POLITICS: PennAve

Conservative group adds defendants to IRS lawsuit

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True the Vote – one of the conservative groups the IRS singled out for special scrutiny when it applied for tax-exempt status – updated its federal lawsuit this week against the IRS, adding the agency Chief Counsel William Wilkins, a presidential appointee, and five other ranking officials as defendants.

The Texas-based group founded to combat elections fraud argues that the IRS targeted it for scrutiny because it is aligned with other conservative groups and trains volunteers to monitor elections and take issue with suspicious voter registrations.

“This lawsuit is the only way to get all the answers involving this national scandal,” True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement. “Our goal is not a speed settlement or a quiet Washington deal. We will sue, depose and expose every person who came near this illegal scheme to suppress voters’ First Amendment rights. The American people – not just True the Vote – deserve answers.”

In its suit against the IRS, it originally named Attorney General Eric Holder and Ronald Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for Washington; former IRS Commissioner Steve Miller; former Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Lois Lerner, the woman who oversaw the IRS division that singled out conservatives. In addition, it named the four IRS officer the group had dealt with over the three years its application for tax-exempt status has been pending.

The lawsuit additions come after Congressional Republicans last week uncovered new evidence that Wilkins, the IRS’ chief counsel, was directly involved in seeking more information about the political activities of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

The president appoints two IRS officials, and the chief counsel is one of them. Republican congressional investigator uncovered the new revelation during the closed-door testimony of Michael Seto, who was in charge of a unit that advised front-line aents on processing applications for tax exemptions.

The House Ways and Means Committee released excerpts of Seto’s testimony last week detailing how the instruction to send Tea Party applications to the chief counsel’s office came from Lerner, who formerly directed the IRS’s exempt organizations office but has since pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination and is refusing to testify before Congress.

Cleta Mitchell, counsel to True the Vote and of counsel to ActRight Legal Foundation said adding Wilkins as a defendant will assist True the Vote in learning “just how far this scandal extends in Washington.”

“Mr. Wilkins is one of only two presidential appointees in the IRS and participated directly in developing extensive and intrusive questionnaires of nonprofit applicants,” she said. “Base on recent congressional testimony [and reports of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or TIGTA], all road currently lead to Wilkin’s office, an Obama appointee.”

The lawsuit also names Seto, as well as Holly Paz, Steve Grodnitzky, David Fish and Cindy Thomas as defendants. Seto, Paz, Grodnitzky and Fish were all directors or occupied positions of management within Washington D.C. IRS offices during the targeting of conservative, non-profit applicants.

In addition, True the Vote added Cindy Thomas to the suit. Thomas is the program manager, the highest position at the IRS determinations unit in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the TIGTA report, Thomas worked directly with the Washington, D.C. Officials to implement and supervise the targeting plans at the Cincinnati IRS office.

True the Vote initially filed suit in May, asking the court to grant its long-delayed tax-exempt status and seeking damages for the unlawful targeting of the IRS in the processing of its application. ActRight Legal Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and public interest law firm, represents the group in the lawsuit.

The group’s amended filing includes a new count of IRS employees and senior leaders violating key aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits federal employees from violating constitutional rights and exceeding their authority in carrying out their official duties.

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