Quick question? Can someone tell me when the Tea Party become a social welfare outfit? Or when did Karl Rove’s group become one? Or the major political fund-raising groups founded by former Clinton and Obama supporters?
Remember, the so-called IRS scandal began many months ago because the agency was supposedly targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they tried to establish 501(c)4 status. Everyone quickly became up at arms. Even liberal commentators and writers began questioning the Obama administration, everyone agreeing that such targeting simply can’t be allowed to stand.
Then we found out that the IRS had not targeted conservative groups, but that liberal and progressive groups were scrutinized as well, and for good reason, because that particular tax exempt status was reserved for groups who were primarily about social welfare. (The law actually says “exclusively” but the IRS in 1959 interpreted it to mean primarily.) On top of that, we also found out that the initial Inspector General’s report only mentioned conservative groups because that’s what Republican Rep. Darrell Issa told it to include. In other words, the report, which had conservatives and liberals united in disgust, was purposefully rigged to show harm being done to conservative groups.
Since those revelations, the story largely faded from the headlines. But it recently came back because the IRS said it was unable to produce a trove of emails the House committee looking into this matter demanded. The IRS should be harshly criticized and held accountable for the lost emails. The agency would not accept “computer crash” for missing documents while it audited you. That’s clear.
But what’s being overshadowed is how this all began, even before that misleading report about IRS targeting. The real scandal began years ago as the GOP led Congress to defang the IRS and cut its budget and staffing time and time again – even as it piled more responsibilities onto the IRS – making it easier for the wealthy, in particular, to skirt tax laws.
Investigative reporter David Kay Johnston did a great job explaining that issue here: http://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/the_other_irs_scandal.php?page=all
Given those staffing shortages and a big uptick in mostly conservative political groups asking for the social welfare designation, the IRS attempted to screen for these groups in what can charitably be described as a ham-fisted or disjointed way, which led to the faux scandal and brings me back to the beginning.
When did these nakedly political groups – Rove’s group, Tea Party groups, liberal ones – become social welfare outfits? Why was it OK for them to lie to the IRS? Why were they trying to hide their political activities behind a designation they clearly should not have received? Why was it wrong for the IRS to try to stop them from doing so?
The IRS has a lot to answer because of those lost emails. But these other groups have a lot to answer for as well.