A real scandal exists in the IRS
By Rod Haxton, editor
Politicians and, yes, the news media love a good scandal.
But it has to be the right kind of scandal.
Iran-Contra was a scandal. Selling weapons to our sworn enemy so we could use that money to secretly support the Contra rebels in Nicaragua - which had been specifically prohibited by Congress - was both an act of defiance and illegal behavior by the top people within the Reagan White House.
It was a scandal on such a high level that, today, Republicans would love to enshrine Ronald Reagan on Mount Rushmore if only they could find a way to slide him between Lincoln and Roosevelt.
Some would argue that Iran-Contra doesn’t rate as a true scandal because it was lacking two key elements - Democrats and sex. The Monica Lewinsky scandal was perfect because it was so simple. You only had to connect the dots between Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and sex. Anyone with an IQ barely above room temperature - which is most of the Fox News audience - can do that.
As desperate as Republicans have been to find a scandal in the Obama Administration - and as accommodating as the Administration has apparently been with Benghazi, the seizing of AP phone records and the possible targeting of conservative groups by the IRS - they lack the key elements of sex and simplicity.
And that’s going to make them difficult for most people to follow or, for that matter, even care about.
If there is a scandal to be found, however, it’s in how the IRS is targeting the wrong groups for investigation. What is known at this point is that some IRS staff were focusing their attention on the equivalent of Mom and Pop Tea Party organizations in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. Meanwhile, major political groups responsible for raising hundreds of millions of dollars in anonymous donations and spending that money with the purpose of supporting or defeating specific candidates are being ignored by the IRS.
You have your scandal, but it’s not the one Republicans want to talk about.
Should you decide to keep reading, be forewarned, what you are about to learn has nothing to do with sex.
When the Supreme Court issued its infamous Citizens United decision it opened the floodgates of political fundraising, which was evident during the 2012 election cycle which saw $7 billion in spending, according to the Federal Election Commission.
In order to capitalize on this newfound ability to raise money we’ve seen a proliferation of 501c4 “social welfare” groups entering the political arena.
Under IRS guidelines, these organizations must promote “social welfare (which) does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” They can “engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”
Again, you didn’t see the word sex anywhere in this previous paragraph, but it is the key to the real IRS scandal.
Who has applied for 501c4 status, you might ask? Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and, yes, President Obama’s Organizing for Action organization.
There are two major problems with this.
First of all, the donations are anonymous.
Secondly, these groups are, in no way, furthering the common good and general welfare of the people of the community as defined by a 501c4. Crossroads GPS spent more than $70 million during the last election. Anyone want to guess how much of that money was used to defeat Obama or Democrats and how much was spent to provide shelter for the homeless or to build a playground in a low-income neighborhood?
It’s not sexy, but the fact that the IRS allows organizations to clearly ignore the regulations governing 501c4 status and operate outside the law is inexcusable.
Equally scandalous are the actions of our Congressmen who avoid the issue because they lack the political courage to take on the big money behind Americans for Prosperity or Crossroads GPS. In fact, the “outrage” expressed by Sen. Jerry Moran and others could end up further aiding these powerful groups by making the IRS even more reluctant to audit their activities for fear of being seen as partisan.
Let’s be clear. Under no circumstances should the IRS be allowed to use its power to intimidate people and legitimate organizations. Neither should we be fooled into thinking this is something new. During the Bush administration, the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of a church in California after the pastor gave an anti-Iraq War sermon before the 2004 presidential election.
The IRS also targeted the NAACP for criticizing Bush and went after Greenpeace - apparently spurred by a suggestion from an Exxon-Mobil funded organization.
The potential for IRS abuse knows no political distinction.
If Sen. Moran and fellow Republicans are really concerned with whether or not the IRS is doing its job properly, then let’s conduct an investigation into the 501c4 program. Let’s make sure political organizations aren’t hiding behind the guise of social welfare groups.
It’s not sexy, but it might actually uncover a legitimate scandal.
And isn’t that what Republicans are really after?
Rod Haxton can be reached at email@example.com
No User Comments
Be the first to comment on this story.
Opinions This Week
- A real scandal exists in the IRS - May. 16, 2013
- Western Skyline - May. 9, 2013
- Grads: dare not to be stupid - May. 9, 2013
- Consequences aren’t for everyone - May. 2, 2013
- A great way to start your dayA great way to start your day - Apr. 25, 2013