[EDITOR'S NOTE: CNSNews.com originally published this story on March 23, 2012. Yesterday, Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division overseeing non-profit groups, admitted at an American Bar Association conference that during the 2012 election cycle the IRS targeted about 75 conservative groups to see if they were violating their non-profit status. The IRS targeted these groups, according to an AP report on Lerner's statements, because their applications for tax-exempt status included the words "tea party" or "patriot." Lerner blamed the targeting of the conservative groups, according to AP, on "low level workers in Cincinnati." "The IRS would like to apologize for that she said."]
(CNSNews.com) - Landmark Legal Foundation sent a letter on Friday to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration requesting an investigation to determine whether officials with the Internal Revenue Service have engaged in misconduct in dealing with applications from Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
“Landmark Legal Foundation requests an immediate investigation into possible misconduct by the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organization (EO) Divisoin that calls into question the integrity of federal tax administration and IRS programs,” said the letter signed by Landmark President Mark Levin.
“Recent media reports indicate that the EO Division is using inappropriate and intimidating investigation tactics in the administration of applications for exempt status submitted by organizations associated with the Tea Party movement,” Levin wrote.
As CNSNews.com reported earlier this month, the American Center for Law and Justice, which says it represents nearly 20 Tea Party organizations nationwide, put out a statement on March 7 complaining about what it perceived to be improper treatment of Tea Party groups by the IRS.
"This appears to be a coordinated attempt to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violates the First Amendment," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement.
"These organizations have followed the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades,” Sekulow said. “The problem here is the IRS has gone beyond legitimate inquiries and is demanding that these organizations answer questions that actually violate the First Amendment rights of our clients.”
“This intimidation campaign is as onerous as what the IRS did to the NAACP in the 1950's and is simply unacceptable,” said Sekulow. “We will aggressively defend our clients and are prepared to take the IRS to court if necessary."
In his letter to the inspector general, Landmark’s Levin said that the types of inquiries the IRS was making of Tea Party groups were inappropriate.
“The information demanded in many cases goes far beyond the appropriate level of inquiry regarding the religious, charitable and/or educational activities of a tax exempt entity,” said Levin.
“The inquiries are not relevant to these permitted activities,” Levin wrote. “Inquiries extend to organizational policy positions and priorities, personal and poltiical affiliations, and associations of staff, board members and even family members of staff and board members.”
“Finally,” said Levin, “reports that Tea Party-related organizations are being singled out for the IRS’s intrusive inquries raises serious questions about the propriety of the personnel involved in the evaluation of tax exemption applications.”
Landmark Legal Foundation also asked the inspector general to “determine whether the relevant IRS employees are acting at the direction of politically motivated superiors.”
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration provides “independent oversight of IRS activities.”