Albuquerque Tea Party granted tax-exempt status after 8 years

It’s taken nearly eight years, but the Internal Revenue Service finally granted tax-exempt status to a Tea Party group in what lawyers representing the group on Wednesday called a “major victory for free speech.”

Graham Bartlett, president of the local Tea Party, said he was informed about a month ago that the group's request was going through, The Albuquerque Journal reported.

The group filed its request in December 2009. Several months later, the IRS demanded more documentation concerning the organization's activities. The group complied, but then the IRS requested even more documentation. The Tea Party provided more than 1,000 pages of documentation about the group's activities. Eventually, it filed a lawsuit against the IRS.

"What I understand is the IRS was targeting any organization that had the name 'Tea Party' in it or the word 'conservative,'" Bartlett said. "We weren't the only ones."

In 2012, the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, filed a lawsuit against the IRS on behalf of the Albuquerque Tea Party as well as other conservative groups whose requests for tax-exempt status seemed to be put on hold during the Obama administration.

"The ACLJ is pleased to announce that after a long, arduous legal battle, our client, the Albuquerque Tea Party, has finally received their tax-exempt status – nearly eight years after originally filing their 501(c)(4) application," the organization said in a statement on its website Wednesday. "This is a major victory for free speech."

"The widespread and coordinated attacks against conservative groups like the Albuquerque Tea Party began in early 2010," the ACLJ said. "The IRS literally took their money and then ignored their application requesting tax-exempt status for eight long years.

"This is outrageous," the group said. “No organization should ever be forced to wait that long for a determination."

'This is outrageous.'

- ACLJ, in a statement

In 2015, a bipartisan review from the U.S. Senate's Finance Committee found management flaws at the IRS contributed to a "dysfunctional culture" that allowed agents to mistreat conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Both Bartlett and Moore said that since President Trump and the Republicans assumed power in Washington in January, there seems to have been a change toward a more equitable policy at the IRS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.