Ses­sions apol­o­gizes to ‘tea party’ groups

‘Abuse of power will not be tol­er­ated,’ AG de­clares

The Arizona Republic - - Az Politics - ALIA BEARD RAU

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion this week apol­o­gized to hun­dreds of “tea party” groups — in­clud­ing the Greater Phoenix Tea Party — for how the IRS treated them dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

More than 400 groups were part of two law­suits al­leg­ing the IRS vi­o­lated their con­sti­tu­tional rights by sin­gling them out based on their po­lit­i­cal views and cre­at­ing ad­di­tional hur­dles to achieve tax-ex­empt sta­tus.

This week, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed to a set­tle­ment in the law­suits, which in­cluded pay­outs for some of the groups and an apol­ogy. It’s not clear how much money the groups would re­ceive, though the New York Times re­ported that one of the law­suits re­sulted in a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar set­tle­ment.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said in a state­ment that the IRS used “in­ap­pro­pri­ate cri­te­ria” to screen ap­pli­cants for tax-ex­empt sta­tus dur­ing the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle, in­clud­ing tar­get­ing names such as “tea party” and “pa­tri­ots.”

“The IRS’s use of these cri­te­ria as a ba­sis for height­ened scru­tiny was wrong and should never have oc­curred,” Ses­sions said in his state­ment. “It is im­proper for the IRS to sin­gle out groups for dif­fer­ent treat­ment based on their names or ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tions.”

Ses­sions said the groups de­serve an apol­ogy from the IRS. He said he hopes the set­tle­ment makes it clear that such an “abuse of power will not be tol­er­ated.”

Ed­die Greim, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the tea-party groups, said in a state­ment that the set­tle­ment was “too long in com­ing.”

“At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ses­sions rightly calls this an ‘abuse of power,’ “Greim said in a state­ment. “The plain­tiffs de­serve an apol­ogy from the IRS. But not even a court can force the IRS to apol­o­gize or ad­mit to its wrong­do­ing.”

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, was co-founder and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party. She said when the group ap­plied for non-profit sta­tus, it was “met with the most vile form of po­lit­i­cal abuse.”

She said apolo­gies are not suf­fi­cient. “Apolo­gies are best left for kinder­garten,” she said. “True ac­count­abil­ity should be ex­acted upon this agency. I want to see in­dict­ments.”

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said in a state­ment that the IRS used “in­ap­pro­pri­ate cri­te­ria” to screen ap­pli­cants for tax-ex­empt sta­tus dur­ing the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle.

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