What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 16, 2013

Selective IRS Outrage

Unsurprisingly, from my good friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board:
The New York Times played the first-day story of the IRS harassing conservative groups at the bottom of page 10. Had the IRS done the same to liberal groups, The Times would have put out an extra edition.
Actually, this (IRS targeting/harrassing) has happened before - on the other side of the political aisle, of course.

And with nary a peep from the Scaife's Braintrust, of course.

But first some context from Salon.com:
While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.
And that link leads us to this:
In reality, campaign finance experts say, the IRS’ impropriety in targeting Tea Party groups is proof positive of the need for new regulations, as the whole problem started because employees charged with weeding out camouflaged political groups from actual social welfare organizations had no official definition to work off of. After Citizens United and attendant decisions eliminated the restrictions on how much money these groups could spend, their numbers doubled, mainly on the right as conservatives saw an opportunity to push unlimited secret money into elections. Some of these groups were blatantly political, even though they told the IRS they’d stay out of politics.

As Ezra Klein explains, with no formal test on what makes a political group, IRS employees went where the action was and focused on Tea Party groups. That approach was wrong and discriminatory, but the only way to fix it will be with better regulations and clearer demarcations of what makes a group political.
So the current situation was triggered by Citizen's United (and gee, what a great decision that's turned out to be, huh??) but the question arises: Has the IRS ever targeted any left leaning organization for similar harassment?  The Braintrust seems to think that it hasn't and that even if it had, the NYTimes would have "put out a new edition" to let everyone know.

 From Salon:
The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.

The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.

And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.
Where was the outrage from Scaife's Braintrust then?

Go to triblive.com and search for "All Saints Episcopal Church Pasadena" and you'll find two (2) articles. One from the AP discussing the National Cathedral performing "same sex weddings" and the other a straight forward news piece by David Brown that starts with this:
As nonprofit groups have increased their political activity, the Internal Revenue Service has stepped up efforts cautioning tax-exempt organizations on how to avoid trouble.
Which, shred of it's nasty political overtones, is exactly how the IRS got into trouble with those Tea Party groups in the first place.

All with no braintrust editorials decrying the scandal of it all.

Surprising, isn't it?


Heir to the Throne said...

So Progressives say look we have 10 examples of the IRS targeting progressive so ignore the targeting some 300 conservative groups.
In reality, campaign finance experts say, the IRS’ impropriety in targeting Tea Party groups is proof positive of the need for new regulations
I suspect "campaign finance experts" is code for progressive pundits that want more new regulations on campaign finance and believe Citizen's United should be strut down.

So when will "actual social welfare organizations like Moveon.org, Media Matters and ThinkProgress" have to answer the same questions as the teabaggers?

Ol' Froth said...

How many of the teabagger groups htheir tax-except status denied Heir?