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The Gadsen Flag
Washington Post:
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Other flags included mentions of Federal debt and "9/12," which as you may recall was a Glenn Beck™ thing. Predictably, Republicans seizing on this as a political issue, but condemnation of political targeting goes across the political spectrum. Even the IRS itself acknowledges, there's no defending what took place.

In the coming days and weeks, there will no doubt be a huge effort to Benghazify what took place, but it's important to remember that this shouldn't be a partisan issue—the IRS Commissioner at the time of the activity was a Bush appointee and liberals have been targets of this kind of scrutiny as well. Democrats and Republicans should be equally eager to seriously look at the issues that this episode raises.

One of those issues appears to that in the effort to streamline the IRS in the name of "efficiency" crucial checks and balances were removed.

Marcus Owens, who oversaw tax-exempt groups at the IRS between 1990 and 1999, said that delegation “carries with it a risk” because the Cincinnati office “isn’t as plugged into what’s [politically] sensitive as Washington.”

Owens, now with the firm Caplin & Drysdale, said that before the agency’s most recent reorganization, it had a series of “tripwires in place” that could catch unfair targeting, including the fact that the IRS identified its criteria for special scrutiny in a public manual.

“There’s no longer that safety valve, and as a result, the IRS has been rolling the dice ever since,” said Owens, who worked at the agency for nearly a quarter-century and now represents some organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

One GOP congressman has already proposed legislation that would expand criminal penalties against people guilty of this sort of political targeting, but if the problem here is a broken enforcement process, solutions like that are more about political grandstanding than fixing what's wrong. Of course, if the Benghazi hearings are any indication, grandstanding is exactly what we'll get—at least from the right.

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Comment Preferences

  •  another national discussion the right will be able (11+ / 0-)

    spin the way they want.

    must... fix.... the.... radio.....

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:40:27 AM PDT

  •  Remove the Bushie (7+ / 0-)

    Maybe this will give us an opportunity to remove the Bush appointee and get someone in there who's willing to enforce the tax code, eliminate perverted tax loopholes and the use of non-profit status on PACs.

    •  Aren't those all (4+ / 0-)

      Legislative issues?

      •  conniption, you're right that the IRS can't (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, gsbadj

        unilaterally close tax loopholes.  That's a legislative function.

        In enforcing existing law,  the IRS has the executive wiggle room to change enforcement procedures and programs.  So the agency could create a program to look at violators of 501(c)(4) rules--that's the one that certain political advocacy groups (think Rove) have been using to try to avoid disclosure of political contributions.  Or the agency could do after corps. that are abusing travel and entertainment rules--such as private jet use.  

        Keep in mind that that the more the IRS wiggles, the more likely it is that there will be Congressional oversight and claims of agency abuse.

        •  Where is the scandal? (6+ / 0-)

          To my reading the actions of those IRS agents in Cincinnati seems completely justified to me. Political groups, generally speaking, are not non-profits and should not be considered such under the law. Non-profits are required to make public donor lists in order to retain that non-profit status.

          The scandal to me is that the Administration actually cowered when given shit on this issue instead of standing up for obeying the law.

          Union-printed, USA-made, signs, stickers, swag for everyone: DemSign.com.

          by DemSign on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:27:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, no, no. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Loge

            Nonprofits are not required to make donor lists public. And you can't only single out conservative nonprofits for scrutiny.

            •  But what if it's 100-1, tea party groups (0+ / 0-)

              to Occupy, for instance?

            •  You can and should, however, (4+ / 0-)

              apply scrutiny to groups that set up immediately after Citizens United, or who report lots of donations with scant history.  These low-level IRS staffers behaved inappropriately and should be punished especially in light of these keywords, and the higher ups who ordered an immediate stop should be praised, but I don't doubt for a second that the right is abusing the non-profit status of various organizations to engage in illegal, subsidized political activity, to a much greater extent than the left.  

              To the extent this is going to be used to discredit the notion of campaign finance regulation, that needs to be resisted, and leave it to tea partiers to defend being suckered out of their own money.

              Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

              by Loge on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:46:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That they may be doing it more than us ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gsbadj

                ... may make us stupid, rather than them abusive.

                •  I'm still failing to see the scandal… (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bozmo2, rschndr

                  …in what appears to me to be due diligence. I know the right hates the IRS anyway, but since when is doing due diligence noteworthy, much less scandal worthy?

                  Union-printed, USA-made, signs, stickers, swag for everyone: DemSign.com.

                  by DemSign on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:00:37 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The full story is not out yet... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    gsbadj

                    So you see a huge upsurge in 501(c) applications from groups with politically charged names & mission statements, during an election season.  You "target" a small percentage of them for closer scrutiny (because you no longer have the staff to do that to all of them).  In other situations this is called "sampling"; ask any auditor if it is valid and defensible.

