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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Politics | 15 comments

The biggest Obama issue?

NOTE: Due to a technical glitch the wrong byline appeared on this post for several minutes. We regret the error and the glitch.

The New York Times sorts through the distinctions.

The Internal Revenue Service was absolutely correct to look into the abuse of the tax code by political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups over the last three years. The agency’s mistake — and it was a serious one — was focusing on groups with “Tea Party” in their name or those criticizing how the country is run. ...NYT editorial board

But how the heck would you locate the potential fraud if you avoided the words “tea party”?

The I.R.S. should have used a neutral test to scrutinize every group seeking a tax exemption for “social welfare” activity — Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. Any group claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code can collect unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and many took in tens of millions. They are not supposed to spend the majority of their money on political activities, but the I.R.S. has rarely stopped the big ones from polluting the political system with unaccountable cash. … NYT editorial board

The Times editors lament the absence of equal scrutiny of similar groups on the left trying to pull a fast one. But doesn’t the IRS pull its punches — thanks to pressure from all sides in Congress?

There is no evidence President Obama knew about the audits by the I.R.S. The groups involved were seeking not to pay taxes on large amounts of income by claiming that they promote social welfare. No one has an automatic right to this tax exemption; those seeking one should expect close scrutiny from the government to ensure it is not evading taxes.

For many years, however, the I.R.S. hasn’t provided it. Democratic groups were the first ones to start abusing their social-welfare tax status in the 2004 election; the Republicans followed suit and became the biggest players in this field beginning in 2008. Far bigger than any Tea Party group, Crossroads GPS nakedly violated the tax code by spending tens of millions on behalf of Republican candidates, claiming it wasn’t political because it ran only “issue ads.” It never lost its tax exemption….NYT editorial board

In spite of orders from on high within the IRS, some employees are said to have kept their focus on the tea party while overlooking breaches on the left. But this is nothing like Nixon’s deliberate use of the IRS to intimidate his opposition, as the Times points out. And it seems to me that many of us, during the early days of the tea party movement, were already aghast at what those groups were getting away with — in the streets, in their extreme behaviors, and in their claims for special tax status.

The IRS field office in Cleveland used their best intuitions, faced reality. Reality is deeply unpopular in politics — particularly on the right. The IRS is only the latest in a string of victims of Republican “political correctness.”

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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  • rudi

    The scandal story is Cincinati, not Cleveland…

  • CStanley
  • SteveK

    Your link didn’t work Christine here’s another one that should.

    For balance to this opinion you might want to go to its ‘Comment’ section, click the ‘READER PICKS’ tab, and read a little more.

  • zephyr

    Reality is deeply unpopular in politics — particularly on the right.

    What amazes me is how so many people are still willing to cut them slack. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a hundred times???

  • zephyr

    Here’s a balanced comment for you:

    Revel in the IRS’s embarrassment if you wish, Mr. Douthat. I’ll be lamenting what a minority of extremists has done to the nation.

    Amen. “Extremists” including the ultra-wealthy special interests who have spurred them on.

  • dduck

    Ahem, extremists are the type that attacked in Benghazi.

    What happened to the accusations that they targeted Jewish groups?

    The IRS is unfunded and understaffed and part of the problem could be a flood of these (c)4s, which I am ready to ban, that overwhelmed the screeners. People will take short cuts, you know.

  • CStanley

    The funding issue doesn’t hold water. If the increased number of applicants overwhelmed the workers, they would have rubberstamped everything rather than increasing their workload by asking some of the applicants to provide reams of paperwork. They held up some of these applications for more than three years. If they were overworked and understaffed, they would have given the greenlight in order to get these things processed quickly.

    And of course, somehow these poor overworked, lower level civil servants found time to make illegal copies of some of the applications and leak them to the public.

  • dduck

    Why not a little of both theories.

  • CStanley

    Rather than “why not?”, dduck, I am asking “why?”, particularly because understaffing makes no sense at all for an explanation of their behavior.

  • sheknows

    No denying, there was bias on the part of the IRS workers. Although I don’t necessarily buy the “overworked” claim , I would not discount a bit of vengeance on the part of the workers. Afterall, The Reps did cut funding and ALOT of people lost their jobs.
    As for the other issue of fraud by tax-exempt seekers you would have to be 6 yrs old not to know this is rampant LOL.
    Great example of in the article. Particularily repugnant group.
    ALL taxpayers, red or blue should be outraged by the way political groups are allowed to skate while we all pick up the tab.

  • CStanley

    So in 2010 they were feeling vengeful over furloughs that would happen in March 2013?

  • zephyr

    Ahem, extremists are the type that attacked in Benghazi.

    Extremists are also people who undermine democracy without firing a shot, whether by monied influence, ignorance or both.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    “Extremists are also people who undermine democracy without firing a shot, whether by monied influence, ignorance or both.”

    I wish TMV had a “like” ‘button’ as FB does… 🙂

  • sheknows

    Yes. They had to comply with a $1B cut STARTING in 2010 through 2013. This INCLUDES the $600 million in reduction for sequestration in 2013.

  • dduck

    I merely allude to the fact that many times Obama uses extremists when it would be more accurate to use terrorists. Most U.S. “extremists” do not do bombings and attacks at consulates, sorry I wasn’t clear enough.

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