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The IRS "scandal" is looking less and less scandalous as the activities the tea party and other political groups the agency probed are receiving more attention. For example, consider the groups examined by the New York Times.
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature. [...]

[A]close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.

One former IRS official who headed up the exempt organizations division in the 1990s, Marcus S. Owens, says that the inspector general report on the probes is "as careless with terminology as the Cincinnati office was" and that "half of those questions" about organizational activity that the IG report said were excessive or too targeted "have been found to be germane in court decisions.”

In other words, IRS agents were doing their jobs in investigating the applications of these groups. And at least a handful of the groups they were examining were carrying on partisan electioneering activities, even during the application process. The IRS was asking the questions it asked because it is supposed to determine that the primary activity of these organizations is social welfare and that can't be done by just looking at the money the organization might be spending in election advertising, as the examples the Times provides show.

The problem with President Obama's and congressional Democrats' joining in on the Republican freak-out over the "scandal" is the possibility that the IRS will back off of the reviews its currently conducting, giving these organizations a free rein in 2014.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue May 28, 2013 at 12:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sometimes I get the feeling the President (36+ / 0-)

    would sell a kidney if it would avoid a dust up with RWNJs.

    He got out in front of this IRS nontroversy without benefit of the truth, fired a guy who had no real responsibility for it, and now lets the NYTimes do the work of telling the actual story ... which---Surprise!---shows that teabaggers are cheating on taxes by doing political work as a 501c-4 group.

    Watch; now he'll get attacked by the Village for being a fair-weather friend. Which just goes to show you there's no point in being cautious around the cost of attacking conservatives.

    •  The scandal is nonpartisan (47+ / 0-)

      The real scandal is that any of these groups was ever given 501(c)(4) status in the first place.  From the Chiggertown Tea Party to Priorities USA and Crossroads, all of them should be paying taxes on their income and disclosing their donors.  

      Some lawmakers have taken up Lawrence O'Donnell's cause and tried to get the IRS to restore its interpretation to the "exclusively" social welfare activities requirement in the statute.  If that succeeds, this will be the best scandal to ever come down the pike.

      If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

      by Dallasdoc on Tue May 28, 2013 at 01:28:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  NAACP v Alabama (1958) (9+ / 0-)
        It is hardly a novel perception that compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as the forms of governmental action in the cases above were thought likely to produce upon the particular constitutional rights there involved. This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations. When referring to the varied forms of governmental action which might interfere with freedom of assembly, it said in American Communications Assn. v. Douds, supra, at 402:

        A requirement that adherents of particular religious faiths or political parties wear identifying armbands, for example, is obviously of this nature.

        Compelled disclosure of membership in an organization engaged in advocacy of particular beliefs is of the same order. Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.

        •  Other than fact that their members walk upright (12+ / 0-)

          what other features do NAACP and teabaggers have in common?  Besides, in the case at issue (to which you provide no link), the NAACP was merely seeking the ability to conduct business in AL.  Unlike these organizations, it wasn't seeking a tax break.

          In an era when the Klan and the White Citizens' Councils both thrived, NAACP members in AL in 1958 faced threats to their physical safety and/or their chance to earn a livelihood.  Nobody's going to burn a cross in the yard of a teabagger, nor are they going to terminate their employment or cut off their credit.

          This comparison isn't apples v. oranges, it's apples v. turnips.

          Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

          by RFK Lives on Tue May 28, 2013 at 02:11:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib

            ... no one has anything to fear regarding public disclosure of advocacy spending? I'll call Scott Eckern and let him know.

            I'm glad you have a job in which you can spend your ideological dollars without consequence.

            •  Which teabaggers lost their jobs? (14+ / 0-)

              Better yet, which teabaggers had men in hoods carrying torches show up on their front lawns around midnight?

              MLK's house was bombed in Montgomery 2 years before this decision was rendered.  Freedom riders were beaten in Montgomery 3 years after the decision. A Birmingham church was bombed, killing 4 girls, 2 years after that.  

              Your attempt to analogize purported risks faced by teabaggers to real risks faced by civil rights activists is hard to swallow.  Your failure to address a key legal point (NAACP seeking to simply do business while teabaggers sought--and obtained--tax breaks) makes your argument even less tenable.

              Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

              by RFK Lives on Tue May 28, 2013 at 02:40:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Obviously, the NAACP faced worse threats. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TX Unmuzzled, VClib, kaliope

                But the principle is the same: government shouldn't be peering into the records of private groups without good cause.

