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View Diary: Hey, GOP: Stop pretending any self-described "tea party" group couldn't possibly be political (47 comments)

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  •  One more point (1+ / 0-)
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    By legal definition, "lobbying" is political activity. You can't be a nonpolitical group and yet lobby. You can state your views on social welfare issues, sure, but stating your views and also trying to persuade voters that certain political candidates are wrong-headed or even evil is not within the scope of "current" IRS rules, which themselves have been watered down over the years thanks to insistent pressure, both from politicians, well-intentioned "don't tread on me" groups and illogical but useful-to-conservatives decisions like Citizens United.

    •  riegro - lobbying is clearly permitted for c4s (0+ / 0-)

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu May 16, 2013 at 02:17:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The limits (0+ / 0-)

        Lack of disclosure and enforcement has led to extensive use of the 501(c)(4) provisions for organizations that are actively involved in lobbying. A 501(c)4 may rightfully engage in an unlimited amount of lobbying, provided that the lobbying is related to the organization's exempt purpose, generally defined as promoting the "social welfare".

        So tell me: What is a tea party group's exempt purpose, in this regard? That is an issue which the IRS, however imperfectly, tried to ascertain. It also, of course, tried to ascertain the purposes of non-tea party groups who also applied.

        It's ridiculous to claiming you promote the social welfare by attacking candidates for public office based on their positions regarding various political issues. That's campaigning. Yes, these days courts have allowed political campaign ads for (c)4 that do everything but say "vote for the other guy," but that doesn't make it right. It's thwarting campaign finance law and transparency.

        Of course, if you're one of these groups you can lobby lawmakers and lobby at the grassroots level, but lobbying expenses are not supposed to be tax-exempt. A big reason why groups are flocking to (c)4 status is because they think they can claim large tax exemptions.

        You may, as the law is now allegedly interpreted, make "general" expenditures for political campaign activities, but only if such activities  do not constitute your primary activity and your tax-exempt purpose. However, it's clear that some (c)4 groups like Rove's group spend almost all their money on "issue" (read: campaign) advertising, typically in the context and timing of an election cycle. Since the IRS can't easily look at these expenditures without being called on the carpet by the politicians who benefit from them, how are such groups to be regulated within even the limited application of the law regulating (c)4. Answer: They can't, at least not easily. IRS, as is now clear, is going to be pretty much powerless to stop such activity. It's like secret FISA courts that never turn down a wiretapping request.

        The fact that conservative courts have for the moment decided that "issue" ads can legally be used to attack political candidates serves to blur the distinction of such activity compared to overt, 527 political action groups. Which in turn harms accountability, and that need was made abundantly clear in the Watergate investigation, leading to regulations that are now considered bothersome. Want another Watergate scandal? The current regimen is how to make it happen. Whose money is being spent, and how much of it? We're supposedly not entitled to know, but taxpayers nevertheless are increasingly expected to subsidize these activities through the (c)4 tax-exempt status.

        •  The Tea Party exempt purpose is to educate (0+ / 0-)

          the public on the evils of big government, high taxes, and high federal debt. All of which are permissible under current c4 regulations. Also under c4 there is no requirement to disclose donors.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu May 16, 2013 at 05:44:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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