DID THE IRS TARGET THE “RIGHT”?

This addresses the second part of the Republican Trifecta–the attack on the Obama Presidency. Perhaps they believe that, by attacking President Barack Obama, the GOP can take back the Senate and eliminate any chance of a Hilary Clinton Presidency. Oddly enough, however, a recent CNN/ORC poll (last Fri-Sat) reflected a 53% Approval Rating for Obama, as compared to 51% in the last poll. Maybe the GOP should pay attention.

Recently, the IRS has admitted that it had provided additional scrutiny to 300 applications, of which 60 had “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in the title, for the 501(c)4 “Super PAC” designation. Unlike the 527 designation, this enables organizations to solicit contributions on a tax-exempt basis. And, since the Citizens United ruling, in 2010, which enables unlimited corporate contributions, and provides donor anonymity, applications have really skyrocketed.  By the way, some of the applicants were left-leaning.

As I approach this issue, there are several points that I believe should be considered:

1.   The IRS department, which reviewed these applications, is considered a back-water, out of the mainstream, and from which career goals are not normally hopeful, as linked by the following NY Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/us/politics/at-irs-unprepared-office-seemed-unclear-about-the-rules.html?pagewanted=print.

2.   Neither the IRS, nor any other Federal Department, should target a particular type of organization, for any reason whatsoever. Criminals should be prosecuted for such activities. Improprieties, which are not deemed criminal, should be addressed and punishment meted out.
3.   Congress and the Administration should address the IRS designations and specify exactly what qualifies as tax-exempt and what does not. Also, when there is sufficient cause, donor lists should be available to the authorities.

Given the politics that pervade Washington, it is important to note that the NAACP was subjected to a full audit, in 2004, after Julian Bond, its Chairman, spoke out against the War in Iraq. The purpose of that audit was to withdraw the Charitable Organization’s 501(c)3 tax-exempt designation. Tax-exempt organizations are permitted to have some political activities; but, they must be secondary to the organization’s primary purpose.

Personally, I believe that it is very vague as to what activities a non-profit political organization can engage in. Also, the overworked, and understaffed IRS department in Cincinnati might have focused on a shortcut, more so than active targeting. Words like Tea Party and Patriot were probably short-cuts in its identifying political organizations.

The real question is: why did these people focus on small, local organizations, that really did not attract the big money. That’s the contributions that went into the big Super PACs during the 2012 Presidential Election. The IRS should have gone after Karl Rove’s CrossroadsGPS (on the “Right”), http://www.crossroadsgps.org/, and PrioritiesUSA (on the Left), http://www.prioritiesusa.org/. Just open those sites and see if you can find any “social purpose”.

The only thing new about the IRS alleged targeting of conservative groups is that several people in the White House have known about it for several weeks. Keep in mind that there are more than 93,000 employees in the IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department. Also, Presidents should not be involved in department investigations, lest they be accused of either activism or covering-up. Damned if you do, damed if you don’t, huh?

As noted above, Congress needs to re-evaluate why political activities may warrant a tax-exempt status, and why the donor list should not be public. Otherwise, large corporations and uber-wealthy people would be further enabled in the Take-Over of America. But, hey, they contribute to political campaigns.

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