                    That said, I would like to see verbatim ALL the keywords/parameters/directives used --'cause the best lie is half of the truth ... possibly the full story could take some wind out of some RW sails, maybe put it in LW sails? We'll see... the RW groups are said to be ~75 out of ~300. (WSJ or WaPo, last Friday)

                    As we are not actually hearing of any RW orgs being denied 501(c) status, it's hard to see how anyone was hurt.  Except some drama queens.

                    It is a constant battle to see that tax and fee exemptions are not abused.  Maybe in a perfect world no toes would be stepped on.  Meanwhile I expect the IRS to do its job, and preventing tax fraud is part of it.

                    Guns don't kill people like hammers don't pound nails.

                    by rschndr on Mon May 13, 2013 at 09:42:45 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  There are two issues (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  smokey545, Larsstephens

                  I'm not claiming all hybrid Pacs are abusive, but it is the case that the right has invested more money in that structure, which means more opportunities to skirt the law.

                  My personal belief is that the right's simultaneous opposition to taxes and to CFR, as well a lack of quality control in whom they place in positions of power, makes it more likely they'd cross ethical lines, but that prejudice is not a sufficient foundation to apply greater tax scrutiny.  

                  The novelty of this structure, and the fact that it is very easy to abuse without very tough controls, suffices, and it simply would shake out that the right gets more scrutiny than the left -- just as more republicans than democrats probably get audited because people who make more money and take more individualized deductions get more audits.

                  My legal background makes me attuned to the notion that how one does something probably matters even more than what one does, and if I didn't, this is a political loser so I wouldn't defend the IRS here.  This probably blows any chance to apply real cogent scrutiny to a serious problem.

                  And as for whether that's stupid on the left to distrust this structure since it is the law, all I can say is I'm not in a position to go over and above individual donation limits in any case, but I'm still content to give directly to candidates, since in 2012, that spending was certainly more effective (especially in the form of field programs) and didn't get skimmed into high % ad buys, the more expensive media market the better.

                  Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

                  by Loge on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:02:14 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  The "Bushie"'s term expired last year. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi, TLS66

      He's not longer there.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:54:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Huh? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi, TLS66, coffeetalk, Debby, rschndr

      Shulman left right after the election. It's a five-year term.

    •  Doug Shulman, or the "Bushie" as you call him, (0+ / 0-)

      retired at the end of his term last November.  The agency is now headed by Steven Miller, the Asst. Commissioner, because Obama has not yet nominated a new Commissioner.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:11:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see the big deal (13+ / 0-)

    So the IRS gets it right for once.

    Are you a Green who has difficulty telling Democrats and Republicans apart? Well, I have difficulty telling Greens and Maoists apart.

    by Subversive on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:42:24 AM PDT

    •  Exactly. I disagree completely with the zeitgeist (13+ / 0-)

      that this is some kind of major problem. Tea Party scams are everywhere often operating under the guise of being a non-profit. The IRS extra scrutiny was perfectly justified and we should be defending the administration in this case.

      •  You don't see a problem (12+ / 0-)

        with targeting groups opposed to the current administration?

        Wow do i disagree with that.

      •  Oh yeah, this freedom of political speech is such (5+ / 0-)

        a pain in the ass.

        Who's idea was that, anyway?

        Stamp it all out, I say.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:56:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  they may need to refine their list of hits (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        merrywidow, Amber6541, eru

        but somehow, I doubt the publicized hits were all of the key words chosen or really that dubious..

        We complain here on a regular basis of the abuse of the non-profits that break the laws against  becoming political.  The IRS actually investigates, and uses some key words to develop further investigation.   End of the world ensues because 'tea party' was on the list.  Last I looked, Tea Party, runs candidates using fundraising designations of approval by the tea party.l

          •  nothing in the Washington Post article (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            David Michigan, eru

            indicated the scrutiny was given only to c4's, it uses the broad phrase 'tax exempt' and then at the end of the article it mentions an appendix not yet released that detailed re-definitions following Citizens United ruling with respect to c4's which now have broader rights.

            Given it is a WaPo article based on Issa's interpretation of what was being done,  all doubts resolved in favor of a non-washington run political unit that has been doing the jos for years out in Cinncinati.  When the real facts are eventually made public and the propaganda investigation committee isn't the source of information, I may find more comfort in knowing if this is a real problem, or the next scandal since none of Issa's other scandals have worked out well to date.

              •  if you have other sources (0+ / 0-)

                link them and I will read them.  If it is the WaPo article and quotes from a non-public Appendix to an IG report hand picked by Issa, I will continue to withhold condemnation.

