The IRS on Thursday settled two lawsuits alleging the agency illegally targeted conservative groups under the Obama administration.
One of the settlements stipulated the IRS issue a formal apology for illegally signaling out conservative and tea party groups due to their political beliefs dating back to 2013.
The other settlement, a class-action lawsuit brought by the NorCal Tea Party with 428 members, includes a “generous” multi-million dollar payout, according to a lawyer involved.
“There is no excuse for this conduct,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS.”
According to Fox News, Sessions said groups seeking tax-exempt status with names including “Tea Party” or “Patriots” were given the rigmarole “based solely on their viewpoint or ideology.”
Sessions said the illegal targeting that took place under the Obama administration’s watch “was wrong and should have never occurred.”
“It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions,” he said.
“We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated,” he added.
Court documents show the IRS issued a “sincere apology” for its conduct toward conservative groups.
“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TIGTA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong,” the IRS said in court documents.
“For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”
The court documents signaled out former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner for “failing” to stop her employees from illegally targeting conservative groups.
Lerner, along with many of her direct reports at the IRS, resigned or retired from the agency over the scandal, according to Fox News.
The attorneys for the groups involved in the class action settlement said it was “a great day for the First Amendment,” while noting the IRS apology “was too long in coming.”
“The Government’s generous settlement with the Class Plaintiffs fully vindicates their claims that the IRS targeted Tea Party and conservative groups based on their viewpoint,” Eddie Greim, the lead counsel for the conservative groups, told Fox News.
“However, like Lois Lerner’s stated apology back in 2013, any recent so-called ‘apology’ by the IRS has little value. That is because the Service continues to suggest that its targeting was really just ‘mismanagement,’” Greim said.
Tom Zawistowski, the founder of two Ohio groups that were part of the lawsuits, told the Cincinnati Enquirer he was relieved to finally receive a formal apology from the IRS.
“Good God, yes – this is so sweet,” Zawistowski said. “It’s been a long slog to get to this point … and we even held out in the one case until the IRS actually apologized.”
President Donald Trump announced Thursday that Lerner’s replacement, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, would be replaced by Treasury Department assistant secretary for tax policy David Kautter on Nov. 13.
Kautter will serve as interim IRS commissioner until a permanent commissioner is selected, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Bloomberg in a statement.
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