After five years of litigation, conservative groups throughout the country are finally getting revenge on the IRS for its political targeting.
The legal battle began in 2013 when the IRS was found to be delaying the approval of nonprofit status for groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in the title. The targeting began in 2010 and affected more than 400 organizations.
Groups faced inappropriate scrutiny and were forced to wait months, sometimes years, to achieve nonprofit status. One group in New Mexico battled with the IRS for eight years.
In 2015, the Obama Justice Department said it found “mismanagement” within the IRS but no wrongdoing. Lois Lerner, who led the IRS office that handled applications for tax-exempt status, was not prosecuted.
Documents involved in the class action lawsuit settled this week clearly show that Lerner was aware of the targeting and took steps to guarantee further delays.
Lerner says she did not encourage the targeting, and the testimony in which she defends her actions remains sealed. Lerner claims her life would be in danger if the public sees what she said. According to her lawyers, Lerner is still receiving death threats over the matter.
In the meantime, the IRS has agreed to pay $3.5 million to groups that were wronged by intrusive inspections and delays. After legal costs, more than 100 conservative groups will get $17,000 each.
"The $3.5 million settlement will allow these groups to be compensated for what happened to them," says attorney Dane Martin. "These are small grass-roots organizations, and that money can go a long way. That's really exciting for them.”
The IRS has promised to make policy changes to prevent political targeting in the future, but many fear the targeting scandal could happen again.
“I’m a hundred percent it could happen again,” says Mark Meckler, who as president of Citizens for Self Governance funded the class action challenge against the IRS.