                And, by the way, the NAACP was and is a tax-exempt organization and the business it wished to transact in Alabama was its exempt advocacy business. Duh.

                •  Where does opinion mention NAACP tax break ? (4+ / 0-)

                  This paragraph indicates that the tax status of the NAACP was not an issue:

                  Alabama has a statute, similar to those of many other States, which requires a foreign corporation, except as exempted, to qualify before doing business by filing its corporate charter with the Secretary of State and designating a place of business and an agent to receive service of process. The statute imposes a fine on a corporation transacting intrastate business before qualifying, and provides for criminal prosecution of officers of such a corporation. Ala.Code, 1940, Tit. 10, §§ 192-198. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a nonprofit membership corporation organized under the laws of New York. Its purposes, fostered on a nationwide basis, are those indicated by its name, * and it operates
                  Page 357 U. S. 452
                  through chartered affiliates which are independent unincorporated associations, with membership therein equivalent to membership in petitioner. The first Alabama affiliates were chartered in 1918. Since that time, the aims of the Association have been advanced through activities of its affiliates, and, in 1951, the Association itself opened a regional office in Alabama, at which it employed two supervisory persons and one clerical worker. The Association has never complied with the qualification statute, from which it considered itself exempt.

                  In 1956, the Attorney General of Alabama brought an equity suit in the State Circuit Court, Montgomery County, to enjoin the Association from conducting further activities within, and to oust it from, the State. Among other things, the bill in equity alleged that the Association had opened a regional office and had organized various affiliates in Alabama; had recruited members and solicited contributions within the State; had given financial support and furnished legal assistance to Negro students seeking admission to the state university, and had supported a Negro boycott of the bus lines in Montgomery to compel the seating of passengers without regard to race. The bill recited that the Association, by continuing to do business in Alabama without complying with the qualification statute, was
                  ". . . causing irreparable injury to the property and civil rights of the residents and citizens of the State of Alabama for which criminal prosecution and civil actions at law afford no adequate relief. . . ."

                  The IRS wanted to know whether teabaggers are advocacy organizations (which many of them clearly are) that are not entitled to tax exemptions.  The AL AG was making no such inquiry.  Facile analogies coupled w/ personal insult really add little to this discussion.

                  Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

                  by RFK Lives on Tue May 28, 2013 at 03:39:36 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You're not making sense (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    VClib

                    Advocacy organizations are entitled to tax exemptions under 501c4 unless electoral advocacy is their primary purpose.

                    What is the governmental interest served by making all contributors to Human Rights Campaign public?

                    •  Perhaps you might re-read the diary above (5+ / 0-)

                      Let's start at the beginning w/ relevant excerpts from a superb diary:

                      When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

                      The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

                      And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.

                      Perhaps you feel differently, but there are at least 3 such organizations expressly cited by the diarist that one just might argue have electoral advocacy as their primary purpose.  In my experience, at least, lit drops and radio ads for candidates constitute such advocacy.

                      Your original comment analogized CVFC, the Wetumpka Tea Party, and the OH Liberty Coalition to the NAACP.  I responded by noting that the only thing that the 3 former groups have in common w/ the latter group is that all of their members walk upright.  You've never posted anything that rebuts my response.

                      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

                      by RFK Lives on Tue May 28, 2013 at 04:17:21 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Adam B, WRONG. You don't know the LAW. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      doroma

                      The law has been cited to you repeatedly.  Please pay attention:

                      [/quote](4)
                      (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.[/quote]

                      Advocacy organizations are not entitled to tax exemptions under 501c4 unless they are operated exclusively for the promosion of social welfare.  EXCLUSIVELY.

                      The IRS regulations from the 1950s are another matter -- but the IRS regulations are illegal, because they convert "exclusively" into "primarily".

                      The IRS does not have the right to rewrite the law by regulation.

                      I ask again, who has standing to sue to overturn the illegal regulations from the 1950s?  

                      Really, we all ought to have standing, but the courts have repeatedly decided that diffuse harm to all of us doesn't give anyone standing.

                •  OK, Adam B, but shouldn't we be looking to RICO (0+ / 0-)

                  for some relief? Just an inquiry.

