It’s important to review why the Tea Party groups were petitioning the I.R.S. anyway. They were seeking approval to operate under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require them to be “social welfare,” not political, operations. There are significant advantages to being a 501(c)(4). These groups don’t pay taxes; they don’t have to disclose their donors—unlike traditional political organizations, such as political-action committees. In return for the tax advantage and the secrecy, the 501(c)(4) organizations must refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing candidates.
If that definition sounds murky—that is, if it’s unclear what 501(c)(4) organizations are allowed to do—that’s because it is murky. Particularly leading up to the 2012 elections, many conservative organizations, nominally 501(c)(4)s, were all but explicitly political in their work. For example, Americans for Prosperity, which was funded in part by the Koch Brothers, was an instrumental force in helping the Republicans hold the House of Representatives. In every meaningful sense, groups like Americans for Prosperity were operating as units of the Republican Party. Democrats organized similar operations, but on a much smaller scale. (They undoubtedly would have done more, but they lacked the Republican base for funding such efforts.)
So the scandal—the real scandal—is that 501(c)(4) groups have been engaged in political activity in such a sustained and open way...
But let’s be clear on the real scandal here. The columnist Michael Kinsley has often observed that the scandal isn’t what’s illegal—it’s what’s legal. It’s what society chooses not to punish that tells us most about the prevailing ethical standards of the time. Campaign finance operates by shaky, or even nonexistent, rules, and powerful players game the system with impunity. A handful of I.R.S. employees saw this and tried, in a small way, to impose some small sense of order. For that, they’ll likely be ushered into bureaucratic oblivion.The Real Scandal Behind The IRS Controversy
Yes, the IRS employees in Cincinnati, looking for shortcuts to process the wave of applications, used conservative-themed catchwords to filter for groups that were perhaps too election-focused to merit 501(c)(4) status. But there is a plausible explanation for this: Most of the campaign-minded applications they were getting were conservative! This is a credit to the tea party movement, which for a while was generating levels of grassroots activism that the left could only envy. Why did the IRS not screen for “corporate greed” or “plutocracy” or “inequality”? Well, maybe because those words would have netted precious few applications to scrutinize.
Not to mention that the applications from tea party groups demanded special attention for another reason: These groups were proudly political! Even if you take at face value the movement’s initial claim to be something all its own, something more than just the conservative wing of the Republican Party, its whole purpose from the get-go was to orient American politics and government toward its constitutional roots by intervening in elections at all levels, starting with Republican Party primaries. The tea party groups’ whole mission called their suitability for 501(c)(4) status into question.Media Cries Foul Over IRS Tea-Party Action
Either way, the momentary "buzz" is now focused on how employees at the IRS Processing Office in Cincinnati, Ohio allegedly "targeted" Tea-Party groups seeking to gain 501.c.4 tax-status exemption certification. The Conservative based organizations declare they were targeted due to a deep dislike of President Barack Obama policies, including a vehement opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
These are important facts to remember when the media "echo-chamber"seeks to push the next "Independent Counsel Investigation" lasting until 2014 or 2016 election cycle. Our media resources would lead the public to believe Americans ability to place food on the tables with Congress purposed cuts to the Food Assistance program, is not pertinent enough to talk about. Especially when "underlying race based issues" come into play with the IRS/Tea-Party Targeting story.
Speaking of race and class issues with IRS Auditing procedures, the media would be wise to compare and contrast what happened in 2004, when the National Association of the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) via its' former President Julian Bondwas targeted by the IRS for the groups' opposition to the failed Iraq War, if they can find file footage that is. At least Democracy Now Amy Goodman was talking about this targeting effort of the NAACP back then.The Tea Party and the IRS “Scandal” The Actual Facts of the Case
While it is well-known that the so-called IRS scandal has been used by Tea Partiers to bash the IRS, less well known are the actual facts of the case.
Some of the flagged groups did have their tax-exempt status delayed or did face some additional scrutiny, but not a single group has been denied tax-exempt status.
A May 14 draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that none of the 296 questionable applicants had been denied, “For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).”
In fact, the only known 501(c)(4) applicant to recently have its status denied happens to be a progressive group: the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. Although the group did no electoral work, and didn’t participate in independent expenditure campaign activity either, its partisan nature disqualified it from being categorized as working for the “common good.”...
These are but a few of the many examples of political intervention by Tea Party non-profits that IREHR has catalogued. There are many, many more. They’re not difficult to find. Rather than the so-called scandal cooked up by Tea Party groups, the real criticism of the IRS may be that it has let so many of these groups get away with what are apparently egregious violations.The Real IRS Scandal
The Other IRS Scandal
The IRS Was Dead Right To Scrutinize The Tea Party
Congress Put Pressure On IRS To Investigate Conservative Groups
Many Political Parties Should Not Be Tax Exempt
The Real IRS Scandal
Remember When The IRS Targeted Liberals?
The IRS Tea Party Scandal, Explained