published Saturday, May 18th, 2013

What's good for the goose ... The IRS and a story of hypocrisy

The money involved

in the IRS scrutiny

• Conservative nonprofits spent more than $263 million during the 2012 campaign, while liberal counterparts spent close to $35 million.

• In 2010, the social welfare nonprofits [501(c)(4)s] outspent super PACs by a 3-2 margin.

Sources: Center For Responsive Politics, Center for Public Integrity

That hot place of perdition down below hath no fury like a spurned politician. And politicians, above all people, know that revenge is a dish best served cold.

This week, the leftovers of losing two presidential elections and watching the splintering of the Republican Party have sizzled as the GOP brought their dished-up losses out of the deep freeze.

Now hypocrisy is pouring like gravy over a Southern Sunday dinner.

Hypocrisy like Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander thinking it's perfectly OK in 2003 to take exception to an NAACP speech of Julian Bond and joining six other Republican members of Congress to file concerns with the IRS claiming the NAACP -- a 501(c)(4) tax exempt organization -- engaged in partisan electioneering, according to IRS documents obtained by what is now the Center for Effective Government.

An email from Alexander, which forwarded to the IRS a letter from a constituent about NAACP President Julian Bond's anti-Bush comments, was among the complaints that resulted in a two-year audit that threatened the NAACP's tax-exempt status.

When the IRS launched the audit in October 2004, it claimed a speech Chairman Bond made during the organization's annual convention criticized President George Bush's education and foreign policies and crossed the line from issue advocacy to partisan electioneering.

Now, fast-forward to this week, when, on Wednesday, Alexander (and this time Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, too) signed onto another letter.

This one went to President Barack Obama, calling for him to direct IRS cooperation in their "examination" of IRS.

"We are deeply disturbed that agents of the government were directed to give greater scrutiny to groups engaged in conduct questioning the actions of their government. This type of purely political scrutiny being conducted by an executive branch agency is yet another completely inexcusable attempt to chill the speech of political opponents and those who would question their government ...", states the letter.

So, senator, when you and others sought an examination of the NAACP, it was your duty, right?

But when you puff out your chests in outrage this week, it seems extra looks at some tea party tax-exempt applications is government-run-amok, even criminal.

Hypocrisy.

No wonder the IRS is slow and apparently inept. It has whiplash from one government administration and Congress to the next.

The real hypocrisy is that organizations that can do any campaign "engineering" are tax-exempt -- and certainly organizations that are supposed to be "social welfare" organizations.

Pundits call the campaign money from 501(c)4 groups "the dark money," as the IRS documentation for them has an unwritten rule -- recently bolstered by a 2010 Supreme Court decision -- that they may spend no more than 49 percent of their resources for political purposes.

The danger is that it wouldn't be too hard -- given the IRS penchant for glacial action -- for these organizations to inappropriately spend more than 49 percent on political activity while manipulating the tax code to hide their donors and evade taxes.

This is not a small amount of money, either, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity. In 2010, the social welfare nonprofits -- the 501(c)(4)s -- outspent super PACs by a 3-2 margin.

And conservative nonprofits spent more than $263 million during the 2012 campaign, while liberal counterparts spent close to $35 million.

So the real hypocrisy, and the real IRS scandal, is not what IRS is targeting -- or even how the targets swing from one political season to the next. The real problem is that politicians won't take hold of the central issue: policing the money they themselves use to get elected.

In 2012 alone, campaign funds from all sources totaled about $6 billion, the highest ever.

So, Congress -- already in the doghouse with Americans because of the sequester and other issues such as their roll-over to the NRA rather than vote on the sensible gun checks that 90 percent of the country favors -- is taking the easy and hypocritical way out.

They found cover this week from the real issues by rallying around scandals that aren't scandalous -- especially the faux IRS one.

There is a real IRS issue, but you can count on Congress not going there.

12
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inquiringmind said...

The bottom line is, groups with "tea party" and "patriot" and the like ARE often vocally open about engaging in political activity that is proscribed for these 501c4 organizations, so it is not at all unreasonable that a group with such a name might get a little more scrutiny from the IRS. Tax-exempt non-profits effectively increase taxes on the rest of us to cover the tax shortfall. This is perfectly acceptable for humanitarian and charitable causes. They (these tea-party types) are perfectly welcome to politic according to the Supreme Court, but not on my dime.

To compare Obama to Nixon goes beyond the pale of decent behavior.

May 18, 2013 at 7:51 a.m.
klifnotes said...

Yes, inquiringmind, and one only has to take a look at the activities of the local tea party to know this certainly was no social welfare organization. Look at their tactics used and the way they went after political opponents. They've investigated innocent people, ruined careers, slandered individuals, and made personal attacks against innocent fellow Chattanoogans.

also what's missing from this so-called tea party scandal is the fact that the same questions sent to tea party groups filing under that 501(c)(4) claiming to a non-profit charitable social welfare program were also sent to Democratic groups suspected of not being charities but political as well. So it’s not just an "attack" on Republicans." In fact, it's not an attack at all. The IRS was doing its job. Why everyone caving, bowing and pissing their pants because this is the powerful tea party is more disturbing than the powers of the federal government.

May 18, 2013 at 9:47 a.m.
chet123 said...

THIS IS WHY I PRINT IN CAP.......TO MAKE SURE THE TEA-PARTY(REPUBLICAN)CAN HEAR ME......

I HAVE CONSISTENTLY STATED THAT REPUBLICAN THROW STONES FROM GLASS HOUSES.......