            •  Seems sorta right (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              doroma, RFK Lives

              Sure you have the right to support any cause you like, but when your cause happens to fly in the face of a large portion of the people you work with or work with you in your industry, you also have the right to be held to public scrutiny for that support. If my campaign donations are public, than why shouldn't my donations to an overtly political 501c be?

        •  How are their rights curtailed by denial of 501c4? (5+ / 0-)

          If political groups are forced to disclose their donors to the FEC or other public entities (as they are, I believe), then there is no unreasonable constraint on their participation in similar groups if tax-advantaged status is denied.  What public good is served by mammoth political donors hiding in the shadows?  

          The statutory language requiring that these groups be exclusively engaged in social welfare pursuits has been widely broadcast lately.  Political advocacy was not traditionally understood to be covered by that language, and no change in the statute has opened it up to their pursuits, to my knowledge.  I'd be happy to be corrected if I'm wrong, however.

          These groups are not objecting on the basis of restraint of speech.  They are asking for tax-advantaged status.  Anonymity of their donors is consequent to that privilege, is it not?  So if they don't qualify for the tax-advantaged status, why should they expect the other benefits of that status?

          If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

          by Dallasdoc on Tue May 28, 2013 at 03:41:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Because these aren't primarily electoral groups. (0+ / 0-)

            I don't understand why compelled production of contribution lists should be the norm and not the exception.

            •  They're not exclusively social welfare groups (0+ / 0-)

              ... and so should not be eligible for tax-exempt status.  If they paid taxes on their donations I'd be happy, but if losing out on 501c4 status made them disclose their donors, as several commentators have asserted, I'd be a lot happier.

              If you want to make a case that they shouldn't have to disclose their donors, that doesn't argue that they should be granted tax-advantaged status.  Make a different argument.

              If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

              by Dallasdoc on Tue May 28, 2013 at 04:25:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Now you're making assumptions... (0+ / 0-)

              about what these groups do. Given the evidence cited above, they sure do look a lot like they are primarily engaged in political and electioneering activity, which would be exactly the thing that should bar them from 501(c)(4) status. If they'd care to submit an application for 527 status (as an independent expenditure organization, no doubt), then more power to them; they'll still be tax exempt but they'll have to follow the same electioneering rules as everybody else. If they're going to act as a political organization, then they don't get to keep the sources of their money hidden.

              If this evidence turns out to be misleading and they really are engaged primarily in social welfare and advocacy work, then let them do what every other group seeking virtually any tax exempt status has to do: cough up the data to prove to the IRS that you are qualified for what you're asking for. It's really as simple as that. If they are social welfare organizations, then they'll get the status and can keep their donors secret all they like.

              You have to remember that the worst of the 501(c)(4) groups have already found the dodge that lets them get around the whole thing anyway, it's just that these small-time Teaparty groups didn't know the trick (though they could have found out if they'd asked one of the Republican old hands at 501(c)(4)s like James Bopp.) Some of the worst of these groups have formed, applied for 501(c)(4) status, run blatant electioneering campaigns, and then folded the group, all within about six months. The IRS can't even keep up with that kind of flash-corporation; by the time they might refuse the status and demand that the group pay taxes, it no longer exists and (as a defunct corporation without assets) is essentially untouchable. If the donor records were never kept (or "no longer exist") then they've gotten away scot-free with bypassing both election finance and tax law. These Teaparty types seem to have learned how to abuse 501(c)(4)s but not how to keep themselves covered while they did so.

              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 Wed May 29, 2013 at 06:58:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  But why should they be exempt from taxation? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eglantine

          Why should the group be especially exempt from taxation if the rule for getting the exemption is that they do disclose?

        •  Rather beside the point, isn't it? (0+ / 0-)

          The freedom of association is not what's at issue here, nor has it ever been. The IRS has no interest in a group's membership beyond what is necessary for determining tax status, regardless of what status a group has or seeks, and was not seeking to make this public or otherwise impair the ability to associate in any way. So I fail to see why this is even relevant.

          The determination of tax status in this case was exactly what the IRS was supposed to be doing by law. It is a matter of what kind of activities the group can engage in and obtain (or retain) that tax status, not anything else. The IRS has no power or desire (as an organization) to prevent any group from associating as they wish or advocating for whatever they wish; they do have the power to refuse to grant the same group a tax status that they do not, by law, qualify for. As long as that law is being generally and equally applied to all who seek that tax status, then the issues raised in American Communications Assn. v. Douds don't don't even come up.