                •  Go back to the original remarks (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Debby

                  link:

                  We get about 60,000 applications for tax exemption every year, most of them are 501(c)(3) organizations. But between 2010 and 2012 we started seeing a very big uptick in the number of 501(c)(4) applications we were receiving and many of these organizations applying more than doubled, about 1500 in 2010 and over 3400 in 2012. So we saw a big increase in these kind of applications, many of which indicated that they were going to be involved in advocacy work.

                  So our line people in Cincinnati who handled the applications did what we call centralization of these cases...

                  The problem in the (c)(4) area is that the kind of activity the organizations were doing is okay for (c)(4)s but it can’t be their primary activity. So that weighing and balancing is a little different than when we have a (c)(3) that says you can’t do any political activity. That’s a pretty easy question. So I guess my bottom line here is that we at the IRS should apologize for that, it was not intentional, and as soon as we found out what was going on, we took steps to make it better and I don’t expect that to reoccur.

                  •  ok, so the only targeting (0+ / 0-)

                    was of the c4's, it was an answer to a question, and she was speaking extemporaneously, about a low level administrative decision, that was partly lack of speed of review and partly inappropriate targeting of the most obvious types of names that would indicate affiliation rather than policy.  And that was politically insensitive.  

                    If you have thousands of filings,  and some specific rules you can't break, do you choose the filings randomly to review?  I wouldn't. I wouldn't even call that rational.   Not if I was looking for rule breakers.  Of course, the flags chosen would catch the stupid first, and therefore, less effective, law breakers.  But actually most criminal prosecutions work that way.  It is easy to catch the stupid.  And the really smart ones usually have good lawyers too and they never get punished.  These criminals are now called banksters.

                    This still stinks to me as manufactured outrage based on very little, that was already corrected by the time of the investigation.  What is more criminal is that Congress has so defunded the IRS that is can't do better oversight in a more timely manner.

        •  Refined lists (0+ / 0-)

          Not because "tea party" was on the list, but because the list was entirely Tea Party and keywords supposed to be related to RW ideology. And then, even when told to broaden the list, the IRS kept going back to the same old criteria. And if you don't see this as a problem now, then you will have no place to stand when, inevitably, the pendulum swings in the other direction.

          •  that wasn't exactly reported (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Amber6541, eru

            as fact,  apparently much of the report isn't even public yet.  And until the report is public, I don't exactly trust the sources mentioned in a WaPo article.

            •  I'm more than content (0+ / 0-)

              to await corroboration of the Post articles. But in any form, wholesale political targeting by the IRS is a road best not travelled. The absolute worst case result, so far as i can see, is that a very small amount of tax might go uncollected. And that, after all, is the entire mission of the IRS.

              •  I wasn't supporting (0+ / 0-)

                wholesale political targeting, but to me, that wasn't proven by the article.  I know, and we should all be sensitive to this if we've read the major news outlets and then the kind of information we eventually get from Mother Jones and Democracy Now: we don't get the FACTS from the major news outlets any more.

                So if WaPo and Issa are outraged, I am inclined to view it as propaganda, not news, until the report is public, and I can read information from the report and more newsworthy as opposed to spinworthy sources.   Again, an appendix to a report that reviews the entire IRS review process,   is not public, but we are to take it on faith, that it is a corrupt political effort headed by a Bushie.   Some things don't pass the smell test.  And it ain't the IRS stinking so bad right now.  

                And when it comes to granting and not granting tax exemptions to political advocacy groups as opposed to civic and education policy groups, it is really not about collecting tax.   It is foolish to pretend that all tax law is about raising revenue rather controlling non-revenue related policy by encouraging money flows.  If it was about revenue, we'd tax the rich more.

      •  I have this image in my head of some (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexasLefty, merrywidow, Faito, Subversive

        IRS agent speaking on the phone to Billy-Joe-Bob about his 501c3 application:
        Agent:"Um, you get that you're applying for a charitable non profit status here, and that your group won't be able to take political action with the money you raise for the charity, right?"
        Billy-Joe-Bob: yeah, whatever!  Just give us our tax exempt status so we can start raising money to get that Kenyan, mooslim, Marxist, impeached and put the WHITE back in our WHITE House.
        Agent: sir, you DO understand that there are severe penalties if your group violates the laws pertaining to its 501c3 status?
        Billy-Joe-Bob: you must be part of that there Agenda 21!  Are you a secret mooslim spy?? (Foam, foam, drool)
        Agent: Have a nice day, sir!

    •  Quite right... (7+ / 0-)

      this is not really "political" targeting at all, not in the sense that most people mean that. This "scandal" involves applications for 501(c)4 status, which has been widely abused to circumvent campaign finance laws. This is a type of application where they should be screening for extra scrutiny any application that seems to have an overt political purpose. Thus the variety of keywords used to catch anything that was overtly politicized and might indicate the application's purpose was not in line with what the Internal Revenue Code says is the correct role for a 501(c)4 (that of a community service organization.)

