D.C. Circuit: IRS Must Face Lawsuit Over Non-Profit Targeting

“So, yes, the president was saying – two months after the news broke – that the whole IRS thing was just a ‘phony scandal.’” That’s a tidbit passed along by Kim Strassel in her much-talked-about new book, The Intimidation Game. It references the scandal over Internal Revenue Service targeting of Tea Party and “patriot” groups for delay and for bizarrely burdensome documentation demands concerning their personnel and activities. Although President Obama offered what seemed to be heartfelt apologies at the time, and a couple of top officials departed the agency (including director of nonprofit organizations Lois Lerner, who had taken Fifth Amendment protection), there was soon an effort to recast the affair as a matter of merely incompetent mix-ups, rather than a lapse of public integrity and the rule of law. In June a Washington Post editorial took this line, to which I responded by pointing out that the discriminatory handling of groups with adversary political viewpoints was so systematic and intense as to be hard to explain by mere inadvertence.

On Friday morning, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion (PDF) ordering the reinstatement of a suit against the IRS by two conservative groups, True the Vote and Linchpins of Liberty, seeking a court order against future IRS abuse. The IRS had sought the dismissal of the action as moot, arguing, in best let’s-move-on manner, that it had ceased the unlawful targeting and remedied its effects. Not so, the court said: not only had the IRS not given adequate guarantees that it would not resume improper targeting, but there is evidence that it hasn’t even stopped the practice. 

The D.C. Circuit opinion abounds in scathing language about the Service’s misconduct (it is “plain … that the IRS cannot defend its discriminatory conduct on the merits,” there being “little factual dispute” about it). You can read my write-up of the case at Ricochet, which might help you stay ahead of the news: as of this morning, four days after the court’s ruling, some large news organizations have still not seen fit to report on it.