Federal Court Dismisses Tea Party Groups’ Lawsuits Over IRS Targeting

A Federal Judge has dismissed lawsuits filed by Tea Party groups over the IRS targeting scandal.

IRS Building

The Internal Revenue Service scored a legal victory yesterday in two lawsuits related to the scandal that erupted in 2013 over the alleged targeting of conservative organizations who had applied for 501(c)(4) status when a Republican-appointed Federal Judge dismissed lawsuits filed by two of those organizations based on the fact that the approvals for their applications were delayed:

The IRS may have inadvertently figured out how to win its legal battles against aggrieved tea party groups: Give them what they wanted in the first place — tax-exempt status.

That was a major reason a Republican-appointed federal judge on Thursday threw out two lawsuits brought by more than 40 conservative groups seeking remedies for being singled out in the tea party targeting scandal, a victory for the IRS.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia dismissed almost all counts brought against the tax-collecting agency in two cases, ruling that both were essentially moot now that the IRS granted the groups their tax-exempt status that had been held up for years.

Walton, a President George W. Bush-appointee, also said individual IRS officials could not be fined in their individual capacity for allowing such treatment because it could hurt future tax enforcement.

The ruling, which the groups could appeal, has serious implications for tea party groups suing the IRS, suggesting they may never receive compensation for the long waits they endured for a ruling on their status.

The inspector general report that ignited the targeting controversy last year found that applications sat in limbo for as long as several years and that the groups were asked inappropriate questions about their donors, political affiliations and random things like social media posts.

Republicans said they were outraged at Walton’s decision.

“You get targeted and harassed for three years but, oh, because you finally get [tax-exempt status], the three years of harassment doesn’t mean anything?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who heads a congressional subpanel investigating the controversy. “I find that argument lacking tremendously in light of what these people went through.”

The groups in their suits alleged that the IRS violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights with the inappropriate “be on the lookout” list that used words like tea party to hold up their applications. They sought monetary relief for their trouble as well as injunctive relief barring the IRS from discriminating against conservative groups ever again.

The agency has since changed its practices, including scrapping the lists.

When the suits at hand were filed, 22 of the groups had already received their tax-exempt status, five had dropped their applications altogether and just over a dozen were still waiting to hear from the IRS.

Since then, the IRS had approved all but two, rendering much of the arguments moot, the judge said — and preventing him from considering the case.

“After the plaintiff initiated this case, its application to the IRS for tax-exempt status was approved by the IRS. The allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct, which delayed the processing of the plaintiff’s tax exempt application and brought about this litigation, is no longer impacting the plaintiff,” Walton said in his decision to throw out True the Vote’s lawsuit against the IRS.

His reasoning was similar in the second case, where 41 conservative groups banded together to sue the IRS for similar misconduct: “[T]he allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct … is no longer impacting the plaintiffs. … Counts … are therefore moot.”

The conservative groups said they were flabbergasted.

“We are stunned by today’s judgment,” said Catherine Engelbrecht, who heads Trues the Vote, one of the groups that sued the government. “The Court acknowledges in its opinion that the IRS did in fact target True the Vote for our perceived political beliefs, but then it holds that neither the agency nor the individual IRS agents or officers are responsible for this unconstitutional conduct.”

After reading through the Court’s opinion, it’s clear to me that Engebrecht’s characterization is completely incorrect. First of all, Judge Walton did not acknowledge that “the IRS did in fact target True the Vote for our perceived political beliefs.” The motion before the Court was a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that essentially argues that even if all of the facts that are alleged in the Complaint are taken as true, the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on such a motion, the Court accepts for the sake of argument that the facts the Plaintiff alleges are completely accurate, and in this case that included the allegation that the IRS was targeting True The Vote for heightened scrutiny because of its political beliefs. What Walton goes on to note, though, is that there is no case for the Court to proceed forward on because the Plaintiffs’ entire cause of action became moot once their applications for 501(c)(4) status were approved. Judge Walton explains the rationale this way:

