have violated the constitutional rights of these citizens' organizations.
"ActRight Legal Foundation has established an IRS Litigation Fund to support the suits against the IRS. We are asking for assistance from concerned citizens nationwide to help pay the costs of bringing these cases, which will help us learn the truth about what the IRS has been doing to conservative, non-partisan organizations and patriotic American citizens."
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