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It may be that the Internal Revenue Service was overzealous and unfair when, as an internal Treasury Department report concluded, IRS employees singled out conservative non-profit groups for additional review of their applications for 501(c)4 status. But that doesn't mean the groups didn't deserve careful scrutiny. The IRS team that strained to process a flood of such applications after the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court focused on key words including “tea party.” A number of groups self-identified by that name in their applications. Some of them also reportedly admitted up front that they were engaged in political campaigning.

Context: Citizens United clearly screwed up the distinction between official political groups in the IRS' 527 category and supposedly non-political "social welfare" groups eligible for non-profit tax status under 501(c)4. The IRS by law is charged with granting 501(c)(4) status to organizations that are "not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare."

Under the 501(c)(4) designation, a group not only doesn't have to pay taxes, it needn't disclose its donors. So how does the IRS check the claims of applicants that they are engaged in social welfare activities rather than politics? Not easily.

In the case of the tea party groups, just given the public record, IRS clearly was faced with squaring that circle. So is it any wonder that groups in some cases self-avowing political activity and which identified themselves as "tea party," a term closely aligned with organized political interests, experienced longer delays in getting accepted -- which, by the way, they all eventually did?

A bigger scandal than IRS incompetence in managing this briar patch is that a group could acknowledge going in that it was essentially political and still get approved. At least one such group reportedly also provided data showing that it wasn't even a not-for-profit organization, as the law requires.

Now, GOP screaming over the IRS' less-than-elegant approach is nothing more than another instance of "disaster capitalism" -- screw up democracy with roadblocks and illogic, then blame the other side when your plan succeeds in fomenting chaos.

On the face of it, the application processing delays have little if anything to do with whether the groups were perceived as conservative --except to the extent that it was the legal duty of the IRS to determine if they were, in fact, political. The delays rather had more to do with what these groups indicated up front, right in their applications to the IRS.

Yes, the IRS set aside a group of such applications for further scrutiny. Why? Because it wanted to punish these groups? Even though it eventually approved their activities, and after the fact? No. Because, however clumsily, IRS was trying to do its job, paying attention to politics while not paying attention to the politics. As per our court-approved, screwed-up federal laws.

Indeed, the tin ear that the IRS processing staff lent to political perceptions in this matter was at least in part because of Watergate-era restrictions that mandate the IRS avoid politics and remain isolated from elected lawmakers. But one thing every American wage-earner knows: Unfair legal tax loopholes notwithstanding, the IRS is expressly designed to notice overt evidence of tax fraud.

I mean, consider this analogy: if you as an individual typical taxpayer sends in a cover letter with your 1040 form saying you are a tax resister, you hate taxes, don't like paying them, do you think an IRS processing office might tend to take a somewhat harder than average look at your paperwork? Hmmm?

The real issue isn't whether IRS staffers mishandled its inquiries, or how it wrestled with the mess that the Supreme Court made of the law. And there's no question at all that the problems in this respect were self-reported by the government, via the Treasury Department's independent auditor. No, none of that amounts to a hill of beans. After all, the tea party groups had their applications approved in the end and well before the audit.

Rather, the big picture, as a number of observers have noted, including Karoli over at CrooksandLiars.com is this:

   What else was happening at the time the IRS decided to look closer at these groups? Karl Rove was crowing all over the place about his big initiative with Crossroads GPS, Sarah Palin was reading her hand at the "National Tea Party Convention", and Glenn Beck was huddling with Paul Ryan to plot ways to "flush out" progressivism.
    In this environment, is it difficult to understand why the IRS put these groups under high scrutiny? Just for the record, it wasn't only conservative groups, either. In fact, the only organization denied tax-exempt status was a liberal group who intended to recruit women candidates.
    The scandal here isn't the IRS having the common sense to look harder at these organizations. The scandal is the utter incompetence with which they did it. Asking stupid questions, asking for radio interview transcripts? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Their incompetence is truly mind-blowing, but this one case study should prove beyond all reasonable doubt that these so-called grassroots organizations deserved all scrutiny and attention given to them. After all, these organizations and their donors are asking for a pass on taxes. They have a duty to prove they deserve that.
More of Karoli's commentary plus some fine legwork at:
http://crooksandliars.com/...