Unless an actual, ongoing controversy exists in this case, this Court is without power to decide it. See Clarke v. United States, 915 F.2d 699, 700-01 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Even where a case once posed “a live controversy when filed, the [mootness] doctrine requires” the Court “to  refrain from deciding it if ‘events have so transpired that the decision will neither presently affect the parties’ rights nor have a more-than-speculative chance of affecting them in the future.'” Id. (quoting Transwestern Pipeline Co. v. FERC, 897 F.2d 570, 575 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). Here, after the plaintiff initiated this case, its application to the IRS for tax-exempt status was approved by the IRS. See Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot., Ex. A (Determination Letter) at 1.5 The allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct, which delayed the processing of the plaintiff’s tax exempt  application and brought about this litigation, is no longer impacting the plaintiff. See NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. IRS, No.1:13-cv-341, 2014 WL 3547369, at *9 n.11 (S.D. Ohio July 17, 2014) (“The claim for declaratory and injunctive relief cannot be brought by other Plaintiff Groups who have either had their applications for tax-exempt status ruled upon or have withdrawn their applications.”). Counts two and five, therefore, are moot.

The dismissals in these cases, then, lie in a pretty simple and easy to understand fact. Article III of the Constitution only gives Federal Courts jurisdiction over cases arising under Federal Law or the Constitution, and Federal Courts have long interpreted that to mean that there must be an actual case or controversy at issue for the Court to have jurisdiction. In this case, to the extent that there may have been a “case or controversy” arising out of the IRS’s extended delay in processing the 501(c)(4) applications that these groups had submitted, that case essentially ceased to exist once the applications were granted. Because of this, the Court no longer had jurisdiction over that portion of the claims asserted by the Plaintiff’s and dismissal was the only option that Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, had in here. Leaving aside for the sake of brevity the rest of Walton’s opinion regarding the Plaintiff’s effort to get around that seemingly simple fact, the result makes sense because it was clear that, once their 501(c)(4) applications were granted, the Plaintiff’s were no longer suffering any damages that could be remedied by a Court. Since Federal Courts do not issue “advisory opinions” that express what the law should be outside of the facts of a specific case, this means that there was essentially no longer any viable claim for the Court to consider.

Eugene Kontorovich at The Volokh Conspiracy comments on this portion of Walton’s opinion:

Because the IRS ultimately approved these groups’ tax-exempt status,Judge Reggie Walton concluded that most charges in the complaint are moot. Of course, the plaintiffs were essentially seeking to challenge a pattern or system of abusive enforcement of the law. The cessation of such practices against particular defendants moots their cases, as the Supreme Court held in Lyons v. City of Los Angeles. To be sure, abusive patterns are made up of individual incidents, and mootness risks loosing the forest for the trees. But it also encourages a voluntary cessation of wronging. Moreover, securing judicial review of systematic or institutional law enforcement defects should not be more difficult than getting redress for one’s own injuries.T

In addition to the claims directly related to the denial in processing of their applications, these groups also sought monetary damages against specific IRS employees, but Judge Walton rules that those claims could not proceed because of the immunity that the law gives to government employees in performing their governmental duties. While the idea of giving government employees in this situation may not sit well with many people, the law on the issue is crystal clear and it seems unlikely that Walton would be overruled in his holding on this issue. Moreover, as Judge Walton notes in his opinion, there is already a remedy for the type of behavior complained of by the Plaintiffs that has been established by Congress, including the fact that the Plaintiffs could have simply filed as a 501(c)(4) organization when they filed their tax returns regardless of the status of their applications. The fact that they didn’t take advantage of those remedies, he ruled, does not give them an independent cause of action against government employees who are otherwise immune from suit under the law.  That ruling is unlikely to be seriously in danger to be overturned on appeal.

If the IRS had not granted the 501(c)(4) applications for these groups, then it’s likely that this motion would have turned out differently. In that case, at least, there would have been some kind of potential damage that could make up a viable legal claim that would allow the case to go forward. Indeed, in a footnote to one of the two cases decided yesterday, Judge Walton noted that the applications for two groups and ordered the IRS to respond on that issue. Potentially, I suppose, that means that those cases could end up going forward at least on that portion of their claims. As for the rest of the Plaintiffs, though, it seems clear that Judge Walton’s decision was correct. Once the applications were granted, there was no case for him to decide, so he really had no choice but to dismiss the actions.

