published Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

IRS scrutiny not taboo, but appropriate

Why shouldn't the tea party have to answer questions posed by an Internal Revenue Service charged with collecting the very taxes that tea party folks so vehemently protest?

Tea party supporters claim their groups — seeking tax exemption with a 501(c)(4) status — are being politically harassed with extensive questionnaires. Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West said the IRS "stonewalled and delayed" and asked "inappropriate" questions of his fledgling group and others like it in the state and nation.

On Friday, the Internal Revenue Service apologized to tea party groups and other conservative organizations for overzealous audits of their applications for tax-exempt status. The agency admitted to singling out nonprofit applicants with the terms "tea party" or "patriots" in their titles.

The question that should be asked is whether similar profiling terms are being used on Republican, Democratic and far-left groups. That would be fair. And, as hard as it is to give the IRS a pat on the back, that questioning is appropriate.

The New York Times reported more than a week ago that the IRS plans this year to press existing nonprofits like American Crossroads on the Republican side and Priorities USA on the Democratic side to justify their tax-protected status as "social welfare" organizations, a status many tax professionals believe is being badly abused.

Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, said questioning tax exemption applicants to determine if they are primarily political is entirely proper and should be more widely pursued.

"We don't think it's inappropriate to ask questions," she told the New York Times. "Tax-exempt groups are abusing their tax status to pursue political agendas."

Under current law, tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations are supposed to be "primarily" engaged in social welfare work. These groups are allowed to to participate in politics, so long as politics do not become their primary focus. Technically, they must spend less than 50 percent of their money on politics. In practice, some spend virtually all their efforts trying to sway elections and acting more like political action committees. The difference is they don't have to disclose their donors in the same way PACs do, so a donor looking to influence an election without revealing his or her identity will send his or her cash to the 501(c)(4).

So the IRS should do its job: Ask questions and look for proof. Just do it fairly, and at least right now there seems to be no proof that scrutiny hasn't been fairly applied. Yes, the IRS says it looked for profiling keywords like "patriot." Perhaps for a liberal group they would look (or have looked) for "progressive."

After all, unlike the long-established Democratic and Republican parties, the upstart tea party movement is new. Born as an ultra-right splinter group of the Libertarian Party, the tea party -- called partly conservative, partly libertarian and partly populist — began sponsoring protests and candidates in 2009.

Everyone knows the government can't do anything in less than five years, so of course IRS is still asking questions of tea party leaders.

By the way, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the events in question occurred while the IRS was under the directorship of a Bush administration appointee. The IRS is an agency run independently of White House oversight. The matter already is under investigation by the IRS inspector general.

But here's the real fallout of this flash-in-the-pan story: It gives Republicans a new round of distractions to throw at the Obama administration, and it gives them a chance to fuse some the cracks between its traditional GOPers and the upstart, out-of-touch tea party movement.

In a news conference Monday, Obama was quick and decisive on the IRS distraction.

"This is pretty straightforward. ... If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported ... and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it." Those responsible, he said, will "be held fully accountable."

Meanwhile, the tea party -- which takes every opportunity to thumb its nose at taxpayer-funded anything — will have accomplished a good bit of taxpayer spending while whining that it has to answer too many questions about what it does with millions, maybe billions, of dollars raised from donors — completely tax exempt.

What irony.

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AndrewLohr said...

The tea party began as a splinter of the Libertarians? I'm glad there are enough of us to splinter. A party that's never elected a Congressman swung, what, 50 seats in A.D. 2010? And (from NR) someone googling liberals can's find them by goodling "patriot"?

The Tea Party is the responsible wing of the GOP, for I give you Bernard Shaw: Reasonable people adjust to the way things are. Unreasonable people refuse to adjust. So all progress depends on unreasonable people. If there's a similar corrective wing to the Democratic party, challenging the status quo's drift to disaster, I'd like to hear of it. (Accelerators abound, of course.)

May 14, 2013 at 1:23 a.m.
Facts said...

Madame, There's a difference between an even-handed application of standards and regulations and targeting. The IRS admitted to tareting Jewish groups, the Tea Party-like organizations, and those teaching the Constitution.

It's great to see you stand proudly as the political leftist that you are that despises America's foundation.

May 14, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.
gjuster said...

You really ought to learn about the Tea Party - you know nothing about it. Nah - knowledge would just get in your way of demonizing.