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Comment Preferences

  •  really don't know why they think that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, ExStr8

    their acronym moniker ''tea'' party

    T = taxed
    E = enough
    A = already

                         wouldn't attract further investigations...........wtf

    ''A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.'' FDR

    by lostinamerica on Thu May 16, 2013 at 07:51:38 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lostinamerica, ExStr8, Nattiq

      "We're going to mess with you, IRS, and we expect you to go along with us." Not a good recipe for having one's application processed in a timely way. The GOP, meanwhile, gets to crow about Citizens United turns 501(c)4 groups into very handy, anonymous, tax-free campaign organizations and yet complain that the IRS would dare to try to check the credentials of any group applying for such status. Most of the groups, of course, clearly being conservative and even Republican in nature, whether in terms of their organization or "just" their secret donations.

      Especially outrageous is how, before they were approved for 501(c)4 status, they became upset when the IRS asked them to list their donors. Of course, they didn't have the category's anonymity protection, then, but apparently IRS and the MSM are supposed to ignore that.

      So the GOP in effect says, let's bang away at bureaucratic fumbling (entirely impeachable fumbling, apparently), but let's ignore what these political front groups have been up to. Rubber-stamp 'em! Or else!

      •  riegro - like many authors on this topic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erush1345

        you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what is allowable for 501 c 4 organizations. It is completely within the current IRS rules for a 501 c 4 organization to spend 100% of its donations educating the public on the evils of the income tax and lobbying for the repeal of the 16th Amendment. An application for a 501 c 4 with the intent of repealing the 16th Amendment cannot be subject to a process that is different than reducing hunger. Both are legitimate social welfare purposes in the eyes of the IRS.  

        Maybe this chart will help:

        http://www.nonprofitaccountingbasics.org/...

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu May 16, 2013 at 08:31:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But they can't say "vote republican" (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bewareofme, ExStr8, Nattiq, lostinamerica

          and if that is what they are doing, even behind the scenes, the don't deserve the tax exempt status.

          The Republican party has become the politburo of capitalism. It seeks to direct the direction this country is going NO MATTER WHAT WE THE PEOPLE THINK.

          by tarminian on Thu May 16, 2013 at 08:36:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sidelong glances aside... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tarminian, lostinamerica

          If a group supports a political party in its efforts, e.g., by running attack ads damning the candidates of one exclusive political party, you apparently would call that non-partisan. Yes, that's now legal but only because we have a crazed group of wingnuts on the Supreme Court and because the IRS itself, decades ago, ignored an Eisenhower-era congressional act and redefined through rule-making what a 501(c)4 group can do. Conservatives have finally driven a truck through that loophole and made it a "feature" of democracy. So the "current IRS rules" may allow this, but it's not legal, even with respect to the Citizens United ruling, which itself was horribly egregious. Repealing the 14th Amendment might be a "social welfare" issue by not one run by a "civics club" as the original law specified. Also, an ad calling for the repeal of "Obamacare" is clearly too clever by half and has all the effect of a political campaign. If it looks like a duck...!

          All that said, glad you're so supportive of the IRS in these trying days.

        •  Also note this passage (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lostinamerica

          ...from the Boardman article, URL for which I cite in my other reply:

             The director of the tax exempt division of IRS said that about 300 applications for 501(c )(4) status were given special scrutiny, and of those about 75 were for "tea party" or similarly tagged organizations.
              The IRS has not indicated who made the other 225 applications that got special attention, but they were apparently not conservative or tea party-like groups.
              According to the IRS, not one of the applications was denied. According to the head of the Kentucky 9/12 Project, his group refused to answer IRS questions and was approved anyway.
              "There's absolutely no targeting" of conservative groups, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman testified to Congress in March 2012. Shulman is a former Bush appointee who completed his term in November 2012.
          So, a year ago Congress knew of this, investigated, and let Shulman retire honorably. Go figure!
        •  One more point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lostinamerica

          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 ]

    •  & the reason I think the President misstepped (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ExStr8

      yesterday. Srsly.

      Taxed Enough Already.
      political seminars.

      NOT what a 501(c)3 is for.
      The Swift-Boat Veterans For Truth notwithstanding.

      "shady organizations" indeed....

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu May 16, 2013 at 09:55:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They weren't applying for... (0+ / 0-)

        ...501(c)(3) status, they were applying for 501(c)(4) status.  
        And promoting an anti-tax agenda and conservative policies is within the realm of what a 501(c)(4) can do.

        •  I believe the problem here is that (0+ / 0-)

          they didn't stay within the rules, and when they got caught, it uspet them.

          LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

          by BlackSheep1 on Thu May 16, 2013 at 10:13:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  From what I've heard... (0+ / 0-)

            ...none of these conservative groups had their applications rejected, so it appears that they were staying within the rules.  Their only sin, it seems, was to pick a name that sounded right-wing.