Here is the decision in the True The Vote case:

True The Vote v. IRS Opinion by Doug Mataconis

And here is the decision in the companion case involving some 40 other conservative organizations:

Linchpins of Liberty v IRS Opinion by Doug Mataconis

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Taxes, Tea Party, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Another right-wing conspiracy theory that isn’t.

  2. JKB says:

    Looks to me like this could be an excellent GOTV theme.

    “Redress through the courts denied, so we must vote to bring the IRS to heel through Congress”

  3. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    Maybe you and Jodi Ernst could exercise your 2nd Amendment Rights and attack the Government.
    Please?

  4. beth says:

    I have relatives on disability. It took over two years for the final determination of their status to be finalized During that time, they had to submit records over and over and go for a few interviews. Should they sue the government because of this? I know I’ve asked this before – is there any time frame promised or documents excused by law when you apply for tax exempt status?

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @beth:

    I had a similar situation with a relative trying to get disability. it seemed like the govt’s lawyer developed an animosity toward her. It was to the point where the judge that finally granted disability openly wondered why the govt was fighting it at all. Another friend wound up paying fines after hiring someone because the state government dragged their feet finishing the paperwork.

    As Doug notes, however, the law does not allow citizens to sue the government or its reps for being obstructive, no matter how obstructive or targeted their behavior may or may not have been. As the judge said … even if everything these organizations say were true, the law does not allow a lawsuit over it. This was always something that needed to be dealt with at the Congressional level. I’m sure that will go well.

  6. Gavrilo says:

    The Internal Revenue Service scored a legal victory yesterday in two lawsuits related to the scandal that erupted in 2013 over the alleged targeting of conservative organizations who had applied for 501(c)(4) status…

    Doug, there is nothing alleged about it. The IRS admitted it and apologized for it. The Inspector General’s report confirmed it. The acting director of the I.R.S. resigned because of it.

    The only questions that remain are who exactly was involved in the targeting and what their motivations were.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Gavrilo:
    You should also exercise your 2nd Amendment Rights.

  8. Stan says:

    Pardon me for asking this question, but why should the Tea Party groups get any tax benefits? Maybe Doug or some other legal luminary can explain what charitable function they serve.

  9. beth says:

    @Hal_10000: And I’m not trying to imply that it’s a good thing that it takes so long to get anything done. I’ve gone to the disability office with a relative and seen 50 people waiting to be interviewed by one person. If you shrink the government down to an unworkable size, don’t complain when it doesn’t work. In spite of all the conspiracy theories on the right, I think this IRS thing was a bunch of overworked accounting nerds who had a huge increase in tax exempt applications to process so they did what numbers nerds always do – they made a spreadsheet and classified them based on similar characteristics. Like I’ve said before, I know folks who work for the IRS. They’re career employees who really don’t care who’s in the White House or not – they just do their job for 20-30 years and then retire. They have no political reasons for anything they do on the job and if their bosses tried to tell them to do something based on politics, they’d just ignore them.

  10. JKB says:

    @beth: They have no political reasons for anything they do on the job and if their bosses tried to tell them to do something based on politics, they’d just ignore them.

    You’ve never actually worked in a government office, have you? Especially, the closer to DC. Sadly, the infection is spreading to offices outside the national capitol region.

  11. JKB says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I do exercise my enumerated right to keep and bear arms.

    And I, as you know, often attack the government via my enumerated right to free speech.

    You seem to imply I should bear arms against the government when the courts are still open and elections are still somewhat fair. I guess you have no love of or faith in the Constitution.

    If government is the things we do together, then logic would dictate the use of the powers of persuasion to convince “we” to stop doing so many things badly and, not stand for bad things being done.

  12. beth says:

    @JKB: Well like I said, I actually have friends who are career IRS employees. What’s your opinion based on?

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    So you talk the talk but are afraid to walk the walk.
    Got it.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Doug, there is nothing alleged about it. The IRS admitted it and apologized for it. The Inspector General’s report confirmed it. The acting director of the I.R.S. resigned because of it.