      The real reason Republicans are screaming about this has nothing to do with targeting them for political purposes. It's all about them continuing to be able to abuse the IRC and 501(c)4 status for political purposes without the IRS being able to even raise the issue, much less prevent the abuse. Remember that all the leading right-wing "independent expenditure" groups are really 501(c)4s, not 527s (like PACs and political parties) and use the status to hide their donors, personnel, and activities from voters. FreedomWorks, Crossroads GPS, and a host of the other usual suspects from the right all fall into this category. This is just another example of Republicans brewing a tempest in a teapot to keep people from noticing the tempest they've created in our political system.

      Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

      by Stwriley on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:18:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What Democrats should be talking about is (15+ / 0-)

    how many Tea Party groups are not actually non-profit organizations but scams. There has been extensive reporting of this, and the scams are numerous and extensive. The extra scrutiny is perfectly justified.

    I give them nothing. NOTHING!

  •  Yup, a little profiling going on, with some ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga, ColoTim, eru

    ... validity, I suggest. And it is as essential to back off as soon as it proves misguided or overly broad as with any filters we as human beings stuck with apportioning limited resources must use.

    Something like the Words and Phrases with Magic Meanings. "Benghazi" comes to mind as Example #1. All that needs to heard is a word or two.

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:44:27 AM PDT

  •  This needs to be fixed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dinotrac

    regardless of who is targeted - unfortunately - depending on your politics - this will be minimized or magnified and nothing will get done in the end of the day.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:46:12 AM PDT

  •  I'll defend it. (10+ / 0-)

    Who is more likely to feel they can cheat the IRS than a group which openly is anti-government, and has members who tend to refer to taxation as 'thuggish' and 'theft'?

    Seems to me like they found a pretty simple way to target the groups with the highest likelihood to be abusing the tax status advantages.

  •  well (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    inorbit, ColoTim, conniptionfit

    not long ago "occupy" was under surveilance and scrutiny. the irs needs to go after a lot of "non profit" churches. and i this we have to be even across the board or we're just like them. they just squawk a lot louder and clutch the flag that they disdain closer.

  •  Bravo! Democrats need not cower down in fear (5+ / 0-)

    of the highly unpopular Tea Party. We should be on offense and calling the entire thing a scam. Which it is.

    We should be talking about tea party scams and tax cheats not acting like there is something wrong here.

  •  I am sure this must have been said elswhere (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova

    But really, it is the mainstream republicans that were most threatened by teabaggers, especially in primaries.  The repugs had much more motivation to impede the Tebaggers.

    If anything, the dems benefitted more from the tea bag ascendancy than repugs.  

  •  What a bunch of whiners (9+ / 0-)

    Liberal groups have undergone this type of scrutiny by the FBI for decades.  What do you think happened to Occupy Wall Street?

  •  The problem IS a broken enforcement (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, eru

    Process, in EACH AND EVERY department.  The problem at the IRS is small potatoes compared to the broken enforcement problems at OSHA, the SEC, the DOJ, the OCC, the EPA, the NLRB.  The real problem here, is that it's the republicans who got caught in the broken process.

  •  So, we're defending the IRS on this, are we? (7+ / 0-)

    Guys, sometimes the enemy of your enemy really is not your friend.

    If the IRS were looking for groups with the keywords "Occupy" and "progressive," we would be rightly outraged.  Perhaps we should be outraged anyway.

  •  I thought the right wing loved profiling.... (7+ / 0-)

    I guess they just don't like it when the mirror is pointed on them.

    But seriously Jed, cut the shit. Do not use this as some progressive clarion call for an end to big brother.

    The facts are that hundreds of these "educational and chariable" organizations sprang up in the lead up to national elections with their stated purpose to be "to educate on the Constitution" and other such things.

    How did they "educate?" By staging political rallies and putting pressure on incumbents through mass mailings, fund raising, etc. In many instances, political action money flowed freely though them. These astroturf organizations were political fronts used as a money laundering operation - but obviously they can't state that is their primary purpose.

    So the IRS does what the IRS always does - it searches for anomalies in filings looks into it to see if someone is exploiting a loophole. In this case, all these "non profit charitable and educational organizations" were freedom, liberty, patriots, and tea. There was no similar abuse of this filing category from the left, although there assuredly is on a smaller scale.

    Bottom line, these groups exploited a designation reserved for legitimate charitable organizations. If the IRS and its limited resources used a shortcut, then fine, apologize and change. That said, I still want these tea party tax cheats to explain their activities and how they aren't inherently political. A bunch of them should be in jail for tax fraud.

     

    •  If any apology is needed, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      msdrown

      it should come from the IRS, period.