            •  dunno -- Rachel said last night (0+ / 0-)

              the IRS turned out records that hadn't been processed in response to Pro Publica's requests last November, which is an actual lawbreaking matter. So maybe that's what's the real issue here?

              LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Fri May 17, 2013 at 12:16:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I mean, come on..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tarminian, DRo

    Tea Party? Let's reflect on the history of how the term came to be. It was a tax revolution against England's monarchy. Extrapolating on the concept therefore would only lead one to assume that the members and the organization itself wishes to be seen as revolutionaries rising up against what they feel is a modern day monarchy. In America. Really?? These idiots really believe that true Americans would let that happen? Really??

    My theory is that their ridiculous rhetoric is the foundation of a self-fulfilling prophecy to advance their desire for violence and armed resistance to democracy. They are not American patriots. They are devolved humanoids.

    •  Indeed the tea party's not a real political party (0+ / 0-)

      ...Then again, that phrase is just a catchy placeholder for, "far right wing of the Republican Party." The movement was organized by a former GOP congressman and has close, continuing ties to the real party. And these days mostly runs that party.

      Most Republicans, the MSM and even some progressive critics of the IRS affair confuse and conflate politics with partisanship. The IRS must consider politics in its review of 501(c)4 applications; it must do so in a non-partisan way. Which makes a fellow wonder why the only 501(c)4 applicants that were rejected were (ta-dah!) progressive action groups. Meanwhile, Karl Rove's Crossroads beard spends nine-figure anonymous sums on attack ads, tax free and indeed tax-subsidized, even while touting his preferred electoral selections. And Karl looks like a duck.

    •  "desire for violence and armed resistance?" (0+ / 0-)

      Devolved humanoids?

      If you're going to say something like that, you gotta back it up.

      When have the Tea Party folks been violent?

      It's just the conservative wing of the Republican Party that had been shut out during the previous few election cycles.  The Republicans have largely co-opted the Tea Party by simply listening to their concerns and giving lip service to them.

      The Tea Party skews old; there aren't many young folks in it.  They also tend to be more educated than their adversaries -- hardly the stuff of "devolved humanoids."

      Their "protests" have been peaceful.  They've even cleaned up after themselves.

      As to not letting a "monarchy" happen, nobody truly believes that an actual monarchy could spring up out of our current government.

      What the Tea Party has been worried about is an incremental fall into a government that dictates the minutia of everyday life -- and punishes those who dare to differ.

      The current abuse of conservatives by the IRS, spying on the press, strong-arming of medical companies by the HHS, the power (through the Defense Authorization Act) to arrest and detain Americans -- within our borders -- without trial or any due process:  these are the tactics and powers held by tyrannical governments.  We've castigated China and other tyrannical regimes for this type of power and activity.

      Yet, we're doing the same things.

      Each administration begins with all the powers of the ones before -- and every one of them has added to that power.  That is the nature of government -- shown over and over throughout history.  Our government has power over the citizens -- through the unlimited ability of Congress to regulate everything -- and through the advances in weapons, communications, and spying technology -- more power than any government before.

      We are headed to a tipping point beyond which the government becomes tyranny.  At some point, one of our leaders will have enough power that he can simply silence his political adversaries.  This has happened in MANY places and times throughout history.

      If you believe it could not happen here, given that history, the burden is on you to show why you believe that.

      Given that tyranny has been the norm throughout history -- and is the norm in many parts of the world right now -- these concerns are quite real, though you seem to laugh them off.

      It is human nature -- and therefore the nature of government -- to seek ever more power over the people.

      Those who have ignored this truth have done so at their peril.

      •  Trouble is... (0+ / 0-)

        Even stipulating you're right that we're facing "tyranny," all the current "scandals" involving government over-reach have their wellsprings in the departed Bush administration:

        * Benghazi: Replicating five or six times in Bush's two terms; GOP congressionals chopped big bucks out of State Dept security budget

        * IRS: the 501(c)4 reviews now under exhaustive scrutiny were mainly conducted under charge of a Bush-appointed commissioner, who testified on the matter before Congress and before he retired, and apparently is still regarded as honorable.

        * Justice Dept seizure of AP phone records: Made possible by the Patriot Act and GOP congressional votes to kill the Obama-supported shield law. They handed this power to Obama and expect him to use it; nice little trick bag, that.