          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 Wed May 29, 2013 at 06:33:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  or that new guidelines for c4's weren't developed (8+ / 0-)

        after the Citizen's United ruling.   Both parties wanted to take advantage of the ruling and press c4 status to the limits. But, surprise, surprise, it was the Dems and the IRS who got burned by the GOP.  

        Unless the WH gets a sensible grip on this issue, the GOP will do it again.  Remember when they accused Clinton & Gore (Kerry, too, IIRC)  of raising campaign cash from China?  

        Like it or no, Obama needs to issue some new post Citizens United guidelines for the c4's and political activity.   Will he catch some GOP flak?  Sure, but he's so good at PR, he can overcome it.

        "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

        by Betty Pinson on Tue May 28, 2013 at 02:03:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks (6+ / 0-)

    Thanks for posting this.  I had seen this yesterday and I wasn't sure if this was actually news or no shit because I haven't been following the details of these non-scandals closely enough.

    Though perhaps we've managed to get to that cynical spot where the main stream media actually doing its job in and of itself qualifies as news.

  •  Next step (9+ / 0-)

    Teabaggers will start saying that registering and electing "good honest" Americans is good for social welfare and deserves a nonprofit tax break. But not the DFHs! And congresscritters will start investigating every IRS staffer who doesn't grant a nonprofit tax break to teabaggers immediately.

    Any group with Party or Vote in their name should get the IRS questionnaire.

  •  I'm not a big Lawrence O'Donnell fan ... (23+ / 0-)

    but he's basically right on this one.  The big scandal ought to be how many overtly political groups get 501(c)(4) status, and the root of that is way back in 1959 when the IRS decided that "exclusively" means "primarily."

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

    by jrooth on Tue May 28, 2013 at 01:17:11 PM PDT

    •  Per the Regulations (12+ / 0-)
      Reg. 1.501(c)(4)-1
      Civic organizations and local associations of employees.
      (a) Civic organizations— (1) In general. A civic league or organization may be exempt as an organization described in section 501(c)(4) if—
      (i) It is not organized or operated for profit; and
      (ii) It is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.
        (2) Promotion of social welfare— (i) In general. An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community. An organization embraced within this section is one which is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements. A social welfare organization will qualify for exemption as a charitable organization if it falls within the definition of charitable set forth in paragraph (d)(2) of § 1.501(c)(3)-1 and is not an action organization as set forth in paragraph (c)(3) of § 1.501(c)(3)-1.
        (ii) Political or social activities. The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. Nor is an organization operated primarily for the promotion of social welfare if its primary activity is operating a social club for the benefit, pleasure, or recreation of its members, or is carrying on a business with the general public in a manner similar to organizations which are operated for profit. See, however, section 501(c)(6) and § 1.501(c)(6)-1, relating to business leagues and similar organizations. A social welfare organization that is not, at any time after October 4, 1976, exempt from taxation as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) may qualify under section 501(c)(4) even though it is an action organization described in § 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(ii) or (iv), if it otherwise qualifies under this section. For rules relating to an organization that is, after October 4, 1976, exempt from taxation as an organization described in section 501(c)(3), see section 504 and § 1.504-1.

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue May 28, 2013 at 01:30:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, that's precisely what O'Donnell pointed out (8+ / 0-)
        An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.
        That's the IRS interpretation of the statute, which only says the part about exclusively:
        (4)
        (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.

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Tue May 28, 2013 at 01:48:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The IRS interpretation of the statute is illegal (0+ / 0-)

          Who has standing to sue to overturn the illegal regulations?

          A 501(c)(4) must be operated EXCLUSIVELY for the promotion of social welfare.  The IRS interpretation is simply and plainly illegal.  Under the statute, none of these groups, which engaged in direct electioneering, qualify.

    •  Without this category (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roger Fox, johnny wurster, VClib

      What do you do with organizations which aren't primarily electoral, but aren't pure charities either?

    •  I'm a huge fan of his. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, elwior

      And he is right again. The problem is the regulation and not its implementation. Fair implementation is impossible when these organizations engage in no social welfare and a hell of a lot of political support FOR a particular candidate.

      If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

      by Bensdad on Tue May 28, 2013 at 02:58:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Joan, makes total sense, they did their job (8+ / 0-)

    Really, any organization with a name like "_ County Tea Party Patriots" is all but assuredly a group that was established, and is intended, to affect politics.  

