The government apologized to Tea Party groups on Thursday, after it was finally proven that the IRS illegally targeted the organization with intrusive scrutiny per a damning April 1, 2011, email from IRS official Elizabeth C. Kastenberg.
Kastenberg, who worked in the agency’s exempt organizations division, sent out the missive, stating it was explicitly the Tea Party organization’s politics that landed its groups on a target list that singled them out for audits.
“These cases are held back primarily because of their political party affiliation rather than specifically any political activities,” Ms. Kastenberg wrote in an alert to other IRS employees, including her supervisor.
The email was released last month as part of a massive document dump in a class-action lawsuit filed in Ohio by hundreds of conservative groups who were targeted for extra review and intrusive questioning.
It contradicts the IRS’s official narrative claiming that while conservative groups were wrongly scrutinized, it was a result of their behavior, not their politics.
Edward Greim, the attorney for the NorCal Tea Party Patriots and hundreds of other groups that are part of a class-action lawsuit, is now agreeing to settlements with the government.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Obama-era IRS officials owed the groups an apology after years of poor treatment and a stubborn refusal to admit to what really happened. He placed blame on “the last administration,” saying the targeting that went on under President Obama “was wrong and should never have occurred.”
One of the settlement agreements, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., officially admits that the IRS singled out groups because of their political beliefs, in defiance of the law. The other settlement, in a class-action lawsuit in Ohio, includes a “generous” payout to more than 400 groups, according to a report in The Washington Times.
“There is no excuse for this conduct,” Sessions said in a statement. “Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS.”
As of Thursday morning, however, the groups said they had yet to get such an apology.
“A true reckoning is finally up to the agency itself. Until the IRS itself steps forward to admit what really happened, we cannot have faith that the same abuse won’t be repeated again,” said Greim.
Transcripts of testimony from former senior IRS executive Lois G. Lerner and employee Holly Paz remain sealed because they fear for their safety if it were to be released.
The vast majority of groups began to see long delays, intrusive questioning, and other illegal scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status as either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations beginning in 2009.
Tom Zawistowski, head of the Portage County Tea Party in Ohio, said Lerner should have faced criminal charges for her role, which court documents filed earlier in the case indicate involved her trying to shield the activity by changing names while approving and intensifying scrutiny the conservative groups were given.
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