        Finally, I know many progressives, and like them I worry about government authoritarianism, but I worry even more about corporate hegemony and its sheer power to influence government action. And I worry almost as much about the Republican fetish for a surveillance state and GOP policies representing interference in my bedroom and my community, not to mention communities of innocents across the globe, which meddling has been driving this particular arrow of history more than any other factor.

        •  I agree on the corporate hegemony problem (0+ / 0-)

          We agree more that we disagree here.

          * You will not hear me defend much at all about Bush.  Not a fan.  I'm not sure what you're referring to about Benghazi being "replicated 5 or 6 times," though.  I don't remember a situation similar to Benghazi at all during Bush's presidency.

          Bush, however, accelerated the causes of my concern about tyranny, and Obama and others have done so even more.  They've taken the next logical steps, using fear to seek more control.

          * As noted below, I don't care who appointed a person in government, the current administration was the one in charge -- and the 501(c)(4) reviews were NOT under much scrutiny back then.  Time will tell, perhaps, how honorable Bush's appointee was.

          * The Patriot Act, like many acts (including the comically-named Affordable Care Act) has a name opposite of its contents.  It is now and was at the time an enormous violation of the Constitution -- using any rational interpretation of it.  If you are waiting for me to defend that monstrosity, you'll be waiting forever.  A government with that much power over its citizens is, in my opinion, far more dangerous than any terrorist ever could be.

          I worry about corporate hegemony as much, or more, than you do.  As I've said many times on this site, conservatives and progressives have far more in common (at least on this issue) than most of us will admit.

          My fear is the obvious MERGER that has already occurred between Big Government and Big Corporations.  Each has so much influence over the other that they have simply melded together.

          It's not one vs. the other, though our politicians would like us to think so.  

          They have become one and the same.  I bet less than 1,000 people -- worldwide -- make all of the really big decisions that influence the everyday lives of regular folks.

          Some are in huge corporations.  Some are in government.

          It doesn't much matter.  There is a revolving door between the huge conglomerates and government.  Look at the MANY people from Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, and multinational corporations who move back and forth between their corporations and the very part of government that regulates their industries.

          * As to the surveillance state, BOTH parties love surveillance.

          And I want government out of folks' bedrooms, communities, and the affairs of other countries, as well.

          I can't imagine Americans would take it well if a huge army of Afghani soldiers moved into our country, started looking for terrorists, kicked down our doors, blew up our neighbors with drones, dismantled our government, set up a new one . . . etc.  We'd be pissed off, too.

          I can't even find an actual, measurable military objective in the Middle East -- something to say, "Well, we've done our job; let's go home."  "Terrorism" will last forever in some form.  If we're waiting for the end of "terror" to bring our troops home, they're never coming back.

  •  Be serious (0+ / 0-)

    I know what these tax-exempt groups are supposed to be, but COME ON, MAN!  Even John Stewart is busting the administration's ass on these scandals.

    Progressive and conservative folks alike use these groups to move, and pay for, their political agendas.  The rules, heretofore, had not been enforced -- EXCEPT as to conservative groups.

    It's not whether the groups were denied tax-exempt status or not, either.  It's the incredible measures the IRS took to slow down conservative applications.  After sometime in early 2010, NONE of the conservative groups, which now number nearly 500, were approved for 27 MONTHS -- THROUGH TWO ELECTION CYCLES.  NONE.  Not one.  Think about that.  You have to admit, it's pretty convenient to stall your opponent's ability to raise money through two critical election cycles, while letting your buddies do it.

    Similarly situated Progressive groups shot through the review process in just a few months.  I believe it was an average of about 2.5 months.

    If this had occurred when Bush was President, you'd have blown your top to the moon -- and rightly so.  Don't give Obama a pass just because he's Progressive.

    I've made my conservative leanings known here on Daily Kos, so brush me off as a partisan hack, if you will.  I have not, however, received any negative ratings on my comments.  Also, I have never been a fan of Bush.

    But, as I see it, to pretend that this is not a HUGE problem is simply putting partisan blinders on.

    If the next President is Republican, do you REALLY want him to be able to sic the IRS Gestapo on Progressive groups and individuals?  Yes, a startling number of individuals critical of the President have, inexplicably, been targeted for an "audit" by the IRS.  Their cries of "foul" now have a real ring of truth.

    Presidents assume the vast power of all their predecessors, then extend it.  The next President, whoever it is, will simply hide his or her tracks better.

