CINCINNATI - In what could be the first of multiple lawsuits over the rapidly unfolding IRS scandal, centered squarely in Cincinnati, the American Center for Liberty and Justice in Washington, D.C., plans to file a lawsuit “in the coming days.”
And the Liberty Township Tea Party plans to be among the group’s plaintiffs.
A spokesman for the ACLJ said the organization is determining what type of suit will be filed and what damages the group’s plaintiffs will seek.
But the lawsuit definitely will name the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and “other government officials” as defendants, said Gene Kapp, an ACLJ spokesman.
Liberty Township Tea Party board member Tim Savaglio said that group has sent its information to the ACLJ and is going through the process to formally join the suit.
At issue was the improper targeting of conservative groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriots” or “9/12 Project” in their name that had applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status around two election cycles. The practice apparently started in March 2010, according to an audit written by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The scandal became national news after Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS office tasked with reviewing applications for tax-exempt status, acknowledged May 10 that the agency had given greater scrutiny to hundreds of groups with those conservative terms in their names.
Lerner’s acknowledgement ignited a political firestorm that continues to rage. Congressional hearings will continue Tuesday and Wednesday and IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was forced to resign. President Barack Obama has promised a full inquiry and insists he learned about the practice from news reports.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed. It likely will focus on potential civil rights violations or those related to the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of government workers.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ office has noted that Ohio law, section 2921.45, also makes it illegal for a civil servant to interfere with the civil rights of others. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor.
The scandal has been focused on the IRS Cincinnati office, which determines which organizations are qualified to be tax-exempt. Some organizations waited more than two years and provided reams of additional information before getting their status approved.
The Liberty Township Tea Party has been waiting for more than three years for approval and still doesn’t have it. The audit notes that the IRS' goal for closing tax exempt status cases was 121 days in fiscal year 2012.
The ACLJ continues to hear from groups that want to be included in the lawsuit, Kapp said.