May 14, 2013 at 7:57 a.m.
marshwill said...

Among the self-evident truths on this matter is: IF they had been treating organizations of liberal/progressive persuasions equally and evenly with those of conservatives, we would have heard a simultaneous apology to all the groups and not just conservative groups.

May 14, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
gjuster said...

All groups not treated equally. A very liberal local group that supports this President received their IRS approval in a year or less without the intrusive questions. They applied two years after the Tea Party - and received their approval well before the TP. In addition, it was retroactive - the IRS is not allowing the CTP to be retroactive. I firmly believe this came from the very top. This administration outdoes the Nixon Administration in the cover ups and enemies list. And I'm old enough to remember the Nixon years well. This editorial writer needs to do a little research before prostrating herself for the "cause". It's not whining when you are right.

May 14, 2013 at 9:26 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

The author is an idiot. The IRS was asking for membership information. Much more than an apology is in order. Heads need to role.

May 14, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.
nowfedup said...

The reality that NONE want to discuss in any civilized manner is the whole "Education" bit on the tax exempt is a huge scam, another good ole boys "wink nod, but we are just following the laws". There is NO "Educational" thing anywhere in these groups on BOTH sides. The core issue the hypocrites on both sides are getting huge amount of money to buy, electioneers, tea party is as bad as rest of extremes. REAL world is elected passed this garbage to hide huge amounts of money, who gave it, etc. The LAW is the real issue, and it needs to be repealed now. But that would require a lot more integrity then elected and supporters will ever have. So let's stop all the spin self righteous indignation,whines on "how terrible we were targeted blah blah. Supporters/elected KNOW the whole thing is phoney, meant to buy elections. Want "educational" concentrate on moving USA from near bottom of education lists, not this Bill that is as phoney as those who whine about it, integrity folks, remember that "quaint" value, then end the farce or shut up.

May 14, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.
klifnotes said...

Of course, most chattanoogans will never dig deeper than what's fed to them. However, if anyone just took time to do a little research, you'd better understand why tea party and some other so-called conservative groups raised the scrutiny of the I.R.S. The I.R.S. received so many applications for 501(c(4) tax exempt status under the headings tea party and patriot that it raised suspicion, and they were bound to begin flagging such request. It had nothing to do with targeting conservative groups because a liberal is in the White House.

excerpt:

" The number of 501(c)(4) applications more than doubled to over 3,400 in 2012, compared to 1,500 in 2010. The abnormally large number of applications was a red flag to the IRS."

Then there's the *whine about the AP investigation? Someone, perhaps insider{?} allegedly released classified information about a foiled terrorist attack to the associated press, where a passsenger jetliner was supposedly heading to the U.S. from another country.

Also, according to a blogger, excerpt:

"Department was investigating AP due to the false Press Release stating that the President had been killed which sent the market down 500 or 700 points instantly. The report was false of course--thank goodness, but if anyone had "shorted" the market at that precise time...??? Is this a matter for the Justice Department? You decide."

So all this false indignation and why y'all pickin' on us is just another diversionary rightwingNUT tactic

May 14, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.
gabender said...

Even the Washington Post was quick to condemn the IRS for targeting conservative political groups. But the Times editor thinks it's "appropriate." Interesting...

May 14, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.
klifnotes said...

Out of the 300 requests for tax exempt status flagged by the I.R.S, only 75 they flagged had the names tea party and patriot attached. That's a small number compared to the numbers that were applying. 3,400 request using the name either tea party and patriot, 75 flagged? More liberals and war protesters were flagged by the I.R.S. under Bush.

May 14, 2013 at 4:10 p.m.
anticorp said...

The author is on the right track but didn't go far enough.

The IRS has misstated the wording of the law “primarily for social welfare”, for decades. It says “exclusively for social welfare.” They are ignoring the law. This ignoring of the original law has been compounded into a stampede by the Supreme Court decision, “Citizen’s United vs FEC.”

Cross Roads GPS, the Tea Party and Americans for Properity are partisan political groups operating Tax Exempt. That is why pressure was being put on the IRS to do their duty. Have you not heard their attack ads? For God’s sake! The NRA is tax exempt as social welfare 401C4. They are reputed to operate America’s most potent political lobby. They are funded by the gun industry to effect legislation benefitting them. Is that social welfare?