    The IRS has ALREADY ADMITTED what their search criteria was, and it was all about conservative groups.  Even OBAMA has admitted this (though gently, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings).  The IRS has already lied about the breadth and scope of the problem.  Plus, the Inspector General's report was laughably vague, devoid of names or any specifics.

    The "tin ear" you mention only applied to conservative groups.

    Look at the unbelievable intrusiveness, scope, and volume of the demands for information -- including the applicants' private thoughts on political issues, screenshots of Facebook pages, a list of friends and associates, whether any friends or associates may run for political office, etc.!  They were obviously designed to slow down the application process for conservatives -- and frighten away conservative groups.  In a fair number of cases, it worked.

    Not a single progressive group was subjected to this level of scrutiny and obfuscation.  Not one.  Certainly, no such occurrence has been reported.

    Note:  The Cincinnati IRS office is particularly partisan -- with 100% of political donations in 2012 going to Obama and Sherrod Brown.  100%.  NONE of the donations went to any conservative candidate.  

    If the situation were reversed, would you not be worried, or at least suspicious?

    In a related issue, spying on a news agency that didn't do your bidding is just plain frightening.  It's a direct violation of freedom of the press, and it certainly tends to scare off potential whisteblowers (the obvious intent of the action).  Even Bush didn't do that.

    In the case of using the vast power of the IRS against one's political adversaries -- it's criminal.  Nixon went down for that.

    In addition, look at the Obama administration's treatment of whistleblowers -- more prosecutions than all previous administrations combined.

    The overarching theme of this administration is -- and has been from the outset -- use of the government's power to punish political adversaries, and even political friends (the press, for instance), if those "friends" don't march in lockstep with the administration's wishes.

    For more on this, see many columns by Glenn Greenwald, who is a knowledgeable Progressive, and an excellent writer.

      •  Your link doesn't really support your position (0+ / 0-)

        The linked article, though I agree with many parts of it, does not really address the issue of parity.

        It does not identify how many of the 3,400 applications were Progressive v. Conservative, whether Progressive groups were subjected to the same scrutiny as conservative groups, who actually set up the ridiculous criteria and information sought from the Conservative groups, etc., etc.

        Citizens United made the distinction between political and social welfare groups nearly nonexistent.  

        We can agree that the current method of advancing one's political/social agenda is FUBAR.  Those with a ton of money get exactly what they want.  The rest of us get screwed.  Though you'd never know it from the comments on this site, MANY conservatives acknowledge this huge problem.

        My method of curing it would, I'm sure, differ sharply from yours.

        Citizens United is, however, the law, and it must be applied the same across the entire political spectrum.

        Given the IRS's admission that they have done the very thing you say they have not, it is odd to me that anyone would defend them now.

        The search terms were clearly targeting Conservative groups.  The IRS has not argued that they had a similarly draconian process for Progressive groups, which certainly they would have at this point if one existed.

        The Obama administration -- through the IRS -- intentionally targeted their political adversaries for persecution in this way throughout two election cycles.  I'm certain everyone involved will try to sacrifice the low-level employees on the altar of "save the party," but there is NO WAY those directives did not come from MUCH higher in the chain than Cincinnati.  The IRS is a near-paranoid institution, where everyone tries to document his or her decisions and orders as a CYA measure.

        There is no excuse for this behavior.  None.

        Though I am conservative, I would NEVER approve of these tactics, no matter who used them.  It's this very type of abuse of power that the Libertarian in me rails against.

        If Progressive groups had been treated in this manner, I'm sure you would have been outraged.

        I find it hard to believe that anyone would try to justify the IRS's actions at this point.

        •  Your comment (0+ / 0-)

          "The Obama administration -- through the IRS -- intentionally targeted their political adversaries for persecution in this way throughout two election cycles," is pure assertion but an unproved one supported by no evidence.

          The IRS was run by a Bush appointee until last November, and it was under his watch that most of these applications and the process were handling them was devised.

          Also, after Watergate, Congress enacted rules prohibiting the White House from dealing with IRS personnel, right on up to the commissioner. So even if Bush appointee Douglas Shulman had been interested in violating the law on behalf of a president from another party who didn't appoint him, he wouldn't have been able to talk to anyone in the White House without legal ramifications; nor would any of his staff. As it was, Shulman served out his full term -- actually testified before Congress in 2012 about the approval process for the 501(c)4s and they spoke not a word about getting rid of him or punishing anyone under his watch. Odd, don't you think?