    •  Not to mention (0+ / 0-)

      many folks on this site wetting themselves trying to blame the IRS for picking on the proud patriotic teabaggers.

      And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

      by Pale Jenova on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:22:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I received a letter from the Heritage Foundation (9+ / 0-)

    the other day.  I was sickened to see them proudly proclaim to be one of the most effective tax exempt organizations for achieving their goals and then they listed all manner of electioneering activities that they engage in designed to elect Republicans and shrink government.

    How can that be legal?  Oh, right.  It's legal if they don't get found guilty in a court of law.  And they're never going to see the inside of a courtroom unless they're the ones doing the suing.  

  •  And if the IRS had targeted the groups (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B, VClib, gramofsam1, eglantine, Tuscarora

    based on those activities rather than on their names, Obama and the IRS wouldn't have had to apologize.

  •  "A lie can travel halfway around the world (7+ / 0-)

    while the truth is still putting its shoes on. "  attributed to Mark Twain.

    This is the same old tactic the GOP used during the Clinton years - come out with some devastating BS, get the media echo chamber to repeat it ad nauseum.  By the time everyone figures out the facts, everyone has stopped paying attention.

    Reason #5,483 why its a dumb idea to rely on low information voters for your political base.

    IIRC, Obama had just gone out on the stump to talk about jobs and unemployment.  GOP had a strategy to steal his media thunder.

    This doesn't mean he should stop talking about jobs, unemployment and the bad economy.  He needs to double down instead and be prepared for these kinds of second term, pre-midterm election dirty tricks.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

    by Betty Pinson on Tue May 28, 2013 at 01:58:15 PM PDT

  •  Tea Party is tax exempt acc'dng to Constushun (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Pale Jenova, MissTrial

    It's in the Constushun, somewhere, probably between the important parts -- i.e., the 2nd & 10th Amendments.

    I heard it from a guy talking on the radio, so it must be true.

  •  I'm sure I missed it, but (0+ / 0-)

    I've yet to see any breakdown of either
    1. what the breakdown of the remaining 3/4 of the organizations selected for further scrutiny was. I wouldn't imagine that it is all liberal groups, but I'd like to see someone unambiguously state that the underlying assumption that conservative groups were being targeted is actually true.
    2. what the functional effect of the name-based selection was: Were they selected for further scrutiny because of their names (as is usually reported) or were they just categorized once they were selected (i.e. "okay, Inspector Joe gets all the tea partiers (sorry Joe)").

    Another thing that interests me is exactly who got all these groups moving on their applications at the same time.  I'm sure the more astute organizations had their applications ready to go the instant CU was decided, but I'd love to know if it percolated out to the edge organizations via an explicitly political organization... not illegal, I gather, but demonstration of collusion might damp down on the silly righteous indignation.

    Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

    by mik on Tue May 28, 2013 at 02:52:48 PM PDT

    •  There were some liberal groups (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mik

      and a number of clearly apolitical groups.  But that's a false equivalency, as it assumes that there were as many liberal 501(c)(4) applicants as there were conservative.

      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

      by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 04:33:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thats a good point, though (0+ / 0-)

        it still doesn't get at the missing information: people are drawing some pretty dramatic conclusions based on very very incomplete data.

        Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

        by mik on Tue May 28, 2013 at 06:33:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here's the problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, Tuscarora

    If the IRS applied extra scrutiny across the board to such organisations, regardless of political affiliation, that would be OK. Or if they have specific, credible evidence that an organisation is engaging in disallowed activity, extra scrutiny would also be appropriate.

    What the IRS can't do, and has admitted to doing, is targeting certain groups simply because of their political affiliation, apparently based on, among other things, their name. You absolutely can't do that. It's huge no-no, which is why the President rightly came out so strongly on this issue. Just because some of these groups may have "pushed the boundaries" doesn't make the initial targeting of them any more appropriate. The law has to be applied neutrally, without regard to political affiliation.

    Now, perhaps a case can be made that ALL these groups deserve stricter scrutiny, and perhaps the laws need to be tightened up regarding the activities of such groups. But that doesn't excuse what the IRS did in this case.

    Black Holes Suck.

    by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 03:10:42 PM PDT

    •  No (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VeloDramatic

      Giving extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups is not "targeting certain groups simply because of their political affiliation."  They chose the name, and the name clearly indicated that they were engaged in political activity.  It was irrelevant whether that activity was conservative;  the simple fact is that the brand clearly indicated political activity.

