AUSTIN, Texas — True the Vote, a Houston, Texas-based non-profit organization focused on “voters’ rights and election integrity,” has appealed a U.S. District Court’s order dismissing their lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Breitbart Texas has learned. The lawsuit had alleged that the IRS had improperly delayed granting True the Vote’s application for 501(c)(3) status and targeted them as a conservative organization, but the opinion, issued by Judge Reggie B. Walton in October, found that the IRS had taken sufficient “remedial steps to address the alleged behavior.” In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas, True the Vote representatives shared why they believe their appeal is valid and represents an important issue for conservative grassroots organizations to follow.
“The IRS targeting scandal is not over and neither is our effort to seek justice in the federal courts,” said True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht in a statement provided to Breitbart Texas. “Since the dismissal, ‘lost’ emails specific to our case have been found and assertions that the agency changed its ways have yet to prove true by any verifiable manner. Until the Court fully addresses the IRS’ wrongdoing, the risk of future political abuses without consequences will only compound.”
In 2010, True the Vote filed an application for 501(c)(3) status, which is the section of the IRS code conferring tax-exempt status on qualifying non-profit organizations. As Breitbart Texas reported, years went by without the application being approved, while Engelbrecht and King Street Patriots, another tea party group with which Engelbrecht was affiliated, found themselves facing invasive demands for records and information from not only the IRS, but also the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
After news broke in May 2013 that the IRS admitted they were targeting the 501(c)(3) applications from conservative organizations for “special scrutiny,” True the Vote filed suit against the IRS, and that September, finally granted True the Vote’s application. When it was revealed in July 2014 that the emails from Lois Lerner’s computer had been allegedly “lost” in a hard drive crash, True the Vote filed a motion seeking emergency discovery, to obtain documents and other evidence on an expedited basis due to concerns about spoliation of evidence.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas, True the Vote communications director Logan Churchwell said that this lost evidence was crucial to their case. Churchwell said that the IRS opposed the emergency discovery request, presenting the testimony of three computer experts who all said that Lerner’s emails were “lost to the universe” and not recoverable. Judge Walton denied the emergency discovery request, and True the Vote expected that the case would then move into a regular discovery process. However, to their surprise, the court then dismissed the case entirely, skipping the discovery issue entirely and holding that the issue was now moot because True the Vote had their 501(c)(3) status and the IRS had promised they had reformed their procedures.
Churchwell told Breitbart Texas that their main concern was that the IRS’ promises of reform were nothing but empty words. “We have a concern over ongoing and future injury especially given the widespread and long term discrimination by the IRS against conservative groups,” he said. “We haven’t seen any changes in policy. [Instead] we are seeing a culture in the IRS that constantly wants to grow its power and influence into further speech policing.”
“Our goals and political beliefs have not changed,” added Churchwell. “What’s the risk it’s going to happen again, to us or the next guy? Where’s the actual evidence that this isn’t going to happen again?”
True the Vote’s Notice of Appeal was officially filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday, December 18. The IRS has a short period in which to file their objections. Breitbart Texas will continue to follow this story.
[Disclosure: Prior to joining True the Vote, Churchwell was previously the Breitbart Texas assignments manager. Rumpf was previously employed by Foley & Lardner, one of the law firms representing True the Vote.]
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.