Saturday, May 18, 2013

Scandalized for Doing Its Job

Trey Smith

One of the supposedly major scandals making the rounds in the news is that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative organizations with extra scrutiny. Though there is almost no evidence that conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were denied, it is alleged that the IRS moved more slowly than they should have.

In my mind's eye, this is no scandal at all. I don't write this because I'm a leftist and I'm overjoyed that the IRS dragged its feet at the expense of organizations I don't favor. I write this because most of the groups that were scrutinized SHOULD HAVE BEEN scrutinized. Most of them are explicitly political groups masquerading as charitable organizations.

To merit the designation as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, a group must exist for reasons other than political ones. Such organizations are allowed by law to participate in the political process so long as this is not their primary function. Such organizations are allowed to lobby, but they are precluded from supporting or opposing political candidates or political parties.

Most of the organizations which applied for tax-exempt status and received this extra scrutiny are Tea Party groups. The Tea Party movement is expressly political. Many of these groups have no other mission than to lobby for or against legislation AND to support or oppose political candidates/political parties. Not only should these organizations have received extra scrutiny, but their applications for tax-exempt status should have been denied!

For me, that is the real scandal. Despite the fact that these organizations participate in all facets of the political process and little else -- which, by law, should disqualify them -- their applications are approved again and again. Why have regulations that bar substantive political participation as an organization's chief focus if the IRS refuses to uphold them?

Another point brought up by David Sirota and also by Karl Grossman is that this type of politically-infused scrutiny has been going on for years. When a Republican occupies the White House, the IRS tends to scrutinize liberal groups. When a Democrat is in the White House, the IRS tends to scrutinize conservative groups. So, in reality, this isn't "news" at all. It is the typical way BOTH corporate political parties play the game.

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