IT IS A PARTY WITH NO IDEAS,NO POLICY,NO PLAN.......THE ONLY THING THEY ARE CONSISTENT AT IS PROTECTING THE RICH AND GREEDY.....AND I ADMIT...THEY DO THAT WELL AT THE MIDDLE-CLASS EXPENSE.......

IT AMAZE ME HOW STUPID THE TEA-PARTY PEOPLE ARE(THEY ACTUALLY THINK THEY REPRESENT A REVOLUTION)...HA HA HA

May 18, 2013 at 10:02 a.m.
klifnotes said...

S. Rosenfeld/altnert org

excerpt:

Charities are not political front groups. The question of who turned charities into political front groups has barely been discussed. The answer, of course, is the same as it always has been: election lawyers and campaign consultants who look for loopholes in the law so clients can run for office using any tactic with little or no accountability.

The party known for voter suppression and intimidation now feels targeted? The spectacle of Republicans protesting that its groups were targeted by the IRS, when the only business of some of these groups was to lead the GOP’s 2012 voter suppression efforts, is just unbelievable. The GOP has spent years trying to discourage and suppress voting blocks that it perceives will back Democrats, such as black and brown voters, and students. Its entire "voter fraud" canard is based on policing the polls in myriad ways targeting millions of voters.

But now the GOP is upset—with Speaker of the House John Boehner saying he wants the guilty put in jail—because groups like True The Vote were not given the same tax status as the Girl Scouts? They have spent years in state after state imposing tougher ID laws, criminalizing voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, and on and on.

There are so many reasons why this "scandal" reflects what’s really wrong in our political culture. But watching it unfold literally is like watching the blind leading the blind—and the rest of us have to live with the results of these political subterfuges. This scandal is about the perpetuation of lies and deceits in modern campaigns and politics. Meanwhile, the solution, more transparency and disclosure, is going nowhere.

www.alternet.org: 6 Key Takeaways From the Stupidity and Reality of IRS 'Scandal'

May 18, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.
chet123 said...

I'M SUPRISED THAT A MAN OF ALEXANDER INTEGRITY HAS STOOPED SO LOW TO RUIN HIS GOOD NAME...CONFORMING WITH THE HATERS OF THE NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATE,AND THE HARD RIGHT.

WHILE THROWING MUD AT OBAMA.... ALEXANDER STAND WITH MUD ON HIMSELF......HE JUST COULDNT RESIST THE TEMPTATION OF GETTING HIS KICK IN ON OBAMA TO PROVE HOW TOUGH HE IS ...HA HA HA

HOW COULD A MAN WITH SUCH BRILLICY AND ELEGANCE....FORGET HIS OWN PASS ACTION......IT IS SAID THAT HATE BREED STUPIDITY...

THE POLITICIAN AND SOME OF THE MEDIA UNDERESTIMATE THE WISDOM OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AS A MAJORITY

TODAY REPUBLICAN MAY WANT TO TAKE NOTE FROM A STATEMENT MADE OVER 150YEARS AGO BY A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT....THE PRESIDENT OF THAT TIME SAID "YOU CAN FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME,SOME OF THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME,BUT YOU CANNOT FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME"(ABRAHAM LINCOLN)

May 18, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
chet123 said...

WELL SAID KLIFNOTES!!!!

May 18, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
chet123 said...

REPUBLICANS HAVE CLEARED THE HOUSE.....I CAN HEAR CRICKETS HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

May 18, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Great commentary, TFP. I agree with your observations about Senator Alexander. I can recall a number of curious situations involving the IRS during the presidency of George W. Bush, but I can't recall ever hearing a "peep" from any Republican, including Senator Alexander.

I also find it interesting that we haven’t heard a “peep” from Senator Alexander involving the obvious abuse of the 501 (c) 4 tax code by some of these political organizations. Fortunately, there are some responsible people addressing the abuse:

"While heads role at the IRS for allegedly picking on Tea Party groups, the agency is being sued by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) for generally being too easy on 501(c)(4) organizations engaging in politics. . .

The problem CREW sees is with the regulations. It boils down to a two word difference. According to the regulations to qualify under 501(c)(4), your group must be “primarily engaged” in promoting social welfare, while the Code says “operated exclusively” to promote social welfare. The regulation goes on to state:

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.

Those two words make a very big difference. You could read the Code to say that a 501(c)(4) should have 0% of its expenditures be on intervention in political campaigns. Arguably the regulations allow 49%."

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2013/05/18/irs-and-501c4-damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-dont/

May 18, 2013 at 9:35 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

For extra scrutiny, they put just one man (?) on the job to check out 200+ organizations, some of which went over 3 years with no verdict? That looks more like intentional delay than extra scrutiny. And I hear some Christian group was asked how it prayed! Psalm 58 anyone?

May 18, 2013 at 11:33 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

How about the church whose pastor prayed for Obama's death? Interference in politics? Should they be tax exempt?

May 19, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
klifnotes said...

lkeithlu said... How about the church whose pastor prayed for Obama's death? Interference in politics? Should they be tax exempt?

Or a well known televangist preacher who called for the assassination of Hugo chavez?

May 19, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
anticorp said...

Anyone get the feeling "Good Christian Folks" must be thinking about purging these Tea Party hypocrites or dissociating themselves from it? They lie and connive openly and embarrass the name of Christianity. This Tea Party ilk behaves more like Muslims (old testament) than gentle King James Christians.

May 20, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.
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