      I already see calls for Obama to apologize about this. No, NO, NOOO!!

      Why should Obama apologize for the IRS?  Did Bush EVER apologize for ANYTHING, EVER?

      The Democratic Party stands for equality for ALL, freedom with responsibility, and a civil and just society.

      by TexasLefty on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:02:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not to sound paranoid... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kefauver, eru

    But these are the same guys who wanted to carry guns into a rally in a public area and held up signs saying "This time we came unarmed". When you threaten to overthrow the government just because you lost an election, that tends to make people a little nervous. Armed rednecks who accuse the democratically elected president of treason based on some made up conspiracy in their heads don't get a lot of sympathy from me when government agencies scrutinize them a little more closely than most.

  •  I certainly hope there is nothing criminal behind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Willa Rogers

    it, but it seems even more frightening to think that our Constitutional rights could be placed so easily at the mercy of mundane technical and bureaucratic decisiions.

    The big question: How could anybody possibly think that it's OK to target any group because of it's professed beliefs and positions.

    That's chilling in a big way, especially as the IRS gets ready to become the enforcement hammer for the ACA.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:54:15 AM PDT

    •  Why do you assume they were targeted solely for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kefauver, eru

      their political beliefs?
      Is it not within the realm of possibilities that they were targeted because a good number of them are out and out scam, profit making operations designed to fleece the dumbasses and enrich the people running them.

      Much of the extreme conservative movement (and the GOP for that matter, 2012 GOP Presidential field?) has been compromised by hucksters, conmen and people looking to make a quick easy buck.

      •  Because that is what was reported. (0+ / 0-)

        It was a key word search for certain words and phrases that indicated anti-government positions.

        It may well have been the belief of the people who put that into place that tea party groups,etc were fronts for scams, but that needs to be based on evidence.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:18:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's kind of blatant and obvious that many of (0+ / 0-)

          these groups are extremely profit orientated.
          Some of them are so over the top it's comedy material.
          Rachel Maddow did at least one piece that I saw covering this.
          There's been a de-evolution on the extreme right wing with groups being created purely to cash in and fleece the dumbasses.

    •  Targeted for bad paperwork, I bet these (0+ / 0-)

      groups all needed to be asked for better backup of their mission and that may be why they were targeted, they had missing application items

  •  this story reminds me of two things (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caniac41, merrywidow, eru

    How the Bush administration used almost every government agency to target liberal groups and a quote from, I think it was, General Patton, "take that you bastards. Now you know how we feel."

  •  I agree with everything the IRS did. (6+ / 0-)

    I don't want political groups claiming tax exempt or tax preferred status.  Tea party groups are also decidedly anti-government so in this post-Patriot Act era no one should be surprised by scrutiny.

    Alternative rock with something to say: http://www.myspace.com/globalshakedown

    by khyber900 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:59:30 AM PDT

  •  its ironic (0+ / 0-)

    that the cons would be outraged at anyone targeting political opponents since the gop has been doing it for decades, i guess it depends on whose ox is being gored.

  •  so - tea party groups targeted by IRS == (6+ / 0-)

    national media freak out.

    progressive groups targeted during fair trade and other protests - crickets....  

  •  The greater question for me (0+ / 0-)

    Is discovering which orgs the IRS Should have investigated but Didn't.  Isn't that a True Test of whether bias is at issue?

  •  Scrutiny? Were any DENIED? If not, FK'em. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    merrywidow

    The rather sudden flood of "tea party" hair brained scheme's or ANY OTHER sudden flurry of non-profit claims would always trigger higher scrutiny.

    How else is the IRS to make sure there isn't some new idiotic tax evasion scam spreading across the countryside.

    To paraphrase the Republican scumbags whenever we complain about privacy concerns.... If you don't have anything to hide, then what's the problem?

    The question is, were any of these "organizations" DENIED exemption, or were they simply justifiably looked into by the IRS doing it's due diligence?

    Not to mention the blatant harassment of progressive and anti-war activists under the Bush administration.

  •  Perhaps if the IRS were properly funded (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoStampTax, GrooveGrl4, msdrown

    the strapped agency wouldn't be fiscally forced into just going after the low hanging fruit. Applicants who are openly aggressive toward the Government, particularly the IRS, wearing their "Taxed Enough Allready" label on their tri-cornered hats, whose "educational" program include teaching warped interpretations of the Constitution and tax dodging deserve closer scrutiny...in fact they seem to be asking for it. Reports say that NONE of these applicants went on to be denied tax-free status. The apology by the loyal Bushie at the IRS is the true scandal here along with the forced austerity forced on the IRS by the Tea Party loons in Congress. They stripped funds to hobble the agency that could audit their wealthy backers which resulted in an agency that has to pick and choose where they think they need to look for potential cheaters filing for tax-free status. Kinda like cutting State Dept Security budgets and then blaming Obama for a tragedy caused by lax security. Or crashing the Economy and then blaming Obama for the rise in food stamp applicants. Or like ignoring your electioneering on your "laser focus on jobs" while blaming Obama for unemployment.