    Isn’t it a function of the IRS to ensure that organizations that claim tax-exempt status under the federal tax code are actually in compliance? I’ve worked in senior financial management for two non-profit organizations and our non-profit status was reviewed for compliance with every annual audit. Tea Party groups that claim non-profit status under the law are definitely subject to compliance review.

  15. Rick DeMent says:

    “You get targeted and harassed for three years but, oh, because you finally get [tax-exempt status], the three years of harassment doesn’t mean anything?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who heads a congressional subpanel investigating the controversy. “

    So how exactly were these people “harassed”? I mean holding up a request for a tax exemption is harassment? You mean like this? Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning Is that what you mean? Or is it just being butt hurt over IRS employees trying to enforce that actual law.

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    So, the lessons learned here?

    1) Justice delayed is… no big deal.

    2) Discrimination on the basis of political bias is acceptable as long as it only delays things, not denies things.

    3) Cliffy has three times in this thread incited violence, and collected several up-twinkles and no words of condemnation.

    So, the precedent has been set: part of the perqs of being in power is that your appointees can use the federal bureaucracy to hinder your political opponents without fear of sanction. That could prove to be quite useful in the future.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    So, the lessons learned here?

    The lesson actually is simple:
    Conservative advocacy organizations who claim tax-exempt status under federal tax laws, like all other organizations who claim such status, are not exempt from compliance reviews.

    You’re welcome.

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    2) Discrimination on the basis of political bias is acceptable as long as it only delays things, not denies things.

    If the Tea Party groups actually had a political orientation, then they SHOULD have been denied tax-exempt status. The whole point of the tax exemption is that it should only go to “social welfare” groups who do not engage in explicitily political activity.

    It’s always been a very incoherent complaint:

    Tea Party: You’re denying us tax-exempt status because of our political activity!

    IRS: You mean you engage in political activity? But you claimed to be a social welfare organization. If that’s not true, then (a) you don’t get tax-exempt status and (b) you’ve committed fraud.

    Teap Party: Um…never mind. We don’t engage in political activity. We’re social welfare only!

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Conservative advocacy organizations who claim tax-exempt status under federal tax laws, like all other organizations who claim such status, are not exempt from compliance reviews.

    Nope, they can just expect to be subjected to far more intense, time-consuming, and expensive reviews than those groups that are in alignment with the powers that be. But as long as it’s only delayed and not denied, they have no grounds for complaint.

    Thank you for the confirmation.

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    So, the precedent has been set: part of the perqs of being in power is that your appointees can use the federal bureaucracy to hinder your political opponents without fear of sanction.

    Once again, if these groups actually were “political opponents” of Obama, then their claim to be non-political social welfare organizations was fraudulent, they were trying to steal money from the taxpayer, and they should have been denied tax-exempt status.

  21. Gavrilo says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Isn’t it a function of the IRS to ensure that organizations that claim tax-exempt status under the federal tax code are actually in compliance? I’ve worked in senior financial management for two non-profit organizations and our non-profit status was reviewed for compliance with every annual audit. Tea Party groups that claim non-profit status under the law are definitely subject to compliance review.

    Of course it is. No one is arguing that Tea Party groups are not subject to compliance review. In fact, most of them did everything they could to comply with the IRS’s requests. The problem was that the IRS was not reviewing 501(c)4 applications in a uniform and equitable manner. The IRS was applying enhanced and unwarranted scrutiny to particular groups based solely on their names.

    Again, this has already been established in the Inspector General’s report. The IRS admitted what it was doing was inappropriate and apologized for it. The acting director of the IRS, Steven Miller, resigned because of it.

    Further, 501(c)4 organizations are allowed to be political. They can lobby for or against legislation. They can even engage directly in support of or in opposition of particular candidates so long as that’s not their primary activity. So, if an 501(c)4 is formed that is dedicated to promoting the Constitution, or dedicated to social justice, they can raise and spend all the money they want on TV ads that promote the Constitution or social justice. They can even run TV ads that support or oppose political candidates, as long as that’s not their primary activity.

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Here’s an easy way to reconcile that:

    The Tea Party groups were discriminated against based on their perceived political bias. The organized, institutional left (including, apparently, Lois Lerner) decreed that they were political enemies, and treated them as such.