      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

      by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 04:35:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmmm (0+ / 0-)

        Well, the IG's report, the President, most members of Congress (who have spoken out on this issue) and the IRS itself would seem to disagree with you.

        And I'm not sure where you get the idea that such groups cannot engage in "political activity". They certainly can under the law as it is currently interpreted and enforced.

        Black Holes Suck.

        by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 04:41:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They can't engage in ELECTIONEERING activity (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VeloDramatic

          defined as advocating directly for or against specific candidates in a specific race.  If there is reason to believe they plan to do so, whether by name or by pattern of activity, they merit a closer look.  
           

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:23:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes and No (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lgmcp, Tuscarora

            If there's credible information that they are engaging in activity inconsistent with the law...and electioneering would certainly quality...you're quite correct they'd warrant extra scrutiny.

            But having the words "Tea Party" (or similar terms) in your name, alone, isn't sufficient reason to warrant extra scrutiny...or flag them for such.  That's apparently what happened here, and that's what the IG, the President, lawmakers from both parties have described as inappropriate and unacceptable.  So, no, the name alone doesn't merit a "closer look."  In fact, it's basically unconstitutional.

            In fact, the name of the organisation could be "Tea Party Patriots Committed to repealing the 14th Amendment and elimination all taxes and returning the country to conservative principles" and even then, applying extra scrutiny using that name alone as justification would be impermissible.

            Black Holes Suck.

            by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:31:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Really (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lgmcp, VeloDramatic, Laconic Lib

              What part of the Constitution forbids taking into account a name?  Are you suggesting that the FBI cannot take a closer look at the Friends of Al-Qaeda?

               

              "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

              by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:39:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The 1st Amendment (0+ / 0-)

                Crikey, even the ACLU called the practice unconstitutional. It's a basic tenant of our democracy that you're not singled out based on your political beliefs.

                Look, if the IRS wants to decide that all these 501c's deserve extra scrutiny, more power to them.  I think most of these groups, on the left and right, are a blight, skirt the law and don't operate under the spirit of the statute. But they have to apply the extra scrutiny neutrally, across the board, without regard to political affiliation...or even the appearance that they're doing it with regard to political affiliation. It doesn't matter that you, or even the IRS, may think it's the Tea Party groups that are the ones doing most of the violating...you just can't go there, even if it may make practical sense.

                Let me give you a not so perfect, but apt analogy. If the police decide to give extra scrutiny to black and brown drivers, and pull them over based on their race alone...would it matter if in a subsequent search of their vehicle they found drugs? Would that make it OK? Would it be OK to search everyone of Middle Eastern descent who boards a plane, because the FBI thinks that's who the terrorists are? Of course not. It may make for effective and efficient law enforcement (or not), but in any event such profiling is impressible.

                Black Holes Suck.

                by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:50:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  A name is not a political belief (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MissTrial

                  If you want to claim that they were singled out for their political beliefs, that is one thing. But it is not the case here.  They were singled out for their names--which they chose, and which clearly conveyed that they were likely to be engaging in electoral politics, thus warranting heightened scrutiny to determine if such activiity was their primary activity.

                  And again, I reserve the right to exercise my judgment--so I don't really care what the ACLU said.

                  Your analogies are flawed.  The correct analogy is whether a traffic stop would be justified  of a car with a bumper sticker that says "Hey officer--there is a greater than 80% chance that there's a brick of hashish in my trunk."

                  Sorry, but it ain't profiling to take a close look at a group that advertises by its name its natue.

                  "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                  by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 06:04:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Fair enough (0+ / 0-)

                    Disagreeing and exercising your own judgement on this matter is certainly your right.

                    Black Holes Suck.

                    by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 06:07:16 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  And BTW (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lgmcp

                    Your bumper sticker analogy is incorrect. The groups in question were singled out because they had words like "Tea Party" and "Patriot" in them...not "Re-Elect Michelle Bachman".

                    A more apt analogy, re: the bumper sticker, would be a bumper sticker that said "Legalise Pot Now." I'm assuming you don't think such a sticker would warrant that car being stopped.

                    Black Holes Suck.

                    by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 06:09:53 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Nope (0+ / 0-)

                      The IG report, for example, concluded that more than 80% of the Tea Party groups applying for 501(c)(4) status warranted additional scrutiny.  So try reading my comment again.

