It’s astonishing – truly mindboggling – a gross abuse of power.
The Obama Administration is actually blaming conservative groups for complying with abusive and unconstitutional demands for information. To make matters worse, the Administration is threatening to publicly release reams of unlawfully obtained information – information the IRS unconstitutionally demanded from conservative groups as part of the IRS targeting scandal.
It’s a Mafioso-style shakedown of conservatives unfolding right before our eyes, just as millions of Americans file their tax returns with the corrupt IRS.
Here’s what happened:
The IRS says it has stopped targeting the tea party — but three years later, the tax agency is still holding on to the sensitive information it pried from the conservative groups through invasive questions, and officials are even vowing to make the answers public.
Groups caught up in the scandal say that is proof the targeting is continuing, and they want the IRS to expunge the information or, at the very least, to make sure it is never released. . . .
Questions included such sensitive information as the names of all financial contributors; lists of family members, details of their political affiliations and speculation about their plans to run for office; and details of organization members’ outside jobs.
Groups were even told that they must detail members’ private communications with their local legislators or any contact with reporters. . . .
Some tea party organizations, advised by their attorneys, refused to comply. Others figured that the IRS had the upper hand, so they turned over the information despite misgivings.
That’s right. The IRS bullied conservative groups into turning over information that the IRS had absolutely no right to – in fact the demands for information were unconstitutional. But now the Obama Administration is threatening these targeted groups once again. The Orwellian targeting continues.
At the ACLJ, we advised our numerous clients not to comply with these unlawful information demands, but what about others who didn’t seek help. These are ordinary Americans seeking to make their communities better, following the law. They had no recourse and the government that was supposed to protect them defiled their sacred trust, abused its power, and now seeks to double down on the reprehensible behavior by publicizing to the world unlawfully obtained personal information.
If that’s not enough, read the actual legal response filed by President Obama’s Justice Department:
"The IRS expressly advised plaintiff that, if the application were approved, the IRS ‘will be required by law to make’ the ‘information that you submit in response to this letter available for public inspection,’" administration attorneys said. "Plaintiff still submitted the information to the IRS to support its application, knowing that if it were granted, the information would be subject to public inspection."
Blame the victim. Rake them over the coals again. This is an absolute injustice.
The federal government should serve the public, not entrap law-abiding patriotic citizens in a labyrinth of unconstitutional demands, bullying tactics, and public extortion.
Tomorrow we will be in federal appeals court on behalf of 38 of these targeted groups – fighting for their constitutional rights against the most outrageous and unconstitutional abuse of government power by a partisan, politically corrupt bureaucracy in years.
As we’ve explained before:
As the facts alleged in our Complaint (as well as the findings and determinations issued by federal investigative bodies including Congress and TIGTA) make clear, the IRS simply cannot demonstrate at this point with absolute clarity that the unconstitutional violations it committed have fully ceased and will not occur again. Crucially, the fact that the IRS has such wide-ranging authority “only serves to heighten a reasonable expectation of a repeat violation.”
Most importantly, however, and directly contrary to the district court’s opinion dismissing the case, is the fact that the targeted organizations continue to suffer the chilling effects of the Targeting Scheme on their First Amendment rights to the freedoms of speech and association.
We will continue fighting in court to ensure that the First Amendment rights of all Americans are upheld and that those who are responsible for this grievous violation of the Constitutional are held responsible. This travesty must never happen again.
We will not rest until there is justice for these targeted patriotic Americans and until those responsible for this extreme abuse of power are held accountable.
Matthew Clark is Senior Counsel for Digital Advocacy with the ACLJ and Contributing Editor at RedState. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.