Judge orders IRS to clear tea party application backlog within month

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to finally clean up the tea party targeting mess, giving the tax agency less than a month to decide on a handful of applications that are still pending more than three years after officials first admitted they were targeting the conservative groups and subjecting them to intrusive scrutiny.

The IRS also must file a brief detailing the steps it has taken to prevent further targeting and to make sure the tea party groups don’t face any more fallout from the stigma of having been singled out in the first place, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said in an order issued late Friday.

Judge Walton ordered final decisions on two applications that have been pending for years and said four other groups that had withdrawn their applications amid the unconstitutional targeting can resubmit and the IRS must decide on those, too, by Nov. 11.

The Albuquerque Tea Party, which filed its application in December 2009, has been waiting nearly seven years. Unite in Action, a Michigan-based group, applied in 2010.

Judge Walton called that “an exorbitant period of time” and said the IRS should have been able to act once it admitted it was targeting the groups.