          •  Obama is the ultimate IRS Executive (0+ / 0-)

            My conclusion is backed by logic.  The only speculation is whether these tactics can be traced back directly to the White House.  Given every administration's attempt to give their senior members "plausible deniability," like Eric Holder's many "I don't know" answers in the Benghazi hearings, it is unlikely that such a tie will be proved.

            You cannot reasonably deny at this point that conservative groups were targeted by the IRS for persecution.  Read, again, about the nature and volume of the requests.

            The IRS is, of course, part of the Obama administration.

            Bush appointee in charge or not, Obama is his ultimate boss.  Does not the executive branch administer the IRS?  Of course it does.  That makes the IRS part of the Executive Branch.  Who is the head of the Executive Branch?  The President.  So, yes, the Obama administration carried out this plan.  Is Obama not responsible for the acts of his administration?

            If not, then who is?

            Who polices the separation between the White House and the IRS?  The White House?  Congress?  How is that done?  Is it done at all?

            Whether Obama, himself, knew about this or not will never be known.

            In any event, I would be shocked to find PROOF that a White House person, directly, initiated this plan.  All administrations carry out various nefarious actions with a layer or two of separation for "plausible deniability," leaving lower-level workers to take the hits, whether they involve firing or prison time.  That topic has been discussed extensively on this site during the previous administration -- especially surrounding WMD's in Iraq.

            The directive did, however, come from within the government.  That sort of onerous screening of conservative groups helped only the Obama administration -- through two election cycles.  If not the Obama administration then who, precisely, could have concocted the scheme.  No one else would benefit from it, and no other branch of government can issue directives to the IRS.

            As to Shulman's testimony and the possibility of punishing him, the IRS targeting of conservative groups did not become a hotbed issue until recently -- after a drawn-out investigation by the IG's office.  Those hearings, to say the least, got very little press.  If these actions were so innocuous, why has Obama stressed the fact that the man in charge was asked to "resign," even though he would have been gone within a few weeks, anyway.

            There is simply no good spin on this.

            •  I say again (0+ / 0-)

              While the IRS is considering a (c)4 application, the applying group can continue to carry out its activities. None of these activities were stopped. Hundreds of milions of dollars of money originating from (c)4 groups were spent in the last election cycle, most of it from conservative organizations. Hell, you don't really even need to apply for the IRS' blessing, and some groups don't. They're calculating that the agency is so up to its ears in alligators that it won't have time to find them. That, and they think they're right. Well, possession is nine-tenths of the law, as they say. If no regulatory agency is there to ascertain intent vs. practice, or is challenged itself every time it does, it'll be a free for all.

              Understand, I have no patience with the IRA's bureaucratic ways and do not suggest it's always wise or perfectly functional. But you can say that about nearly every large organization. In this case, the tax code is so byzantine, and so contrarily interpreted by the courts and the IRS itself, that screwups are almost inevitable. And yet, and yet: ALL THOSE tea party groups got their request approvals, and all got to participate in the public arena while they were waiting.

  •  What We Need to Know (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo

    (1) How many progressive vs conservative groups applied for 501c4 status.

    (2) The relative amounts of money raised by progressive vs conservative groups.

    (3) The percentage of progressive vs conservative groups that had to supply extra information.

    (4) the relative percentage of progressive vs. conservative groups' applications denied.

    The last couple of days I was outraged that the IRS had used its office for political purposes. However, upon second thought I'm not sure whether this is true. What the news media has not reported is the four points I have listed above. Obviously, if many more conservative groups are applying for 501c4 status, then by random chance more will be scrutinized. Also if conservative groups are raising a lot more money than progressive groups, they are going to have increased scrutiny because that's where the money are. Finally, what really matters is whose applications are being denied and why.

    •  As I noted earlier (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bewareofme, Nice Ogre, Nattiq

      Conservative groups by the thousands applied for the status.
      A far lesser number (sorry, don't have that # handy but read the article listed below) of applications came from progressive groups.

      Conservative groups winning the designation have spent nine figure sums on their "social welfare" campaigns. Progressive groups, much less.

      The only applicants to be rejected were groups associated with progressive causes. Maybe they were properly rejected, but it's foolish to imagine that not a single conservative group sent in a defective, revealing application, especially given that in terms of strategy and tactics, the campaigns from both sides are not detectably different. See:

      http://lists.readersupportednews.org/...

    •  I can agree with part of this. (0+ / 0-)

      First, the relative amounts of money raised is irrelevant.  Some groups are better at raising money than others.  It's none of the IRS's business.