  •  I want to know if it was political targeting (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Michigan, eru, GrooveGrl4

    If it was political targeting then obviouslty heads need to roll.

    However, it seems somewhat reasonable and prudent to me to for a tax collection/regulation agency like the IRS to more closely look at groups that seem to talk a lot about not wanting to pay taxes and how the federal gov't is defying the Constitution.  This gives these people an excuse to rationalize not paying taxes.  By forming tax-exempt "charities" that actually look more like taxable political organizations and appearing to be getting funding from some very wealthy people who could be abusing these groups as a tax write-off for additional political contributions, I know that I would definitely take a close look at them too regardless of political preference.

    I also don't think it helped things that with the budget ceiling problems, the IRS was likely pressured to squeeze out every extra dollar of revenue itr could get, and so they too may have had extra motivation to cross a line.

    Anyway, this whole thing looks like profiling to me, except profiling based on stated preferences and behaviors instead of just on race or religion.  IOW, a lot more valid.

    •  If the IRS also gave closer scrutiny to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      groups with things like "occupy" or "99%" in their names, we wouldn't have a problem.  

      The problem is not closer scrutiny of 501(c)(4) groups.  The problem is that the IRS has admitted that it was steered far more to conservative 501(c)(4) groups.  That's disparate treatment by the government based on political viewpoint.  That goes against everything this country is based on.  

      •  Taxes brought down Capone, do you have a problem (0+ / 0-)

        with that? The Tea Party is a vast scam generated at
        the highest level of GOP and here exploiting the tax code en masse.

        •  I have a BIG problem with the IRS using (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          political views as a basis for deciding who gets extra scrutiny.  

          •  But what if those views relate to taxation? (0+ / 0-)

            And in the case of Tea Party and Libertarian groups, it does.

            Without knowing more background none of us know if they were targeted for their political affiliation, or because of their more likely course of action (cheating on making tax-exempt groups) just happens to be from conservative groups.

            I mean, if you suspected people were going to stop loggers from cutting down trees, wouldn't the first place you'd look is with pro-environmental groups?  Oh and guess what: they just happen to be almost universally progressive groups.  That doesn't mean that you're just targeting them for being progressive.  You're targeting them because you suspect they may engage in a specific form of prohibited action.

            •  Does not matter. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib

              If you have EVIDENCE that they are doing something illegal, target them all you want.  

              You're targeting them because you suspect they may engage in a specific form of prohibited action.
              If you have EVIDENCE that a particular organization applying for 501(c)(4) status is engaging in a violation of the law, then you go after that organization for that violation of the law.

              You don't go after everybody with the words
              "patriot" or "tea party" or "9/12" in the name.  That's targeting their views, not their actions.   Having the government single out people for their political views,on the assumption that that people with certain political views are more likely to break the law, is against everything this country is supposed to stand for.

              •  Investigating the basis of granting tax exemptions (0+ / 0-)

                is not harrassment.
                There is a clear pattern of the coordinated appearance of
                non-profit alleged charities under the umbrella of Tea Party.

                Not every non profit deserves tax exempt status.

                Are you some kind of lawyer?

                •  I am a lawyer. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  VClib

                  And selectively treating taxpayers differently based on their political views IS problematic.  It would be wrong for a prosecutor to scrutinize entities differently based on political views.  It is a violation of the First Amendment to treat people differently based on the content of speech - and their political views are the most protected content of all.  That's why the IRS apologized.

                  If taxpayers had not been selected for additional scrutiny based on their political views, there would not be a problem.  

              •  Well, keep this in mind (0+ / 0-)

                This is not a criminal investigation that was going on.  This was the IRS.  Do they have policies or precedence for targeting certain types of individuals or groups or activities for more scrutiny than others?  I don't know since I am not an IRS official, but it would not surprise me if certain types of activity did flag additional investigation.

  •  I Believe That These Groups Were Targeted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eru, GrooveGrl4

    based on not wanting to pay taxes, and not so much on whether they were right or left leaning groups.  The IRS employs people to go after tax cheats.  The tea party groups are against paying taxes, so why wouldn't they get more scrutiny just based on that??  There are republicans and democrats who want to educate the public on the constitution, but it again raises flags on these groups not wanting to pay taxes.  Republicans and democrats work at the IRS and their main focus is on tax cheats.  

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:14:25 AM PDT

  •  Here's a solution (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    merrywidow, David Michigan, Kickemout, eru

    Tax everyone. No more non-profit tax exemptions. That includes religion.

