Friday, February 28, 2014

According to the Wall Street Journal, the mainstream press has justified its lack of coverage over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups because there's been no "smoking gun" tying President Obama to the scandal. 

The 501(c)(4) groups in question are officially known as "social-welfare organizations." They have for decades been permitted to engage in political activity under IRS rules, so long as their primary purpose (generally understood to be more than 50% of their activity) wasn't political. They are permitted to lobby without limitation and are not required to disclose their donors. The groups span the political spectrum, from the National Rifle Association to Common Cause to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

If we were to connect the dots in the following events, we would see a scandal of majestic proportions.

• Jan. 27, 2010: President Obama criticizes Citizens United in his State of the Union address and asks Congress to "correct" the decision.

• Feb. 11, 2010: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) says he will introduce legislation known as the Disclose Act to place new restrictions on some political activity by corporations and force more public disclosure of contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations. Mr. Schumer says the bill is intended to "embarrass companies" out of exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. "The deterrent effect should not be underestimated," he said.

• Soon after, in March 2010, Mr. Obama publicly criticizes conservative 501(c)(4) organizations engaging in politics. In his Aug. 21 radio address, he warns Americans about "shadowy groups with harmless sounding names" and a "corporate takeover of our democracy."

• Sept. 28, 2010: Mr. Obama publicly accuses conservative 501(c)(4) organizations of "posing as not-for-profit, social welfare and trade groups." Max Baucus, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asks the IRS to investigate 501(c)(4)s, specifically citing Americans for Job Security, an advocacy group that says its role is to "put forth a pro-growth, pro-jobs message to the American people."

• Oct. 11, 2010: Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) asks the IRS to investigate the conservative 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS and "other organizations."

• April 2011: White House officials confirm that Mr. Obama is considering an executive order that would require all government contractors to disclose their donations to politically active organizations as part of their bids for government work. The proposal is later dropped amid opposition across the political spectrum.

• Feb. 16, 2012: Seven Democratic senators— Michael Bennet (Colo.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Mr. Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)—write to the IRS asking for an investigation of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.

• March 12, 2012: The same seven Democrats write another letter asking for further investigation of conservative 501(c)(4)s, claiming abuse of their tax status.

• July 27, 2012: Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) writes one of several letters to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman seeking a probe of nine conservative groups, plus two liberal and one centrist organization. In 2013 testimony to the HouseOversight and Government Reform Committee, former IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller describes Sen. Levin as complaining "bitterly" to the IRS and demanding investigations.

• Aug. 31, 2012: In another letter to the IRS, Sen. Levin calls its failure to investigate and prosecute targeted organizations "unacceptable."

• Dec. 14, 2012: The liberal media outlet ProPublica receives Crossroads GPS's 2010 application for tax-exempt status from the IRS. Because the group's tax-exempt status had not been recognized, the application was confidential. ProPublica publishes the full application. It later reports that it received nine confidential pending applications from IRS agents, six of which it published. None of the applications was from a left-leaning organization.

• April 9, 2013: Sen. Whitehouse convenes the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism to examine nonprofits. He alleges that nonprofits are violating federal law by making false statements about their political activities and donors and using shell companies to donate to super PACs to hide donors' identities. He berates Patricia Haynes, then-deputy chief of Criminal Investigation at the IRS, for not prosecuting conservative nonprofits.

• May 10, 2013: Sen. Levin announces that the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold hearings on "the IRS's failure to enforce the law requiring that tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s be engaged exclusively in social welfare activities, not partisan politics." Three days later he postpones the hearings when Lois Lerner (then-director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division) reveals that the IRS had been targeting and delaying the applications of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

• Nov. 29, 2013: The IRS proposes new rules redefining "political activity" to include activities such as voter-registration drives and the production of nonpartisan legislative scorecards to restrict what the agency deems as excessive spending on campaigns by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups. Even many liberal nonprofits argue that the rule goes too far in limiting their political activity—but the main target appears to be the conservative 501(c)(4)s that have so irritated Democrats.

• Feb. 13, 2014: The Hill newspaper reports that "Senate Democrats facing tough elections this year want the Internal Revenue Service to play a more aggressive role in regulating outside groups expected to spend millions of dollars on their races."

But we won’t.

14 comments:

Xavier Onassis said...

Joe - So, you think the IRS should just rubber stamp any applicant claiming 501(c)(4)status without any sort of investigation or due diligence?

Politicians can pontificate and bloviate all they want. The only thing that matters is what the IRS actually did. And they DID NOT single out conservative 501(c)(4)s.

They investigated ANY 501(c)(4)applicant that they suspected may not genuinely meet the requirements for such an organization.

"The first step toward understanding this IRS story is to realize that the problem of 501(c )(4) organizations carrying out political activity that should be illegal is a real problem and is widely recognized.

Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich, and John McCain, R-Ariz, who co-chair an IRS oversight committee released a statement on May 13, saying in part:

“The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has been for several months examining on a bipartisan basis whether the IRS has adequately enforced rules regarding the extent to which tax exempt nonprofit 501(c)(4) groups engage in partisan politics.

“We had tentatively planned a hearing on that issue for June. After Friday’s announcement that the IRS, to the extent it has been enforcing the law, may have done so in ways that singled out some groups for special scrutiny, we have determined that the subcommittee should investigate that additional issue as well. As a result, we have decided to delay our hearing in order to examine this issue carefully…. “

In other words, the subcommittee’s concern was lax IRS enforcement against a perceived abuse of the tax code, and this concern is reality-based, even though McCain is quoted as talking about “audits” of tea party groups – which is not part of the reality of this issue."

