Federal appeals court says it does not trust IRS in Tea Party cases
A federal judge said the IRS isn’t to be trusted as he and his colleagues tried Thursday to figure out whether the tax agency is still targeting tea party groups for intrusive and illegal scrutiny.It appears the votes are there to reverse the lower court ruling dismissing the cases brought by Tea Party groups against the IRS. I think justice requires that the case be reversed. The IRS and teh DOJ have made some bad faith efforts to suppress discovery in these cases and they should be required to produce the documents and let the cases proceed.
Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said there is strong evidence that the IRS violated the constitutional rights of the groups when it delayed their nonprofit status applications and asked inappropriate questions about their political beliefs.
The agency’s insistence that it has retrained employees and instructed managers to behave better did not mollify the judges, who said past IRS behavior doesn’t lend itself to the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust,” Judge Sentelle said.
IRS officials acknowledged they erred but said the problem was bad training and confusion about a 2010 Supreme Court decision, not an intent to target groups for political purposes. The agency says it tried to follow all nine of the inspector general’s regulations for cleaning up its act.
“IRS responded enthusiastically,” said Judith A. Hagley, the Justice Department lawyer representing the IRS.
The judges Thursday were not convinced.
“How much has really changed?” said Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg.
A lower-court judge sided with the IRS, saying that since most groups were approved, the targeting has stopped. That judge tossed the cases, saying they were now moot.
But the tea party groups pointed to a report last year by the Government Accountability Office that said conservative nonprofit groups were still more likely to face follow-up audits from the IRS, evidence that political targeting was continuing.