    "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

    by nightsweat on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:17:16 AM PDT

  •  I am sure every teabagger made his truck (0+ / 0-)

    a non-profit for constitutional education and we should all just say ok.

  •  Of course it's a terrible practice (0+ / 0-)

    and deserves to be treated as such.

    What concerns me is that it will take all the oxygen out of the room for dealing with the economy, jobs, economic justice, etc.--i.e., the class war--or the climate war.

    From here on out, no one can escape the havoc wrought by the unmitigated Class, Climate and Terror Wars.

    by Words In Action on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:19:23 AM PDT

  •  When groups of people openly state (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    merrywidow, Amber6541, eru, Bozmo2

    that they believe they pay too much in taxes, they hate the IRS, they hate taxes, they hate the government, and they think their taxes are basically a form of theft, I would expect the IRS to give their taxes some extra scrutiny. I certainly don't believe in targeting them based on party politics. However, I think they should be subjected to extra scrutiny purely based on their publicly espoused views regarding taxes.

  •  How many applications came from teabagger (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, Bozmo2

    groups vs. Occupy groups. I bet it's like 100 to 1.

  •  Was the initial paperwork on these tea party (0+ / 0-)

    groups bad so they needed extra scrutiny? I bet they filed bad paperwork, barely gave them enough info on the initial request for non-profit status

  •  If you don't want The Man trampling on your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Willa Rogers

    rights then you don't let The Man trample on anyone's rights.

    Those who defend this need to get a grip.

  •  I think we need to clarify what the purpose was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eru, Bozmo2, merrywidow

    I believe this is being characterized incorrectly.

    The IRS looks at new, high volume transactions for possibility of fraud or tax evasion. For example, the use of offshore bank accounts to evade taxes - now you have to report such accounts. New charities that popped up around Hurricane Katrina and Sandy were looked at closely to spot bogus scams keeping 90% of the money for themselves. Private annuities and foreign trusts get more attention as they are abused to hide income and evade taxes.

    All these new tea party groups popped up in a short amount of time, and the IRS gave them extra scrutiny to ensure they were legit.

    Yes, the one office took it too far, and didn't consider the how it would look, but I don't think they were being targeted for their politics, but rather for their higher potential for abuse.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:30:06 AM PDT

  •  Wow. I can't believe this site sometimes. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jeff in nyc, VClib, Willa Rogers

    The IRS admits that it used its huge power to target members of a particular political viewpoint.  And some people here are defending that as ok?????

    That is never, never, never acceptable.  It doesn't matter which political viewpoint they are targeting.  Period.  The IRS needs to be completely non-partisan, completely above all of that.  Its huge power can never, never be permitted to be used against particular political viewpoints, no matter how wrong you think those viewpoints are.  This undercuts the confidence in the impartiality of our tax system.  How can you expect people to willing comply with the tax laws if there is even a suggestion that the IRS administers tax laws differently if you hold certain political opinions?????

    Even worse is the fact that, when Congress investigated the allegations, they were lied to, and told it was absolutely not happening.  

    Richard Nixon -- correctly -- was forced out of office for this kind of thing because he was involved.  Anybody at the IRS who was involved in this, or helped to cover it up, needs to go -- immediately.

    This is the kind of thing that fuels huge government distrust.  It completely undercuts all the arguments people here make about government "looking out for you."  There are crazy people on the right who have been making irrational statements about them thinking the government is going to come get them because of their political views.  Well, this is the IRS saying, we targeted people based on political views.  That gives gives credence to the view that "the government is targeting me because they don't like me."  No, the government is not coming after conservatives with guns.  The government WAS "coming after" conservatives with the IRS.  And no one sees a problem with that?

    And this is right before the ACA gives the IRS even more power.  And some people here don't see the problem?  

    Talk about hypocrisy.  I can only imagine if the IRS had targeted groups with "occupy" or "99%" in their names.  

    And yes, the President needs to get on top of this. No, it does not appear that the WH was involved n any way. But this is part of the executive branch of government and thus the responsibility of the President.  The President needs to make clear that this is completely unacceptable, that there will be a full investigation by a body outside of the IRS (since the IRS has already mislead Congress on this very issue) and that people responsible will be dealt with.

    People can't let their hatred of the right blind them here.  If this is ok, or if this gets a pass, that is saying that the next Republican administration can do the same thing to you.

  •  Politics always screw up the accounting profession (4+ / 0-)

    "Marcus Owens, who oversaw tax-exempt groups at the IRS between 1990 and 1999, said that delegation 'carries with it a risk' because the Cincinnati office 'isn’t as plugged into what’s [politically] sensitive as Washington.'"

    This quote is key to this story.  The people who were selecting these cases for review were judgmentally selecting cases based on factors that make them higher risk for non-compliance and/or tax evasion.  They were not politically motivated, but were employing standard industry approaches for effective sampling, it just looks bad from a political standpoint.

