MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — A conservative group targeted by the IRS here is filing a lawsuit in federal court to force the tax agency, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) to comply with open records laws requests regarding communications the Democrats had with the IRS about targeting them.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire–which is being represented by national conservative legal group American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ)–seeks the communications IRS staff had with Shaheen, Shea-Porter, and their staffs leading up to wrongful targeting by the agency.
According to an early 2012 Roll Call article, Shaheen “spearheaded,” alongside Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), “letters to the IRS and the FEC” asking them to probe conservative groups.
Shaheen then joined several Democrats and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to pressure the IRS to “adopt a bright line test” to determine nonprofit groups’ legitimacy.
“First, we urge the IRS to adopt a bright line test in applying its ‘primary purpose’ regulation that is consistent with the Code’s 501(c)(4) exclusivity language,” Shaheen and Schumer, among other Democrats, wrote to Shulman. “The IRS currently only requires that the purpose of these non-profits be ‘primarily’ related to social welfare activities, without defining what ‘primarily’ means. This standard should be spelled out more fully by the IRS. Some have suggested 51 percent as an appropriate threshold for establishing that a nonprofit is adhering to its mission, but even this number would seem to allow for more political election activity than should be permitted under the law.”
The New Hampshire group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire says it has filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking communications between Shaheen and the IRS, and Shea-Porter and the IRS, about its tax status. The conservative group was one of the groups targeted by the Obama administration’s IRS.
But since the IRS hasn’t complied with FOIA laws, the group says, they had to file this new lawsuit.
“Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Shea-Porter have made a career out of hiding from Granite State families,” Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire spokesman Derek Dufresne said in a statement. “While their constituents are well aware of their refusal to hold town hall meetings, in order to further isolate themselves, these two elected officials have also called on the IRS to target organizations like ours to hinder our ability to highlight their failed records in Washington.”
Dufresne said that the IRS has been “stalling and surpassing deadline after deadline: for months “in order to delay the release of correspondences between their office and Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Shea-Porter.”
“Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire has been more than patient waiting for a response, but at this point, we believe that the only means to gain these documents is through litigation,” Dufresne said. “We look forward to working with the American Center for Law & Justice and appreciate their willingness to represent our organization in such an important case.”
ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said that having to file this lawsuit to get the IRS to comply with public transparency laws regarding its coordination with Shaheen and Shea-Porter to target conservative New Hampshire groups “is the latest in a series of actions by the IRS to interject itself into the election process – a move that reflects the unbridled arrogance of a tax agency out of control.”
“By refusing to release information between the IRS and a U.S. Senator and a Member of Congress in a timely manner in advance of next week’s election, the IRS is engaging in a deliberate campaign to prevent voters from gaining important information that could have an impact on the outcome of the election,” Sekulow said.
The revelation comes right before the final debate between Shaheen and former Sen. Scott Brown is set to begin. The debate is being hosted by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, a former “senior adviser” to former President Bill Clinton. Stephanopoulos has longtime personal and political ties to both Shaheen herself and her top campaign adviser, Mandy Grunwald.