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The IRS Tea Party "Scandal" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Monday, 13 May 2013 10:54

patriotsBy now you've likely heard reports that some staff in a regional Ohio office of the IRS were targetting groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their name as those groups sought tax exempt status. I have a few general thoughts about this.  Here's my rant:

First, I listened to right-winger Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show this morning expressing his outrage over the fact that this appears to be an attack by Democrats against "the other side."  When I heard that I started to wonder if I'm the only person who can remember past last week.

Back when the Tea Party was becoming the astro-turf movement it became, I personally joined the chorus of Americans who insisted it was a transparent attempt by the Republican Party to expand its base.  "No, no, no," we were assured.  "The Tea Party is made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who've never been political a day in their life, libertarians, Republicans." (See, e.g., Michele Bachmann, founding chair of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, in the Huffington Post). This spin came from Tea Party activists nationally, and locally. Some were paid shills; others were partisan politicians. I heard it from a Teabagging organizer here in Bismarck. I got it from one of the teabagger organizers in Grand Forks. "The Tea Party is non-partisan," I was told by some of the movements mouth-breathing North Dakota leaders.

But now -- today -- Republicans and Tea Baggers (but I'm repeating myself) want it both ways. "The Tea Party is a Republican organization and Obama's IRS went after it unfairly," they blather.  It's nonsense.

Anybody who remembers past last week -- apparently only me -- remembers how vehemently they protested just a couple years ago when anybody dared to call the Tea Party a Republican Party organization.  

If the IRS targetted organizations with the phrase "tea party" in the name and if the "tea party" is non-partisan, besides their methodology being seriously flawed, what's the big deal?

Teabaggers and Republicans (but I repeat myself) can't have it both ways.

Secondly, in the past few years -- and especially since the Citizens United case was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court -- lots of Americans have questioned the legitimacy of non-profit, allegedly non-partisan special interest groups on both sides of the aisle. Lots of people think those organizations should have their non-profit status more aggressively scrutinized both when that status is obtained, and subsequent to certification.  

When these organizations fill out their 990 tax returns, they are asked to certify that they don't do any lobbying, or to disclose how much they do (because there are limits to what they can do). Many -- like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- lie on their tax returns, with no consequences from the IRS.  This is what's really troublesome about IRS enforcement methods.  There seem to be no consequences for these partisan astro-turf groups that break the law or rules.

Keep in mind, one of the things the IRS is tasked with doing is ensuring organizations that engage in certain types of political activity must not get classified in certain ways for tax purposes.  So today the IRS is being criticized for trying to do its job.  I totally agree that by targetting groups with certain words or phrases in their names, they're doing a horrible job of doing their job, but it's still a part of the job they've been assigned. Criticize them for being bad at part of what they're supposed to do, but don't attack them as being partisan.

America is full or fake grassroots organizations set up for the primary purpose of lobbying the government or swaying the outcomes of elections, and they're getting away with doing it under the banner of an IRS issued tax-exempt status certifications. ALEC is one such group. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is another. Both of these organizations are funded by the Koch Brothers Crime Family and are set up for the purpose of lobbying government and/or distributing partisan political propoganda to manipulate election and legislative outcomes. They have no business getting tax exempt status the way they do.  I, for one, think it would be a great idea if the IRS started scrutinizing all of these fake grassroots non-partisan, non-profit organizations, regardless of their political leaning. But if you look at Tea Party groups, specifically, some of the main ones have earned -- through hard work -- the attention of the IRS.  They should lose their tax exempt status.

Thirdly, who decided every organization that has the word "patriot" in its name is a right wing group?  Do some organizations with the word "patriot" in the name lean to the right?  Sure.  But all of them?  Doubt it.

I arbitrarily pulled up a listing of such organizations on Guidestar.org, and the first 10 listed include:

  • Patriot Volunteer Fire Department 
  • Patriot Indiana Main Street Inc
  • Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation
  • Patriot Foundation
  • Carolina Patriot Rovers Inc
  • United American Patriots Inc
  • New England Patriots Charitable Foundation Inc
  • Pets for Patriots Inc
  • Illinois Patriot Education Fund
  • American Patriot Foundation Inc

Anybody want to guess how many of those are right-wing, partisan groups?  

One.  

So if you are an Obama administration IRS field office administrator and your goal is to target right wing, Republican organizations and you plan to do so by going after non-profits with the word "patriot" in their name, the only thing you're good at is being an idiot.  Are you corrupt? Not necessarily. Are you stupid and/or incompetent in at least one relatively minor component of your job? Yep.

Did the IRS screw up? Sure. Is this story worthy of all the calls for impeachment from the right-wing fringe?  Um, no.  Is this story worthy of all the press its getting right now.  Not a chance.  Are there more important stories?  Yes.


Comments (6)add comment

justawriter said:

Also forgetting that irs harassment of liberal groups is just par for the course
http://www.balloon-juice.com/2...gainst-us/
I remember back in the Reagan years getting your 501(c)(3) if you were any kind of environmental group could take a year or more.
 
May 13, 2013
Votes: +2

random said:

These 501c4 organizations are a joke
They're supposed to be educational "social welfare" organizations, but most are ways for wealthy Republicans to donate anonymously to buy or attempt to buy elections. Thoudans of these have sprung up in the past few years. Especially since Citizens United. And I've read that 84% of these c4s are "conservative" leaning.

I hope someone with some guts really looks into what these groups are doing.
 
May 14, 2013
Votes: +2

nimrod said:

...
As dailykos sez, purpose of that IRS unit is to ferret out "political" entities that should not qualify for 501(c)(4) status.
 
May 15, 2013
Votes: +0

Jason said:

I don't get it
The IRS has said forthcoming that it purposefully targeted "conservative" groups. And have also said that it was improper and wrong. President Obama has said that it is wrong. Pelosi has said it's wrong. MSNBC, who has ZERO legitimate right-wingers, has said it was wrong. But you're saying it's a non-issue?
 
May 15, 2013
Votes: +0

random said:

...
They may say it's wrong, but they really have no choice but to say that publicly. In truth, all the IRS office did was to respond to requests by mostly Tea Party-type groups wanting to suddenly become tax exempt organizations(501c4). Thousands of them. The c4 were "social welfare" organizations and their primary purpose was NOT to engage in political activity to be tax exempt. Tea Party type groups not political??

You know this raised all kinds of red flags. Especially when suddenly there were so many of them. And so few progressive organizations wanting the same thing.

The mess up the IRS office did was not to use more neutral filtering terms. Not Tea Party or some such filter, but something neutrally sounding that would accomplish the same thing.

The most unbelievable part to me is that not one of these "conservative" groups was turned down for tax exempt status. That's the real scandal.
 
May 15, 2013
Votes: +0

Marty said:

...
In America today we treat every episode of misjudgment,misfeasance or malfeasance by the employees and management of a government agency as The President's "Scandal", without regard to the level of government at which those types of decisions get made. It's interesting. Good, perhaps. The buck stops there, right? (It first seemed to me we shouldn't want the President him- or herself to personally be choosing who the IRS should be auditing, but if the buck stops with them, I guess they have to.)

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. I just came here to ask if anyone has heard if the CEO of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas been scheduled for lethal injection yet? Have they decided yet if the Chairman of the Board will receive his simultaneously, or will it be a separate event? (I haven't heard anything about them - kinda scary in a way. Do you suppose they are being held at Gitmo for an act of terror? Maybe being held beside the CEO of BP, getting waterboarded daily?)
 
May 17, 2013
Votes: -1

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