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Doubling down

"Doubling down" Continued...

Issue: "Inside the wire," March 22, 2014

What will happen if the new regulations take effect? Most of those intrusive IRS questions will become fair game, and 501(c)(4) organizations will be tasked with keeping meticulous records of “candidate-related political activity,” even when no candidate is mentioned. Some groups may choose to shut down or opt for 527 status, but those unwilling to disclose donors may gravitate to another loophole: corporations. Thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, organizations could form a corporation and, although they would have to pay taxes on income, they would not have to disclose donors.  

Meanwhile, Sekulow’s 41 clients are forging ahead with a lawsuit against the federal government and individual officials involved in the targeting, including Lerner—who abruptly retired in September—in a case that may end up at the Supreme Court. The Justice Department in December filed a motion to dismiss the suit, and ACLJ filed its response in mid-February.

Kookogey said the lawsuit can only do so much to repair the damage: Although he wasn’t politically engaged, many of the targeted 501(c)(4) groups were prevented from raising money that could have altered the 2012 election. “That’s done. You can’t go back and unring that bell,” he said. “There isn’t enough money in the world that could ever account for the harm.”

Timeline

Jan. 21, 2010
U.S. Supreme Court issues Citizens United ruling, lifts limits on political donations for corporations and labor unions.

March 2010
IRS agents identify first 10 tea party cases for extra scrutiny.

Aug. 9, 2010
President Obama publicly warns of groups like Americans for Prosperity influencing elections.

June 29, 2011
Lois Lerner learns of conservative targeting.

Shulman
Carolyn Kaster/AP
Shulman
March 22, 2012
Then-IRS head Douglas Shulman tells Congress the IRS is not targeting groups based on political views.

June 14, 2012
Treasury Department official mentions “off-plan” 501(c)(4) project in email to IRS staff, including Lerner.

May 10, 2013
Lerner apologizes for improper scrutiny of conservative groups.

Holder
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Holder
May 13, 2013
Attorney General Eric Holder says FBI will work with DOJ to “see if any laws were broken.” 

May 14, 2013
Treasury Department’s inspector general issues report on “inappropriate” IRS scrutiny of conservative groups. 

Obama
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images
Obama
May 15, 2013
Obama calls IRS abuse “inexcusable” and pledges not to let it happen again. Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller resigns. 

May 22, 2013
Lerner invokes Fifth Amendment right not to testify before Congress.

May 29, 2013
ACLJ files lawsuit for 25 targeted organizations (16 more later joined).

June 4, 2013
Six witnesses testify before Congress about IRS targeting.

Lerner
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Lerner
Sept. 23, 2013
Lerner retires.

Nov. 29, 2013
IRS proposes restrictive guidelines for 501(c)(4) organizations.

Feb. 2, 2014
Obama says there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.

Feb. 6, 2014 
Catherine Engelbrecht tells House subcommittee of 15 visits from five federal agencies after filing nonprofit application.

Feb. 27, 2014
House passes the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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