    Since they don't have the resources to scrutinize every application, they would want to concentrate their efforts in areas that present the highest risk.  With the high growth and large amount of money associated with these groups, and the fact that they are openly political, anti-tax, and/or anti-government, it makes sense objectively to pay closer attention to their applications to form tax-exempt, non-political entities.  It's no different than performing a financial audit and sampling transactions that are very high $$ amounts, related to certain types of investments, or were approved by employees at a particular level, because these are areas that have the highest risk.  

    What bothers me the most about this situation is given the media/political coverage, there will likely be some low-level IRS employees who end up being fired or reprimanded for doing their job.  Our financial/tax system is hard enough to regulate as it is, but regulators bowing to "political sensitivities" makes it impossible to give effective oversight.

  •  From a GOP Teaparty Perspective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enemy of the people

    I guess this means I soon won't have to pay any taxes.

    Heaven help us.

  •  If it was just 501(c)(4) scrutiny (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    That makes sense...but if there is a specific focus on a particular "group" via keywords or phrases..it changes the context.  The "open secret" is IRS and Fed agencies have targeted different groups over the decades as pointed out in many  comments. Back in W's WOT...peace groups/activists were targeted. It was wrong then..and its still wrong.

    My question is..Is there a way to objectively determine if a 501(c)(4) is operating as a charitable educational organization (as opposed to a "shell" PAC) without plugging in "key words" like patriot, progressive, freedom?
    Need to correct/fix the problem. Political pendulums eventually swing back.  

  •  I worked at the IRS for awhile. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    I don't think sophisticated key word searches and ongoing intelligence gathering has anything to do with the IRS.  

    The experience working in the Seattle office was quite eye opening.  For starters, they didn't have a very good plan for who they wanted to hire, so they put out an ad which resulted in about 200 people being taken into training to work in the phone room.  They proceeded to fire everyone,
    one by one, until they got the two or three people they wanted.  I guess it is a method.

    Aside from the spectacular view from high above the street, the phone room was an exercise in rigidity.  Some of this was justified.  People want the IRS to cut down on the variation between callers who give out different and often conflicting answers to questions involving enforcement.  Some of it was just a kind of defensiveness that came with working behind doors with punch code locks and on computers that record every keystroke.  Calls were monitored.  Very strict.  

    The 1 800 line I was working on answered calls from people who got letters saying they were in trouble and had to call it.

    It was all about penalties and interest.  

    One of the things I remember from that time was a certain number of people whose strategy was to call up and harangue whoever was on the phone with the talking point that tax collection by the government is illegal.  

    About all you could do was patiently wait to see if there was a real issue that was going to emerge.  If there was, then to see what could be done to help.  This could be nerve wracking, being yelled at.  

    So, there are a category of people who make themselves very noisy targets because they insist that if they don't file returns or pay their taxes, they are starting something.

    Unfortunately, the IRS is the wrong somebody to start something with.  Legality is long established in every court at every level.  People hire very expensive lawyers all the time so the arguments are well honed.

    The Tea Party in particular has been eager to take up this Quixotic crusade.  They have been louder and more emphatic than just about anyone except Lyndon LaRouche.

    I imagine that the IRS people involved, who can be like human attack dogs and respond to provocation in a visceral sense even though they are professionals, smelled the existence of an entire group that threatens to undermine the fabric of the whole issue of revenue.  

    It is possible that the IRS was a little too insensitive to the context in an election year.  They try not to show it, but the people who work there are humans.  They can get pissed off.

    But if all that was done was to call for paperwork to be reviewed, that isn't a very draconian measure.  There are people getting their bank accounts levied, and getting evicted from houses that the IRS has a lien on.  People are having to deal with penalties and interest in the tens of thousands of dollars.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:58:08 AM PDT

  •  Can't Wait to Read the Freakouts About this . . . (0+ / 0-)

    On my Facebook page.

    As if I needed more paranoid "The Government is Out to Get Me!" crap to read.

    Now there is a lame-stream media story to "back up" their fantasies.

    OFA is out to attack seniors, veterans, and the disabled. A DKOS Troll told me so.

    by kefauver on Mon May 13, 2013 at 09:01:31 AM PDT

  •  Does the fact that so many Teabaggers are known (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    hard-core grifters have anything to do with Tea Party or Patriot groups being targeted?  If the IRS had suspicions that some of these groups were just money-laundering fronts for known grifters, wouldn't that be a justifiable use of their office?

  •  Were any Tea thingees denied exemptions? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    msdrown, Amber6541

    Why aren't my ACLU contributions tax exempt?

  •  Recommened for working Bush into the diary. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    by thestructureguy on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:27:20 PM PDT

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