                      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                      by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 06:54:40 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Again, missing the point (0+ / 0-)

                        It's interesting that you quote the IG's report for your own ends, but ignore the conclusions of the report. It's not question of whether it was discovered that they warranted additional scrutiny. It's about the criteria they used to flag these groups in the first place. What's so hard to understand about this?

                        The issue is singling them out using key words in their name as criteria. That's the thing people (not you) have an issue with. The fact that it was later determined that they warranted "additional scrutiny" is irrelevant, and doesn't excuse the IRS's initial impermissible, and unconstitutional, actions.

                        Had the IRS received specific information that X group was engaged in questionable activity, then it would be permissible, and appropriate, to investigate THAT GROUP. But that's not what we're talking about here.

                        To go back to your bumper sticker analogy. Suppose the police pulled over every car that said "Legalise Pot Now", because they thought, well, those people must be carrying pot. And later they discovered that 80% of the cars they pulled over had either pot or drug paraphernalia...would that have made pulling those cars over, based solely on their bumper sticker, OK? Of course not.

                        Look, I understand that you disagree...but I have to tell you, your understanding of the law, the constitution, and the facts, is wrong. If a group calls itself "Tea Party", and the government singles them out based on that alone alone, that's a constitutional violation. The government just CANNOT discriminate that way, it has to apply the law equally. It doesn't matter what they think other tea party groups are doing. If you can't see that, I don't know what to say to you. And it's not just me saying that, as I've pointed out.

                        Anyway, we're not going to agree, so I'll leave it that. If you'd like you can have the last word.

                        Black Holes Suck.

                        by Pi Li on Tue May 28, 2013 at 07:14:48 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Tell you what (0+ / 0-)

                          The way one determines what the law is by citing a case.  Go ahead--cite a single case that says that the IRS cannot take into account the name of an organization in determining whether to examine it.  Because so far no one has done so--instead, you toss up stupid analogies to racial profiling.

                           

                          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                          by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 07:32:33 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  And also (0+ / 0-)

                          Go ahead and indicate what fact I got wrong.

                          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                          by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 07:34:08 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

            •  How about "Committee to Re-elect the President"? (0+ / 0-)

              Is THAT a name that in and of itself might merit closer scrutiny?  

              "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

              by lgmcp on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:50:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  And they're wrong (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VeloDramatic

          I didn't say the couldn't engage in political activity, but doing so should clearly be a trigger for heightened scrutiny of applcants for 501(c)(4) status to make sure it is not their primary activity.

          The IG's report assumed that selecting Tea Party groups for heightened scrutiny based on their name was improper, but cited nothing in support of that assumption.  In fact, according to the IG, more than 80% of the Tea Party groups warranted heightened scrutiny.  Among the other groups that were subjected to heightened scrutiny, less than two-thirds warranted it.  What that tells me is that selecting groups with Tea Party in their name was a highly effective way of identifying the right applications to examine more carefully.

          And who the fuck cares what Congressmen think?  I'm supposed to defer to Darrell Issa?

          And, quite frankly, Obama blew it.

          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

          by Old Left Good Left on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:36:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Lol (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster

        Good to know you have such a good grasp of the facts. Then again, why let the facts get in the way of defending the actions of the IRS since they're going after the bad guys.

  •  From a diary about the Tea Party in Ohio (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B, elwior, deep info

    The Liberty Township Tea Party
    OH: Liberty Township Tea Party, what do you have to hide? A look at an IRS request for info.

    This has now been scrubbed from their website. Wonder why?Our History...

    We (Liberty Township Tea Party) have conducted candidate forums that have been very well attended.  We have hosted groups from outside the state and have had a very diverse group of speakers and topics at our meetings.  Our first year culminated with a “Watch Party” held on Election Night at the Ronald Reagan Lodge at Voice of America Park in West Chester, OH.  This event was attended by over 300 people and included a video link with the now Speaker of the House John Boehner our Congressman in the 8th District.   We are now gearing up for the race for 2012 so there is much to do.  We have also become an independent group and are a 501c3 tax exempt organization.
    The Liberty Township Tea Party application was for a 501(c)(3), which has even more stringent regulations that a (c)(4).

