Tea party groups sue IRS, saying they were "punished"

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On behalf of 25 tea party organizations, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a lawsuit today against several Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Obama administration officials, asking for monetary compensation and a guarantee that conservative groups won't be targeted again.

Among the six legal violations ACLJ cites, chief counsel Jay Sekulow explains how the "unconstitutional scheme" to "abuse" conservative groups' rights can end with a federal court ruling in their favor.

"Americans are not going to be bullied and intimidated by our government," Sekulow said in a statement. "They will not be subjected to unconstitutional treatment and unlawfully singled out and punished because of their ideological beliefs. Those responsible for this unprecedented intimidation ploy must be held accountable."

ACLJ lists its defendants as Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller and IRS Office of Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz. Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who led the agency when the targeting controversy began, was not listed among the defendants.

The included 25 groups applied for 501(c)4 status, but 10 remain without approval. The IRS approved 13 of these applications after "lengthy delays" and two withdrew after "frustration" with the agency, according to an ACLJ press release.

"[Federal government] unlawfully delayed and thereby effectively denied approval of Plaintiffs' applications for tax exempt status by means of a comprehensive, pervasive, invidious and organized scheme that purposefully established unnecessary and burdensome inquiries and scrutiny of Plaintiffs' applications based solely upon Plaintiffs' political viewpoints," the lawsuit reads.