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.
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.