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Conservative group takes IRS, top Obama officials to court

By Dana Bash and Alan Silverleib, CNN
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • American Center for Law and Justice file lawsuit against IRS, top Obama officials
  • ACLJ lawsuit on behalf of 25 groups targeted by the IRS
  • Lawsuit contends First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated
  • Lawsuit specifically mentions AG Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, among others

Washington (CNN) -- A prominent conservative legal advocacy group sued top Internal Revenue Service and Obama administration officials on Wednesday, claiming the constitutional rights of 25 organizations were violated when the IRS targeted conservative outfits seeking tax-exempt status.

The Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice argued in a federal district court filing that the organizations' First Amendment free speech rights and Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated, among other things. The group also contends that the IRS violated its own regulations.

The filing by the ACLJ -- founded by televangelist Pat Robertson -- asks the court to rule that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, and IRS official Holly Paz all acted unlawfully.

In addition, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Miller, Lerner and Paz for "implementing, directing, and overseeing the unconstitutional conduct."

It asks the court to force the immediate granting of tax-exempt status to several groups still waiting for the IRS to act on their applications.

"The overreach by the Internal Revenue Service is not only extremely disturbing but it is unconstitutional as well," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said.

"An out-of-control IRS is problematic on a number of fronts, but this ongoing scheme to target conservative organizations is unlawful and represents a serious breach of trust for the American people," he added.

"The federal lawsuit is significant and is intended to bring an end to this ploy of intimidation and hold those responsible inside the Obama administration accountable."

Multiple congressional panels are currently investigating the targeting.

The Justice Department has also launched an investigation of whether laws were broken by IRS workers using a list of criteria including names such as "tea party" to determine levels of scrutiny for groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Other groups have also filed or plan to file related suits against the IRS.

CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report

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