President Barack Obama's rhetoric toward conservative nonprofits inspired the Internal Revenue Service to target Tea Party groups, a broad lawsuit against the IRS alleges.
“The president of the United States gave the IRS a road map to investigate the tea party in the United States,” David French, senior counsel to the conservative American Center for Law and Justice told TheBlaze.
President Barack Obama works the rope line following a speech at the Ford stamping plant in Liberty, Mo. , Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. (AP)
The ACLJ is representing 41 Tea Party and patriot groups from 22 states, claiming the IRS committed unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by blocking or delaying their applications for tax exempt status. The suit does not name Obama as a co-defendant, but includes him in the narrative of what led to the alleged abuses from the agency.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint this week, and provided a timeline arguing that Obama, congressional Democrats and even the mainstream media (none of whom are named as co-defendants) helped pressure the IRS to take action violating the First Amendment rights of Tea Party groups. The timeline shows actual IRS action that followed rhetoric.
“It's difficult to imagine the president of the United States didn't at least know about this prior to the emergence in the media in May 2013,” French said. “The IRS actions closely resemble the president's public exhortations. He accused these citizens groups of taking foreign money. That's just demagoguery.”
The lawsuit gives several examples from 2010, the year the Tea Party caught fire and when the IRS' extra scrutiny is said to have started.
On Aug. 21, 2010, during his weekly address, Obama said, “This summer, they’re also seeing a flood of attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names. We don’t know who’s behind these ads and we don’t know who’s paying for them.”
He continued, “You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation. You don’t know if it’s BP. You don’t know if it’s a big insurance company or a Wall Street Bank. A group can hide behind a phony name like 'Citizens for a Better Future,' even if a more accurate name would be 'Corporations for Weaker Oversight.'
On Sept. 16, 2010 in Stamford, Conn., Obama warned of conservative nonprofits: “None of them will disclose who’s paying for these ads. You don’t know if it’s a Wall Street bank. You don’t know if it’s a big oil company. You don’t know if it’s an insurance company. You don’t even know if it’s a foreign-controlled entity.”
A Sept. 21, 2010 story in the Huffington Post headlined, “Obama, Dems Try to Make Shadowy Conservative Groups a Problem for Conservatives” reported that senior administration officials “urged a small gathering of reporters to start writing on what he deemed the most insidious power grab that we have seen in a long time.”
A day after that story was published, Obama spoke at a Democratic fundraising event in New York and warned about the groups again.
“They pose as non-for-profit, social welfare and trade groups,” Obama told Democratic donors. “Every single one of them, virtually, is guided by seasoned, Republican political operatives.”
French said the 41 groups will be seeking relief for monetary damages, as well as a punitive judgment from what he said was IRS abuse. The amount of compensation the groups are seeking will be determined later, he said.
“These groups were unable to raise funds,” French said. “There were sizable grants they missed and multiple expenses mounted over multi-years of targeting. For 41 groups, there is a high degree of difficulty and compensation.”
Further, he said many of these Tea Party groups were targeted in swing states, where the vote was suppressed for the 2012 election.
“It's unknowable what impact it had on the election,” French said. “To say it had no impact, of course it had an impact. We do know it suppressed turnout and was a grave constitutional violation.”
The plaintiffs' complaint states: “The White House, congressional Democrats and the liberal media increasingly criticized the IRS for allowing conservative groups to exercise their First Amendment rights as tax exempt organizations and demanding that for those groups, the IRS should adopt more rigorous standards than applied to, for example, the Barack H. Obama Foundation.”
It continues, “IRS employees, including political employees to the IRS, eager to please their benefactors or kindred spirits forced plaintiffs applications into a Byzantine process, harassed them and systematically deprived them of their right to engage in constitutionally protected speech.”