      Second, I'd like to know if a special section of IRS employees was created to give extra scrutiny to progressive groups, as was done for conservative groups.

      Third, I'd also like to know if the IRS came up with special search terms to identify Progressive-leaning groups, like it did for the conservative groups.

      Fourth, I'd like to know if any Progressive groups were subjected to the same level of scrutiny as was given to conservative groups.

      It appears that the average Progressive group was approved within three months, while many conservative groups waited through a 27-month period where NONE of them were processed.

      Also, though it matters whose applications were denied, and why, it matters just as much whose applications were DELAYED and why.  It is undisputed that for 27 months -- through TWO ELECTION CYCLES, not a single conservative group was processed, much less approved.  There were hundreds of such conservative groups that sat in limbo, unable to carry out their intended activities through two elections.

      If any such thing had occurred as to Progressive groups, we'd have heard about it by now -- and the cries of protest would be well-justified.

      If there were ANY parity as to who was subjected to this behavior -- which amounts to persecution -- then we'd have heard about it by now.

      In addition, the IRS Inspector General report is almost completely devoid of details -- precise "who, what, when, where, and why" information.  It's little more than a CYA document.

      Finally, a fair number of Democrats in the House and Senate are on record CALLING FOR THIS TYPE OF SCRUTINY of Tea-Party-type applications.

      Several have, laughably, now come out railing against the very activity they advocated in the recent past.

      The silence from the administration as to these details is as telling as the noise in this case.

      •  But "we" HAVE heard about it (0+ / 0-)

        For instance, actual copies of info requests from IRS to progressive groups -- rather extensive requests! See:

        http://www.scribd.com/...

        As for Democrats calling for tea party applications to be scrutinized, well, of course. That's what the law says IRS should do. The Democrats were making the claim (which third parties, me included, make) that tea party groups are, on the surface, ineligible for such standing in the tax code.

        Meanwhile, though the GOP has in the past used the IRS to scrutinize the NAACP and investigate other progressive non-for-profits in myriad ways, it hasn't had a peep to say about the current wild west of 401(c)4 tax protection because it happens to like the rules, except when it's in the party's interests to dislike them to score political points. As we now know, conservative groups flooded the IRS with such applications. And my bet is that they deliberately filed late in the election cycle. Please note that while the IRS reviewed their applications, they remained perfectly free to carry on as though the application would later be approved. No one's rights were thus held in abeyance. They spent their money.

        •  I don't care who does it; it's wrong (0+ / 0-)

          I don't accept the argument that because the GOP did it in the past, that it's OK to do it now.

          If the GOP did that in the past, then they were wrong and should have faced severe consequences.

          If the Dems are doing that now, same thing.

          Also, no one is "perfectly free" to carry on with their activities with the IRS crawling up their asses.  The IRS may say that, but their thuggish tactics say otherwise.  If you spend your money and your application is rejected, then you owe taxes on that money, do you not?

          I doubt the IRS would take an apology as payment of taxes owed.

          Also, there is nothing wrong with filing an application late in an election cycle (which is speculation, for sure), but there IS something wrong in taking more than TWO YEARS to process the applications, particularly when applications of another political bent just sail on through.

          Those waiting for their applications to be processed may have filed late in the FIRST election cycle, but not the next, when their applications were still pending.

          •  Fair enough (0+ / 0-)

            However, I don't think I ever said that one bad turn deserves another; I did note that when the GOP has pulled these kind of stunts, the tendency (with the very great exception of Richard Nixon, who left smoking-gun evidence everywhere) is to let it pass unchallenged.

            The IRS deals with a lot of groups and a lot of issues and it's not uncommon for even smaller, isolated issues to require months of back and forth. If you want the IRS to handle things faster, appropriate the money to hire back the staff that has been downsized.

            •  Better yet, repeal the 16th Amendment (0+ / 0-)

              Better idea:

              Trash the income tax, which is a complicated mess that even our former Treasury Secretary couldn't figure out.  I guess an apology worked for him.

              It's unpredictable.

              It's opaque.

              It's rife with the opportunity to reward friends -- and punish enemies, not just through corrupt administration (like we're seeing now), but in who it taxes, at what rate, and who it lets skate by paying no tax.  Both parties abuse the system horribly, but it's hard to see because of the ridiculous complexity.

              It punishes success because of its outrageous, steeply progressive nature.

              Can it.  Forever.  It's an abysmal, oppressive failure.

              ====

              Replace it with a national sales tax with an upper percent set in the Constitution.

