How do liberals feel now?
After years of mocking tea party-types for believing that government is out to get them, left-leaning Americans found out that the tea party wasn't just being paranoid. We now know the IRS has used a different set of rules on conservative political groups applying for 501(c)(4) status.
Organizations set up as 501(c)(4)s are allowed to engage in political activities and publish political information, but they cannot be involved in political campaigns. Since tea party groups and other conservative organizations tend to focus on issue advocacy, such as reducing government spending or cutting taxes, instead of elections, a 501(c)(4) status is a natural fit.
As early as March 2010, the IRS began singling out conservative groups applying for tax exemption, according to a leaked inspector general's report that will be released later this week. This move began a scandalous series of bad behavior and discriminatory deeds on the behalf of the IRS that made it nearly impossible for tea party and other limited government and conservative groups to receive their tax exempt designations.
By the summer of 2010, IRS managers directed its specialists to "be on the lookout for tea party applications" and "various local organizations in the tea party movement" applying for tax-exempt status. In particular, groups with "Tea Party," "Patriot" or "9/12 Project" in their names were subjected to onerous scrutiny that slowed down their applications for tax-exempt status tremendously.
The IRS admitted to deliberately stalling the 501(c)(4) application process of at least 75 groups, including the Chattanooga Tea Party. Mark West, the president of the organization, noted that the Chattanooga Tea Party filed its application for tax exemption in 2009 and was met with a series of improper questions and inexplicable delays.
While most organizations receive 501(c)(4) designation within six months, according to the Houston Chronicle, the Chattanooga Tea Party's tax-exempt status wasn't granted until earlier this year, nearly four years after the group's leaders first applied.
On Monday, facing whispers that his administration has encouraged the IRS effort to target conservative groups that may oppose his policies, President Barack Obama called the scandal "outrageous." "There's no place for it," Obama told reporters.
Those are strong words, but imagine how much stronger they would be if, instead of conservative organizations, the groups the IRS targeted were women's outfits or minority organizations. The president wouldn't calmly address the issue as part of a news conference. Heads would be rolling and pink slips would be flying. No one involved in the disparate treatment of the organizations would be left standing.
This disgusting episode is just further proof that there's something to the belief that conservative groups aren't playing on a level playing field. From difficulties receiving event permits from local governments to being harassed and impeded by the IRS, there's no doubt that tea parties, 9/12 organizations and patriot groups often face unfair standards.
The government should work to ensure that all people — and all groups — receive equal treatment under the law. Instead, it seems that the IRS has bent laws to make sure that conservatives have a harder time than other Americans.