News that employees at the Internal Revenue Service targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name for special scrutiny has raised pious alarms among some lawmakers and editorial writers. Yes, the I.R.S. may have been worse than clumsy in considering an avalanche of applications for nonprofit status under the tax code, and that deserves scrutiny whether or not the agency’s employees were spurred by partisan motives. After all, some of these “tea party” groups are most likely not innocent nonprofit organizations devoted to the cultural significance of hot beverages — or to other, more civic, virtues. Rather, they and others are groups that may be illegally spending a majority of their resources on political activity while manipulating the tax code to hide their donors and evade taxes (the unwritten rule being that no more than 49 percent of a group’s resources can be used for political purposes).
The near vertical ascent in political spending by these “dark money” groups was prompted by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, among others, freeing them to be more active in this realm.
And it’s a bipartisan scandal, though it’s hard to tell that judging by the names some groups have adopted — as the I.R.S. should know. Can you tell which of these lean left and which ones right? Patriot Majority USA, Crossroads GPS, American Future Fund and the Citizens for Strength and Security Fund. (Nos. 1 and 4 are liberal, 2 and 3 are conservative.)
The majority of the organizations that appear to be most politically active — from groups that run their own ads, like American Action Network and Americans for Prosperity, to the mysterious Center to Protect Patient Rights, which distributes money to other political groups — already have exempt status. There’s little evidence that the I.R.S. is looking into these groups.
The latest news will make that job more difficult. It’s unfortunate and unacceptable that these groups may have received more scrutiny and suspicion than they deserved — the I.R.S. reportedly even asked what books their leaders were reading.
Full Article: The Real I.R.S. Scandal – NYTimes.com.