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The IRS "scandal" is looking less and less scandalous as the activities the tea party and other political groups the agency probed are receiving more attention. For example, consider the groups examined by the New York Times.
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature. [...]

[A]close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.

One former IRS official who headed up the exempt organizations division in the 1990s, Marcus S. Owens, says that the inspector general report on the probes is "as careless with terminology as the Cincinnati office was" and that "half of those questions" about organizational activity that the IG report said were excessive or too targeted "have been found to be germane in court decisions.”

In other words, IRS agents were doing their jobs in investigating the applications of these groups. And at least a handful of the groups they were examining were carrying on partisan electioneering activities, even during the application process. The IRS was asking the questions it asked because it is supposed to determine that the primary activity of these organizations is social welfare and that can't be done by just looking at the money the organization might be spending in election advertising, as the examples the Times provides show.

The problem with President Obama's and congressional Democrats' joining in on the Republican freak-out over the "scandal" is the possibility that the IRS will back off of the reviews its currently conducting, giving these organizations a free rein in 2014.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue May 28, 2013 at 12:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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