Judge OKs $3.5M settlement between IRS, tea party groups

A judge this week approved a settlement between the IRS and hundreds of tea party groups, in which the federal agency agreed to pay out $3.5 million, reports said. 

The conservative groups were the subjects of illegal and unwarranted scrutiny by the federal agency for political purposes, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported

"It shows that when a government agency desires to target citizens based on their viewpoints, a price will be paid," said Edward Greim, a lawyer who led the class-action case in federal court in Cincinnati, according to the Washington Times.

The tea party groups received a "sincere apology" from the IRS, and the government agreed to a declaratory judgment that "it is wrong" to srutinize a tax return because of a taxpayer's name or political philosophy, the report said. 

"I'm not frankly aware of any other class-action lawsuit against the IRS for anything where the IRS paid money," Mark Meckler, who as president of Citizens for Self Governance funded the class-action challenge, previously told the Times when the settlement was submitted for final approval a few weeks ago. 

Lois Lerner, then-senior executive of the IRS, allegedly "put in place new processes that guaranteed even more delay," Greim told the Times, referring to tea party groups' attempts to secure tax-exempt status. 

But Lerner denied that she encouraged the targeting. In fact, a U.S. Justice Department review cleared her and called her one of the "heroes of the saga," saying she attempted to stop it, according to the newspaper. 

The litigation for Wednesday's settlement lasted about five years, the Times reported. 

The decision over whether Lerner's deposition explaining her behavior would be shielded from public view is still being argued in court, the report said. 

Conservative groups are reportedly calling for testimony to be unsealed.