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.”