"There were no audits. There was an evolving and almost comically ineffectual effort by the IRS to sort out 501(c)(4) applications to reduce the number of political organizations seeking tax shelter as “social welfare” organizations."

Joe said...

xo: " So, you think the IRS should just rubber stamp any applicant claiming 501(c)(4)status without any sort of investigation or due diligence?"

That is exactly NOT what I said. The issue is deliberately selecting one political philosophy and targeting it in a way that is vastly different from the way the average investigation is conducted.

But you will continue to wear your rose colored glasses..."Nothing to see here. Move on."

"...examining on a bipartisan basis..."

We now know that to have been an out-and-out lie.

Craig said...

We now know that to have been an out-and-out lie

Has some new evidence come out that shows liberal groups weren't also targeted? Please show us.

."Nothing to see here. Move on."

No, Joe. Groups pouring dark money into campaigns and not wanting to pay taxes. That's the scandal. Our govt. is for sale. Does that bother you, even a little?

Joe said...

Craig: "...Groups pouring dark money into campaigns and not wanting to pay taxes...Does that bother you, even a little?"

Sure does. But it is more than a little troubling that those of certain political persuasions are picked on multiple times more than those of another. And they are not just singled out once, they are singled out multiple times to the point of harrassment.

That is government gone amuck. That is government scandal.

But you are totally incapable of seeing that. I understand.

Duckys here said...

@Joe --- But it is more than a little troubling that those of certain political persuasions are picked on multiple times more than those of another

------
Maybe that's because your Tea Bag brethren were responsible for trying to run a game multiple times more often.
You've got nothing, Joe.

Pitch till you win.

Joe said...

Ducky: I've got plenty. And I won this one.

Dave Miller said...

Joe, let's suppose for a moment that there really is a there there...

Your response, and that of many other folks on the extreme right [wrong] wing, is without credibility.

Because you guys are solely partisan. You only criticize and single out threats to democracy and scandals from the Dem side. I've even seen plenty of your crowd minimizing Watergate as nothing at all.

As if almost bringing down our government is no big deal.

All through the Bush Admin, conservatives remained silent on his screw ups, only now, years after he left office, admitting that he was making some major screw ups.

Look closely at what Ducky says many times... Obama is a screw up! Craig, XO and me have all said so when it has been warranted.

I think that is called balance, something sorely lacking when things are happening in the moment from the political right.

On another note... I just got back from Costco... My monthly ACA [Obamacare] bill is $550.00. They charged me $30.00 for one month of perscriptions for my wife. Total outlay for the month... $580.00.

Pre Obamacare monthly prescription cost? $980.00. My monthly savings? Yep... $400.00.

Zero deductible on meds...

Works for me... Thank you President Obama!

Joe said...

DM: "All through the Bush Admin, conservatives remained silent on his screw ups..."

I didn't.

The single most damaging thing ever done to America up until ObamaCare was the so-called Patriot Act.

And, as I predicted, it paved the way for the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal. They are both the "unintended" consequences of the PA. And I'm not really certain they were unintended.

Almost all of our reactions to 9/11 were wrong. They have yielded more power to the federal government than it should have and that has led to ObamaCare.

So don't think I was ever a sold out fan of Bush's. If Jeb Bush is elected, there will be more of the same. Only slightly less than if Hillary is elected.

We really, really need to reign in the feds. And it has to be done before 2016, or there will be no 2016 elections.

Mark it down. Crazy Joe said it on March 1, 2014.

Xavier Onassis said...

Joe - "The single most damaging thing ever done to America up until ObamaCare was the so-called Patriot Act.

And, as I predicted, it paved the way for the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal. They are both the "unintended" consequences of the PA. And I'm not really certain they were unintended.

Almost all of our reactions to 9/11 were wrong. They have yielded more power to the federal government than it should have and that has led to ObamaCare.

So don't think I was ever a sold out fan of Bush's. If Jeb Bush is elected, there will be more of the same."

I hate to break this to you buddy. but you are one of us. You're a liberal.

Lone Ranger said...

The IRS should be dismantled like any criminal organization. I have long said we should abolish the income tax. There is simply too much opportunity for fraud and tyranny.

Joe said...

XO: "I hate to break this to you buddy. but you are one of us. You're a liberal."

No, I'm not. I'm a Constitutionalist. I don't care what Party the President is,if he violates the Constitution, he is wrong.

I believe in a small federal government. The Patriot Act is the result of a much too big federal government.

I believe Snowden is a hero, not a traitor. But for him we would not know about the antics of NSA. Without the TEA Party we would not know about the scandal of the IRS.

LR: If any of us behaved as they have behaved we would be accused of hate crimes and put in jail.

Xavier Onassis said...

"I believe Snowden is a hero, not a traitor."

I agree 100%.

Duckys here said...

... Without the TEA Party we would not know about the scandal of the IRS.
----
In other words, if the Baggers had not tried to disguise campaign organizations as public interest groups there would have been no need to research them.

No scandal, Joe.

Dave Miller said...

Joe, are you saying that if nothing is done to "reign in the feds" that our government will suspend the 2016 national election?

What will sufficiently "reign in the feds" so as to permit the election to happen? Can you define that term for us/me in a way that is understandable and measureable so we can know if and when it happens?