    But some good came from all this. We discovered that the IRS has been violating federal records-keeping laws wholesale for years, as it seemed that every time more documents that should have been preserved had — oops! — been irretrievably lost, conveniently shortly before they were subpoenaed. It seems that the biggest cause of hard drive failures in DC is the issuance of a congressional subpoena for its contents.

    But… wait a minute. I think you just pulled a fast one here. Are you arguing that the Tea Party groups should have been denied recognition? You seem to be arguing both “they got their status, so what’s the big deal?” and “they didn’t deserve it, so they shouldn’t be upset that they got looked at so carefully.”

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Once again, if these groups actually were “political opponents” of Obama, then their claim to be non-political social welfare organizations was fraudulent, they were trying to steal money from the taxpayer, and they should have been denied tax-exempt status.

    Once again, I was pointing out that Lois Lerner and her lackeys were the ones defining the Tea Party as their opponents.

    BTW, Lerner was less than vigilant about improper tax filings by traditionally liberal 501(c)(4) groups, like unions. When she was notified that a bunch of unions was reporting millions in political spending to the Department of Labor while claiming to have spent little to none on politics to the IRS, she blew it off.

    But I understand why so many of the regulars here want to defend the IRS here. From Lois Lerner’s official work account e-mails, she’d fit right in with them.

  24. Rick DeMent says:

    The best thing to do is deny all political groups tax exempt status. Bam problem solved …

  25. beth says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Funny how the Daily Caller never does any of its hard hitting journalism when conservative groups do basically the same thing with no repercussions from the IRS http://www.progressive.org/news/2013/11/185633/taxes-show-rove-group-lied-political-spending. Face it, the tax exempt system is broken and needs to be reformed – both sides abuse it and Congress has shown no inclination they want to fix it (neither side in Congress, mind you – they’re too wholly owned by whatever special interests can pay them). So you can bitch and moan all you want but when you only complain about one side you give away your game.

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: And it’s funny how your source doesn’t mention the unions the Daily Caller cited. Odd, huh?

    Just goes to show you that you can’t trust either side to keep their side honest, so you need something like “checks and balances…”

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: So, it wasn’t so broken and need of fixing when the unions were scamming it, but once conservatives started exploiting the same things, NOW it needs to be fixed? I question your timing…

  28. beth says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: You really are a piece of work. I’ve always said that this system was broken – I’m an accountant and I’ve got a few friends from college that work for the IRS. Unlike you, I don’t see my life as one side versus the other and spend my days waiting to pounce on something to justify my “side”.

  29. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: No, but you’re always willing to cut the IRS some slack because you’ve got friends there. Sorry, but they’re not my friends, and you haven’t been overly friendly to me, so that reason doesn’t mean anything to me.

    Also note that in my link. the evidence was presented directly to the IRS official responsible for the matter — Lois Lerner — and she blew it off.

    So we agree that the system’s broken. But putting a career political activist into a position where she can use her political prejudices against those she doesn’t like without the slightest fear of consequences seems, at least to me, a really bad move, guaranteed to make it that much worse.

    But I’m no accountant, and I don’t count “career IRS officials” among my circle of friends, so maybe you have some special knowledge you can share that will enlighten all of us.

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    They can even run TV ads that support or oppose political candidates, as long as that’s not their primary activity.

    Did that cause you to laugh out loud too?

    Thanks for the reasonable response.
    I still believe that this “IRS scandal” was a lot of bleating over nothing, that’s Washington these days – lot’s of Kabuki, and a general lack of seriousness and substance.

  31. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: Hell, beth, with your “special knowledge” and “special connections” to the IRS, you should be madder than anyone about their corruptions and failings. But you go out of your way to protect them, even relying on emotional appeal to fend off criticism.

    A bit odd, that…

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: You really are a piece of work.

    Why, thank you, beth! You’re too kind!

  33. beth says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: And you, as always, are unable to see anything past that veil of partisanship you wear so well.

  34. wr says:

    @beth: It’s not partisanship. Didn’t you notice how he posted message after message when you didn’t respond to him as quickly as possible? Having you dislike him is the most satisfying relationship he’s ever had with a woman.

