The newly amended tea party lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service names seven additional defendants, including IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, who did legal work for Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, once pastored by firebrand Rev. Jeremiah Wright, formerly the church of Barack Obama, until he left the church during his presidential campaign.
The American Lawyer reported in May 2008 that attorneys for Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr won dismissal of an IRS case against the church regarding a speech that Obama gave that year at the church’s 50th anniversary. Churches are prohibited under tax exempt law in backing political candidates.
Wilkins was quoted in The American Lawyer story saying, “We were so interested in the case we offered to do it pro bono.”
Obama appointed Wilkins, who was also former Democratic staff counsel on the Senate Finance Committee during the 1980s, to be IRS general counsel job in April 2009.
The partisan past for Wilkins and others did not weigh on the plaintiffs decision to name them as co-defendants, said David French, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing 41 tea party and patriot groups in 23 states.
“Each person has a nexus to the actual facts of viewpoint discrimination,” French told TheBlaze. “It was a decision of the IRS to target people for their viewpoint. It doesn’t matter if it was motivated by ideology. It doesn’t matter if it was motivated by cultural differences. Viewpoint discrimination is unconstitutional.”
The other new co-defendants named in the amended lawsuit are former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman; IRS director of Affordable Care Sarah Hall Ingram, and other IRS senior officials in the tax exempt division Joseph Grant, Nikole Flax, Michael Seto and Judith Kendall.
House Oversight and Goverment Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., cited Ingram, Flax and Kendall of improperly using their private e-mail accounts to discuss confidential taxpayer information. Ingram, who testified to the committee earlier this month, visited the White House 165 times.