After IRS Scandal, Tea Party Groups Eye the Courtroom

PHOTO: IRS employees exit the US Internal Revenue Service building at the end of the day in Washington, DC, March 20, 2012.
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What is the next step for the tea party groups who feel they were unfairly scrutinized by the Internal Revenue Service? For many of them, it may be lawsuits, against the IRS.

Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said the group will be bringing a lawsuit on behalf of many of those groups next week.

"It's the logical next step," he said.

"The admission and apology by the IRS that the criteria used [in tea party applications] was not correct and inappropriate" is grounds for a suit, Sekulow said in an interview with ABC News because groups he represents are "still getting letters requesting information," and he believes, "if we don't file suit we won't bring an end to this."

ACLJ represents 27 tea party organizations that feel they were unfairly targeted by the IRS. Ten of the groups ACLJ represents still have pending applications to get tax-exempt status, while 15 did receive tax-exempt status.

ACLJ is preparing a lawsuit against the Department of Treasury and the IRS on behalf of at least 17 of those groups, Sekulow said -- and more groups, possibly even potential new clients beyond the 27 the ACLJ currently represents, could be added.

Sekulow said he plans on filing the suit this week.

"We are going to focus on a lack of standards and the treatment they were given and the wrong criteria utilized, much of what was in the IG report," Sekulow said.

Other government officials might be added to the suit, he said, including IRS agents named in the documents and department heads.

Who's Considering Suing?

One of the groups included under the ACLJ umbrella is the Linchpins of Liberty, which the president Kevin Kookogey told ABC News was set up as an educational initiative to provide high school and college students a grounding in conservative political philosophy. He said the group was singled out by the IRS for extra scrutiny, will "absolutely" be part of the ACLJ's suit and "fully intend to file" this week. The group's application for tax-exempt status is still pending and it has been "27 months and counting," according to Kookogey.

Larry Nordvig, the executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, wasn't as sure as Kookogey, but said the group was considering joining the suit and working with the ACLJ, as well. There is "more of a chance we will engage in legal action" after a congressional hearing on the matter Friday, he said, because he didn't feel like he got any answers. The Richmond Tea Party was approved for tax-exempt status in July 2012 after first filing for it in 2009.

Tom Zawistowski of the Ohio Liberty Coalition was at the congressional hearing Friday, when acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. He is also working with the ACLJ and will most likely be part of the group that files suit. He said he was both "disturbed" and "grossly insulted" by the hearing calling it "a really sad and pathetic attempt to defend heinous activity."

"This is an application, this isn't an audit," Zawistowski said, referring to the long and detailed questionnaires his group was asked to fill out. "You were auditing us before we did anything."

The group's application for tax-exempt status was approved in December 2012 after first applying in June 2010.

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