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I wish I could properly convey how freakin' sick and tired I am listening to both cable news and broadcast news force feed us the Republican line of bullshit du jour. It's either a case of institutionalized duplicitousness, corporate coercion -- or -- pure, unadulterated laziness. I mean, out of the hundreds of so-called 'journalists' out there in mendacious media land, would it have killed one of them to actually read the May 14th draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration?

Facts matter Dammit! And media reports regarding the IRS 'scandal' are sorely void of them. I'm taking about real facts. Not tea party 'facts'. Not conservative dogmatic 'truthiness'. Not partisan spin. Honest, verifiable facts!


First, the facts we know

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the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).” (p. 14)

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.”

According to the IG's report roughly 31% of applications (91 out of 296) reviewed did not have...
"... indications of significant political campaign intervention."

So, a little more than 2/3rds of applications flagged for processing by specialists were indeed politically-oriented.

Normally, the aforementioned category would disqualify applicants for 501(C)(4) status. But the sheer volume of applicants during and after the 2008 presidential election along with the polarization of the political process in general combined to inhibit the agency's screening ability, allowing those groups to obtain the highly-sought-after 501(C)(4) tax-exempt status. Yes, it's an excuse. It was a bureaucratic failure with "bureaucratic" being the operative term.

But, it wasn't Barack Obama's army of liberal zombies.  

But all told, a critical look at some of the activities of those tea party applicants currently under review by IREHR or those already designated as 501(C)(4) reveals the potential for a threat to democratic governance in general.

From the IREHR website: The Tea Party and the IRS “Scandal” The Actual Facts of the Case

Here are the not-so-known facts of a few of those cases:

• The First Coast Tea Party Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, for example, which applied for 501(c)(4) status in 2009 and received it in 2011. Commenting about the recent IRS controversy on Facebook, the group declared “We file a tax return, account for every penny.. We do not endorse candidates that is a no no.” Yet the group’s activities included public bragging about directly helping Republican campaigns. In an August 30, 2012 Facebook post, for instance, the group advertised a Jacksonville rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, adding, “bring your chairs and your signs, make sure they know that the First Coast Tea Party is and has been helping their campaign.”

It must be noted here that three weeks after receiving 501(C)(4) status the group declared a "state of emergency" on their Facebook page, pleading with supporters to campaign for Romney.

THIS is just one example of why the IRS wanted all their Facebook postings.

“FLORIDA FRIENDS, IF YOU LIVE IN ANY OF THESE 3 COUNTIES GET OFF THE COUCH NOW, GET YOUR FRIENDS OFF THE COUCH. GET TO THE REPUBLICAN HEADQUARTERS AND OFFER AND THEN DO SOME WORK. PHONES, (YOU CAN EVEN DO THESE CALLS FROM HOME) AND WALK AND KNOCK. NOW. WE CANNOT LOSE FLORIDA TO OBAMA.. NOW. THIS IS MOST CRITICAL.” [Emphasis in Original]
That plea came from the official Face book account of the organization as opposed to coming from random supporters.

• Similarly, the Louisville Tea Party was granted 501(c)(4) status in 2009.  Nevertheless, it published a list of “officially tea party endorsed candidates for the 2011 Kentucky primary.” They also published an article “The Rationale for Romney-Ryan,” arguing for Tea Partiers to vote for the Republican candidate.

Then there’s...

• The Katy Tea Party Patriots, which filed for 501(c)(4) non-profit status in 2009. This group actually ran an “Oust Obama 2012” campaign, organizing block-watching with the Fort Bend GOP, and phone-banking against Obama at GOP headquarters in Sugarland and Houston, Texas. Still featured on the frontpage of the group’s website at the time this article was written is an October 4, 2012 article entitled, “Our Country's Future” by Katy Tea Party Patriots President, Darcy Kahrhoff. She urged members to vote for Gov. Romney. "Please take time to talk with friends and family you may have living out of state, and try to convince them to vote for Governor Romney, especially if you have friends and family in Florida, Colorado, or Ohio. Also, find a Senatorial candidate to support in these states, and go to FreedomWorks to phone bank for these patriots.  Everything you can do to help will matter.  We can, and we must, win this!"

Not to be outdone...

• The Central Valley Tea Party Inc. This regional California Tea Party group was granted the much more politically limiting IRS 501(c)(3) tax status back in 2009.  It should be noted that this tax-status explicitly prohibits partisan political activity. According the IRS, “Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to all campaigns including campaigns at the federal, state and local level.  Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

Despite this (c)(3) designation, the front-page of the group's website features "upcoming events" instructing members to "Volunteer for Measure G," and "Volunteer for Vidak for Senate.” In the latter case, the website simply tells members...

"Please volunteer to do phone banking or precinct walking to help win the election."
In an article in the October 2012 issue of the Central Valley Tea Party Times entitled, "Why You Should Be Excited to Vote for Mitt Romney," Paul Szopa told fellow Central Valley Tea Partiers to get out and campaign for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney,
"So it’s time to get excited to vote for the better candidate. It’s time to talk him up to friends and family. It’s time to join with groups like Operation Swing State (www.operationswingstate.org) and make calls in support of his candidacy."

Another Tea Party group granted the 501(c)(3) non-profit status by the IRS...

• The Tifton, Georgia-based Tiftarea Tea Party Patriots, Inc., which received the designation in 2010. The group also appears to have engaged in openly political activity, including publicly endorsing candidates. On October 9, 2012, in a post on the group’s website “Are you ready to vote?” the group offered up an endorsement for Romney, “The choice is simple. Obama has stated, He will transform America and acted to do such.  Everything this Administration stands for, is Government and control of every aspect of life.  This is the pipe dream of a Socialist’s mentality, for in their eyes, you the individual, do not know and cannot do, what is right, so someone else has to make decisions for you, to ensure, you do not make the wrong choices or actions. Or you chose Romney, who does not want to transform America, the greatest nation in history of human kind.  He wants to allow, the individual, to have the right, to succeed and fail on his own regard, while ensuring those freedoms, given by our Creator and to assure those inalienable rights, written about in the Declaration of Independence are retained by their proper owners, ‘We the People.’”

Note these are only a few of the many examples of blatant political involvement by tea party 'non-profits' reviewed by IREHR. Of course, there are plenty more. As the title of this diary indicates, the REAL scandal here is how often the IRS granted 501(C)(4) status to groups that egregiously violated standards.

Even though the agency was clearly inundated with applications there's no excuse for the incompetency of its employees. As far as I know the agency was at full strength; no cutbacks, no furloughs... just incompetency.

Now, one must ask:

After the firing of several high level IRS employees over this incident, how likely is it that Tea Party groups will be prevented these sorts of violations in the future?
I don't know if we want to know the answer to that question.

Here's an article written for Salon.com by Joan Walsh highlighting what appears to be one of the few groups denied 501(C)(4) status -- a Democratic group.

 

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