“(A) Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated (((exclusively))) for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted (((exclusively))) to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes. (B) Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an entity unless no part of the net earnings of such entity inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” (Glen Beck’s 9-12 project)…… (h) Expenditures by public charities to influence legislation (1) General rule In the case of an organization to which this subsection applies, exemption from taxation under subsection (a) shall be denied because a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, but only if such organization normally— (A) makes lobbying expenditures in excess of the lobbying ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year, or (B) makes grass roots expenditures in excess of the grass roots ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year.” http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/501

IT IS THE DUTY OF THE IRS TO ESTABLISH WHETHER THESE CRITERIA ARE BEING ADHERED TO.

May 14, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
klifnotes said...

Where was the outcry from rightwingers when Bush not only used the IRS to go after opponents, war protesters and who knows who/what else. He, the Bush, also use FBI, Secret Service and possibly CIA.

WHERE WAS THE OUTRAGE WHEN

{sln . com/excerpt}

Then, in 2010, we learned that Bush’s targeting operation was also operating inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recounting findings from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, the Washington Post reported that “the FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience.” A year later, we learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies. As the New York Times reported, “A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information” on prominent Iraq War critic Juan Cole. That story had an eerie similarity to the Bush administration’s effort to out CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband’s criticism of that same war.

Unlike the noisy outrage that met today’s allegations of IRS misconduct under President Obama, these earlier – and well-documented – revelations of systemic IRS, Secret Service, FBI and CIA misconduct were met with a collective shrug of the shoulders in Washington

Bush’s use of the IRS was but one part of that larger assault. in 2005, Bush’s IRS began what became an extensive two-year investigation into a Pasadena church after an orator dared to speak out against President Bush’s Iraq War. Not coincidentally, the Los Angeles Times reports that the church targeted just so happened to be “one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal congregations.” That IRS church audit came a year after it launched a near-identical attack on the NAACP after the civil rights organization criticized various Bush administration policies.

May 14, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.
fairmon said...

We should have known it is Bush's fault. Bush crapped in the kitchen so Obama should be allowed to also. That assumes Obama has a clue what is going on in his administration.

May 15, 2013 at 1:16 a.m.
jjmez said...

no fairmon. I believe the point is: The deeper the hole the right tries to dig for president obama the even deeper and wider a hole they dig for themselves to fall into.

Keep digging, though. You're almost in China. LMAOAU!!

May 15, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.
DJHBRAINERD said...

We should have known it is Bush's fault. Bush crapped in the kitchen so Obama should be allowed to also. That assumes Obama has a clue what is going on in his administration........ no fairmon. I believe the point is: The deeper the hole the right tries to dig for president obama the even deeper and wider a hole they dig for themselves to fall into.

Keep digging, though. You're almost in China. LMAOAU!! Where was the outcry from rightwingers when Bush not only used the IRS to go after opponents, war protesters and who knows who/what else. He, the Bush, also use FBI, Secret Service and possibly CIA. ......People are fed up and have had enough of the lies from both parties but for what ever reason (see comments above) some would rather justify wrongdoing by demonizing the other side than realize that both parties are working for corporations and do not have Americans best interest in mind. Bush has been gone for 5 years and when we see that Obama continues the Bush policies he ran against in both elections he is givin a free pass because , well Bush did it too.....Bahhh... Don't bother to look around you and see for yourselves that there is not one bit of difference between Obama and Bush except one has a D and the other has a R on the ballot. Both are corporate puppets and nothing more.

May 15, 2013 at 9:35 a.m.
anticorp said...

DJHBRAINERD I don't think for one moment the President is a corporate puppet. He is a slave....ooops I go being politically incorrect! It's like a Pole telling Polish jokes though. I can be nothing but a full fledged Liberal after the GOP has become a wholly owned subsidiary of any corporation willing to bank roll them. I am sure this President is a pragmatist and understands full well, since the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs FEC allowing corporations to be treated as people and spend unlimited campaign funds in secret he would be buried by the corporate media if he doesn't play ball.

It's the world he inherited and we couldn't have a better man to deal with it. He needs us in the streets and climbing the ramparts of Congress on issues that benefit the citizenry and absolutely not the corporations. This President and maybe Hilary may be the last best hope for the working class to avoid America being turned into a giant Maquiladora Zone trying to cope total climate collapse.

May 16, 2013 at 6:37 a.m.
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