    He gets off on people hating him. It’s all he has in life.

    Ignore him and maybe he will finally go away.

  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @beth: I don’t care about Karl Rove. I understand he’s BoogieMan #1 on the left (unless he’s been passed by the Koch Brothers), but if he’s been playing games with the tax code, he should be called to account for it.

    But on the other hand, his lawyers have a great defense: 7 years ago, the IRS official in charge of that area explicitly said that she wasn’t interested in enforcing it. Since it was a law being freely flouted, with the IRS’ blessing, why shouldn’t he benefit from it too?

    Feel free to ask your friends at the IRS about that one…

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: You pathetic twit. If the Powers That Be actually enforced the “no personal attacks” rule around here, you’d disappear entirely.

    But for the others who have suffered reading this twit’s blatherings, note that 1) I brought up three distinct points, and 2) I never made any kind of demand that beth answer my questions as quickly as I brought them up. I’m quite patient…

  37. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You pathetic twit.

    I’m sorry…but anyone like you, who has been blathering on over this non-existent conspiracy theory for over a year, has no business calling anyone a pathetic twit.
    I know that won’t stop you though, because Benghazi……

  38. Stan says:

    At 10:57 this morning I asked why Tea Party organizations deserve tax exempt status. After reading all the posts in this thread, I still don’t know the answer. Tea Party enthusiasts, like other political partisans, don’t form groups and solicit contributions for charitable purposes. Giving their organizations tax breaks is a scandal, and the same applies to to tax breaks given to liberal groups. Why is this so hard to understand?

  39. Grewgills says:

    Anyone that is arguing that the majority of the tea party groups filing for 501c4 status are not primarily political in their purpose is either delusional or dishonest. I have to give the groups and their allies some credit for an expert job of playing the refs. Not only did they successfully get tax exempt status that they didn’t deserve to bring more dark money into campaigns in support of tea party republicans, they did it while managing to come off as the victims rather than the scam artists they are. Kudos on further corrupting the political process.

  40. Paul L. says:

    @Grewgills:

    get tax exempt status that they didn’t deserve to bring more dark money into campaign

    Way to parrot the talking point provide by nonpolitical progressive corps (CAP, Media Matters) with 501c4 status that do not like it when the right does the same.

    I am waiting for progressives to start the talking point “A Federal court has proven that there was no IRS targeting.”

  41. Paul L. says:

    Reasoning for this (bottom of page 13) since this was done by the Government not a private actor, there is no chance that this will occur again.

    . And “where the defendant is a government actor—and not a private litigant—there is less concern about the recurrence of objectionable behavior.” Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. v. SEC, 858 F. Supp. 2d 51, 61, 62

  42. Gavrilo says:

    @Stan:

    Because a non-profit doesn’t have to be a charity.

  43. wr says:

    @Stan: “At 10:57 this morning I asked why Tea Party organizations deserve tax exempt status. After reading all the posts in this thread, I still don’t know the answer”

    Because Freedom. What’s wrong with you?

  44. steve says:

    “So, the precedent has been set: part of the perqs of being in power is that your appointees can use the federal bureaucracy to hinder your political opponents without fear of sanction. ”

    IIRC, the only IRS position the POTUS can appoint is commissioner.

    Steve

  45. DrDaveT says:

    So, basically, Jenos is saying that if the (overworked, understaffed) FBI or TSA pays more attention to groups with “Jihad” in their name than to groups with “Knitting” in their name, that’s illegal targeting and discrimination and government corruption, obviously due to pressure/direction from the White House? I need to find some of what he’s smoking.

    Applying for 501(c)4 status with the name of a political (sub)party in your name is pretty much the same as applying for NAACP membership with a middle name of Klan. You might qualify — but they’re going to check extra carefully. The IRS’s biggest mistake to date (apart from the improper disclosures, which we all agree were unforgivable) was in admitting that there was anything wrong with their BOLO list.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    No, but you’re always willing to cut the IRS some slack because you’ve got friends there.

    As usual, you’ve got it backwards.

