Something’s in the air.
Lately, things that have been buried are coming up once again in the national conversation. First, Bill Cosby was exposed for his harmful actions against women, erasing his title of America’s favorite father. Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct, long excused and forgotten, is once again making headlines. (Who would have predicted that 73-year-old Juanita Broaddrick would join Twitter and finally receive the respect she deserves?)
The new Michael Bay film “13 Hours” brought national attention back to Benghazi, educating many Americans about Hillary Clinton’s epic, tragic failure. And the most recently released batch of Hillary’s infamous emails show that she, in fact, was trying to subvert the law.
Remember the Internal Revenue Service case? The one that dominated headlines, because it was one of the most egregious and ugliest examples of government overreach that has happened in our lifetimes? Well, most people think the IRS targeting scandal is dead and buried — at least so far from people’s thoughts that it’s no longer significant. Yet it, too, is coming back.
And it’s coming back with a vengeance.
On Jan. 12, an Ohio court took a giant step toward truth and accountability when a federal judge certified a class-action lawsuit by conservative groups who were targeted by the IRS because of their point of view.
My organization, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) funded the lawsuit on behalf of the NorCal Tea Party Patriots in May 2013 to combat the stunning abuse of power by the Obama administration. CSG has nothing financial to gain in this case. We fund it because it’s the right thing to do. Someone had to stand up for the patriots who had been targeted, abused and discriminated against by their own government.
In fact, the IRS has admitted at the highest levels to targeting, harassing and intimidating Tea Party, Christian, pro-Israel and other conservative groups. Senior IRS officials perpetrated the abuse, which was purportedly facilitated by the White House, congressional Democrats, and a cooperative mainstream media perfectly willing to look the other way.
The lawsuit represents more than 200 affected groups, but really it represents the American people. The First Amendment is the bedrock of this nation, and the government’s intimidation has undermined the ability of ordinary Americans to express themselves freely and participate in the democratic process.
The lawsuit — the only class-action lawsuit against the IRS — is the only IRS case still going strong. In July 2014, Judge Susan Dlott allowed key portions of the filing to proceed, including a claim that the federal government violated the First Amendment (by targeting and viewpoint discrimination) and Section 6103 of the U.S. Code (which protects confidential taxpayer return information).
Then, in September, the IRS requested to conduct discovery on our organization, but Judge Dlott wasn’t amused. “My impression is the government probably did something wrong in this case. Whether there’s liability or not is a legal question,” she said. “However, I feel like the government is doing everything it possibly can to make this as complicated as it possibly can, to last as long as it possibly can … .”
This recent decision strengthened the case even more, because it gives the plaintiffs and their attorneys the chance to move on to discovery on the merits and ask the IRS what many would if they had the opportunity: What were you doing when you refused to approve the tax exempt status of Tea Party groups in a timely manner? And, while we’re at it, why would you target patriotic Americans?
It will be gratifying to see the attorneys ask the hard questions and demand answers, because government abuse is only beginning to come to light. Citizens deserve to know who — and at what level of the Washington establishment — made these decisions. Also, this lawsuit would recover damages for organizations that were harmed by the IRS, including losses from intimidation of supporters and donors; needless accounting, personnel time and other professional fees expended in order to comply with unreasonable, intrusive and intentionally detailed, irrelevant demands; and punitive damages for organizations that were damaged or did not survive the intimidation and illegal scrutiny. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. This lawsuit can send a message now to the other power-hungry governmental organizations hell-bent on trying to harass ordinary citizens.
There’s an old saying among lawyers: In America, you always have your decade in court. Well, nearly three years after it started, we’re thrilled that this case against the IRS is not over.
In fact, it’s stronger than ever, and the facts of the government’s abusive tactics have only begun to come out.
That’s the thing about truth. It has a way of emerging, no matter how hard you try to hide it.
• Mark Meckler is the founder of Citizens for Self-Governance.