    We all stand submissively before the global ATM machine network like trained chickens pecking the correct colored buttons to release our grains of corn. Joe Bageant

    by Zwoof on Tue May 28, 2013 at 03:49:38 PM PDT

  •  The law is flawed, needs benchmarks (0+ / 0-)

    there needs to be rules, 75% of funds to education,not candidates or pacs, then you pass, otherwise no, this law leaves it up to human beings to decide what is "primarily" their work

    •  That's pretty much how it works. (0+ / 0-)

      If >50% of activities are for non-candidate stuff, they pass.

      •  Illegal behavior by the IRS... (0+ / 0-)

        The law says that 100% of actitivies must be for non-candidate stuff.  The word "exclusively" is not ambiguous.

        The IRS has been deliberately violating the law, and allowing all manner of illegal 501(c)4 groups, since the 1950s.  

        This needs to stop; every last one of these groups, of all political stripes, needs their 501(c)4 status stripped, en masse.

        Who has standing to sue the IRS for issuing illegal regulations in the 1950s which deliberately misinterpret the law?

        •  deep info - the former head of the IRS Tax Exempt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nextstep

          Division was on CSPAN this morning. He was asked this specific question, what about the "exclusively" requirement. What he said was that Congress later passed new legislation that was in direct conflict with the exclusively language and that the IRS picked primarily as a way to deal with the conflict. Congress seems to like the compromise and has never passed any legislation to resolve the conflict. In no way has the IRS been violating the law. In the view of the IRS the law was amended by subsequent legislation and Congress would seem to agree.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Wed May 29, 2013 at 01:10:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  As A.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    T Maysle

    Federal Employee I would take anything the IG says with a huge grain of salt.  They are good at pointing out problems, but not so good at offering plausible solutions or getting to the root of the problem.  They also only take on issues/cases that will either generate publicity or will be easy to win.  

  •  You don't bluff while playing with a marked deck.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    T Maysle

    That is exactly what they tried here, and when someone called their bluff, the little anomalous squiggles on the back of the cards became obvious...

  •  Do we know all the 300 flagged applicants? (0+ / 0-)

    Ever since this story broke, we kept hearing that 75 of 300 501(C)(4) applications that were flagged had tea party in their name.  But aside from a few isolated references to some progressive groups, I haven't seen a full listing of all those that were "targeted" (since you could say all 300 were targeted to the extent they were deemed to need further review).

    Perhaps that information can't be divulged, and I know the IG report was only charged with investigating the tea party/patriot flagging accusation.  But wouldn't it help to see what other types of applicants received extra scrutiny?  It may show what other shortcuts were used to flag applicants, and thus bolster the claim that the staffers were employing this technique across the board.

    People still may not think these actions were appropriate, but there is a difference between a technique being inappropriate or ineffective versus one that is solely blatantly partisan.

  •  Investigate every questionable group. The IRS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deep info

    should do its job and ensure that groups claiming to promote public policy do just that. Cheats are cheats no matter their political agenda.

    Who knows? This might even help bring down the deficit that repubs are whining about ad nauseum.

  •  File under the category of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HCKAD, deep info

    "No shit, Sherlock":

    The problem with President Obama's and congressional Democrats' joining in on the Republican freak-out over the "scandal" is the possibility that the IRS will back off of the reviews its currently conducting, giving these organizations a free rein in 2014.
    Damn. Who coulda foreseen?

    WTFWJD? LOTE? I sincerely doubt that.

    by WisePiper on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:39:18 PM PDT

  •  No exemptions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deep info

    For anyone involved in politics, period. left, right or other. Also I'm for taxing churches...

  •  "Pushing Poltical Activity Boundaries" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laconic Lib, T Maysle, deep info

    So what? the catholic church and RWNJ protestant churches do the same... and they continue to enjoy their tax exempt status.

    time to face the fact: we're mostly a nation of lawlessness.

    "The 1% don't want SOLUTIONS; they've worked very hard the last four decades to get conditions the way they are now".

    by Superpole on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:56:23 PM PDT

  •  None of this excuses (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, eglantine

    the IRS agent's using inappropriate means to target groups based on their beliefs and ideology. There is a reason the administration and the irs and many in congress  have denounced this activity- because it was wrong.

    The agents were not doing their jobs in an unbiased and subjective manner. That the targeted groups were eventually approved is testament to that.

  •  Wow the spin (0+ / 0-)

    Here could provide enough energy to power a large city. Evidently an overwhekming majority of kossaks think it is ok for the IRS to specifically target certain groups based solely on ideological and political beliefs.  Not on actions. Wow. That is scary.

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