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In 2004 the IRS investigated the tax-exempt status of the NAACP in response to demands by Republican lawmakers who questioned whether the NAACP's activities had crossed into political campaigning, which is prohibited to tax-exempt organizations. The lawmakers included Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina), Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Virginia), Rep. Larry Combest (R-Texas), Rep. Robert Ehrlich (R-Maryland) and Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Florida).

How hypocritical, then, for Collins to be among those “outraged” by this week’s revelations of the IRS targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for investigation of their tax-exempt status. Collins called for a more aggressive response from President Obama to personally condemn the IRS action.

“This is truly outrageous and it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” calling it “absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review.”

Frankly, when it comes to the proliferation of self-proclaimed “public interest” organizations seeking tax-exempt status, is the IRS totally off base in wondering if some are really partisan political organizations in disguise? Due diligence in identifying those groups attempting to hide political agendas that run contrary to the purely educational purpose of legitimate 501(c)(3) status organizations is, after all, the responsibility of the IRS. No group has a right to tax-exempt status and it is the IRS’s job to sift through the applicants to determine the legitimate educational or social welfare organizations from those who just don’t want to pay taxes. Every nickel the IRS fails to collect from fraudulent 501’s is another nickel you and I are going to be coughing up, and believe me, the IRS has enough of my nickels already. When a group comes along with an upfront political agenda and an outspoken opposition to taxation in principle, I think it’s only prudent for the IRS to give them a closer look before rubber-stamping that group’s tax-exempt status.

If we’re going to get indignant about IRS investigations, let’s get indignant about true political targeting. In 2006 it was revealed that a little-known watchdog group, Public Interest Watch, was responsible for pressuring the IRS to audit the environmental organization Greenpeace. Public Interest Watch challenged Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status and accused the group of money laundering and other crimes. Not surprisingly, more than 95 percent of the funding of Public Interest Watch was provided by ExxonMobil. Greenpeace has been one of ExxonMobil’s fiercest critics, protesting ExxonMobil’s meetings and company gatherings as well as its oil tankers and filling stations and labeling the oil giant the "No. 1 Climate Criminal" over its environmental practices. The investigation turned up nothing untoward, but serves to demonstrate that those in power and those whose money or muscle give them access to power, will always attempt to use the IRS to intimidate or obstruct their enemies.

The Republican-pushed investigation of the NAACP and the Big Oil-financed investigation of Greenpeace happened on GOP Oilman-in-Chief George W. Bush’s watch, so I realize that, according to Republicans, it is ancient history and I’m not allowed to mention it. But I can still think it’s funny how no one on the right thought either one of was worth getting outraged about, either.

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