    Because she has friends there, she has a much better idea than you (and than most people) of what really goes on there — and, more generally, what it’s like to work for a federal agency. Hint: it’s pretty much nothing at all like what you hear at your preferred echo chambers. As a result, she knows better than to postulate conspiracies that would require the feds to care what their political bosses want. It’s not so much “cutting them slack” as “having a clue”.

  47. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Organizing For America, the heir of Obama For America and operator of the barackobama.com web site, is a recognized 501(c)(4) organization.

    MoveOn.Org, the liberal group that emerged from the fight against Bill Clinton’s impeachment, is a 501(c)(4) group.

    Media Matters For America is a 501(c)(3) organization.

    So I presume that the people who say the Tea Party groups shouldn’t have been granted tax-exempt status are equally upset about those groups being tax-exempt? Or is that status only for those groups that engage in liberal political activities?

  48. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DrDaveT: Because she has friends there, she has a much better idea than you (and than most people) of what really goes on there — and, more generally, what it’s like to work for a federal agency.

    beth’s defense of the IRS, when stripped down to its essential elements, is that she has friends who work there and they’re fine, decent, upstanding people, so by generalization no one in the IRS would ever do such bad things.

    Considering that the IRS has openly admitted that it targeted Tea Party and other conservatively-sounding groups for extra scrutiny above and beyond that subjected to other groups (including politically liberal groups), that assertion is laughable on its face, in addition to the incredibly flawed logic of the assumptions underlying it.

  49. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yes. No group whose sole activity isn’t social welfare should be allowed a 501(c)(4) exemption, and certainly not any group whose purpose is political.

    They should all be 527 orgs, but then they lose the only thing that they actually care about with respect to 501(c)(4) – anonymity.

    Remove the anonymity provisions of 501(c)(4) and you’ll see these political orgs seeking it dry up overnight.

  50. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    So I presume that the people who say the Tea Party groups shouldn’t have been granted tax-exempt status […]

    Dunno. I can’t speak for them; I was just addressing the ‘targeting’ solecism. Whether they should have been granted 501(c)4 status or not, having an obvious political party tie IN YOUR NAME is a reasonable criterion for meriting closer scrutiny — especially when Congress chooses not to fund enough staff to actually subject all applicants to full scrutiny.

  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    beth’s defense of the IRS, when stripped down to its essential elements, is that she has friends who work there and they’re fine, decent, upstanding people

    You can’t really be this thick, can you? The point is that she knows people who work there and has, like, actually talked to them about what it is like to work there. Or are you far enough gone into Mel Gibson land that you think they all lie to her all the time?

    I’ve worked at federal agencies; I’ve worked with federal agencies (about half a dozen of them); I’ve worked with scores of people who formerly worked at various other federal agencies. We all know what you don’t — namely, that most civil servants who are not themselves political appointees DO NOT CARE what the political temps want, and will certainly not fail to rat out their bosses (or ex-bosses) when they are guilty of partisan shenanigans.

    There are enough feds of every political stripe, from outright communist to outright fascist, that partisan conspiracy is impossible. The conspiracies that do happen, such as at the VA, are when the conspiracy is to protect the jobs or compensation of the workers — and even there it doesn’t usually survive long.

  52. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I’m left wondering where people got the idea that there is any sort of legal responsibility on the part of the IRS to be “fair” with respect to how it selects individuals for additional scrutiny. It has none. Zippo. Zero. Nada. This is largely people reacting to something that they THINK the IRS should be obligated to do, but which it actually isn’t.

    For example, their audit selection algorithms are blatantly targeted at high income individuals, and largely ignore taxpayers below a certain income level FOR THE SAME CRITERIA.

    For one simple reason – the recovery is likely to be larger with those folks, and it isn’t worth their time to waste resources auditing people from whom they’ll collect small sums.

    And that’s with respect to people filing mandatory forms. In this instance, we have groups VOLUNTARILY filing applications for a tax exemption that they honestly aren’t even required to file in the first place. In that light, they accept whatever scrutiny they are subjected to. They always have the option of withdrawing their application if they dislike it. The bottom line is that this represents the IRS doing its fricking job, and they need to be doing more of it, not caving and granting undeserved exemptions simply because it’s politically unpopular to deny them.