              That way, the big consumers pay more taxes, the little guys pay less.  But everyone pays.  Period.

              No more need for accountants.  Ever.  They can re-train to become regular financial advisers.

              We could shrink the IRS by about 95%.  I personally would moonwalk around my house three times if that happened.  Ok, I can't moonwalk, but I'd be happy at the very thought of that.  They could re-train to do something, I'm sure.

              A national sales tax would be VERY easy to track.  It's out there for everyone to see -- and feel.  Politicians could no longer bury provisions deep in the code to skew the system to help the privileged few.

              That way, when politicians raise taxes, it affects EVERYONE.  No taking money from one group to give to another.  That has never been fair, and it promotes the very type of "Us v. Them" mentality that has crippled political discourse for decades.  No more class warfare.  When everyone feels the sting of taxes, there will be less taxation.  Politicians like to keep their jobs.

              Also, have a flat tax on businesses -- no loopholes, no exceptions.  Any business with any part of its operations in the United States gets a flat tax on REVENUES, not PROFITS.  That way, big businesses cannot just pay their executives a shitload of money to bleed the money out of the "profit" column to shield it from taxation.

              Make the tax rate low, and it's just an easily-calculated cost of doing business.  The big corporations could not wriggle out of paying taxes by sucking up to politicians, as there are no exceptions.

              Better to get 5% of Goldman-Sachs, Wal-Mart, and other revenue than near 0% of their profits.

              As for people on welfare, you can just add 5% to how much they receive to offset the tax.

              The working poor -- and the unemployed would benefit, if not in the short run, then certainly down the road a little because . . .

              A national sales tax would also be a huge boon to the economy.  I pay a large percent of my income in federal income tax.  I'd spend nearly all of that on SOMETHING, which would help the businesses I make purchases from.

              Under the present system, I pay it to the government, which wastes a huge percentage of it.  Even if the government spends it to purchase things, the purchasing power is reduced greatly to pay for administrative costs (including government inefficiency, which is substantial).

              I'm still open to suggestion as to a method for keeping huge conglomerates from perverting OTHER parts of government to their own ends -- and at the expense of small players like me.

              I have some ideas, but they are controversial -- and would be met with fierce resistance from many sides.

              •  Be that as it may (0+ / 0-)

                (and I don't think a national sales tax is a good idea), the best fix here is a lot more targeted and pertinent. Get Congress and the IRS to carefully define, once and for all, the rules pertaining to the 50-year old law that created the "social welfare" tax exemption. And reconcile the chores of the FEC and IRS relating to campaigning and tax deductions for political groups. Then, no more freeway-wide gray areas.  

        •  Those requests are pretty bad, BUT (0+ / 0-)

          That is only one example of onerous (but not as draconian) requests of progressive organizations, where the requests of conservative organizations number in the hundreds -- and asked for far more information.

          Have I read them all?

          No.

          Others seem to be going through them now, and I have not heard anyone vouch for their reasonableness, either.

      •  Also... (0+ / 0-)

        From what I am able to gather, no "special group" was created to handle the tea party group applications. Rather, the Cincinnati IRS office was charged with handling all such applications from every kind of group. When applications soared after Citizens United into the many thousands, that pre-existing unit was overwhelmed, so some of the work was farmed out to other district offices. Arguably that decentralized the process and possibly enabled inconsistencies. Which is exactly the problem the IRS had had in recent years as it has had to deal with staffing cuts. You can't take away tools and then complain when the carpenter doesn't always make a straight cut.  

        •  More will come out. (0+ / 0-)

          My reading of the IG report was that a special group was created just for the Tea-Party-type applications.  I forget what it was called now.

          I'm pretty sure that's the case, but I'm not gonna stamp my foot and say I'm sure.

      •  With Limited Resources Money Matters (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite

        If the IRS has the choice of auditing someone living below the poverty line cheating on his taxes versus a billionaire potentially cheating on his chances, they get more bang out of a buck going after the billionaire.

        The percentage of groups being delayed matters but that point already had been much discussed so I addressed the other three that were not being discussed.

        Finally, (and this is a complement to conservatives) when they feel screwed they write to their elected representatives and complain. Their politicians then stand up for them. Liberals tend to throw up their hands and give up. Also, liberal politicians don't defend their own kind, like ACORN and the NAACP when they were audited because of the dispute between Julian Bond and Bush.

        •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

          Billionaires and corporations can afford to hire very smart tax lawyers and drag things out until the IRS decides to settle or agree with them. Little guys almost never have that option.

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