IRS Scandal More About Political Bias Than “Incompetence”

What happened at the IRS looks a lot more like deliberate political bias than simple incompetence.

IRS Building

The Internal Revenue Service’s Inspector General released his report late yesterday on the political targeting of conservative and libertarian organizations by the division of the agency responsible for evaluating applications for tax-exempt status, and it seems clear that senior IRS officials had permitted a culture of partisan bias to take hold in an agency that is supposed to be non-partisan:

WASHINGTON — An inspector general’s report issued Tuesday blamed ineffective Internal Revenue Service management in the failure to stop employees from singling out conservative groups for added scrutiny. Congressional aides, meanwhile, sought to determine whether the Obama administration’s knowledge of the effort extended beyond the I.R.S.

House and Senate aides said they were focusing on an Aug. 4, 2011, meeting in which the I.R.S.’s chief counsel appears to have conferred with agency officials to discuss the activities of a team in the Cincinnati field office that had been subjecting applications for tax-exempt status from Tea Party and other conservative groups to a greater degree of review than those from other organizations.

Under I.R.S. rules, the agency’s chief counsel, William J. Wilkins, reports to the Treasury Department’s general counsel, and investigators want to determine if Mr. Wilkins took the issue out of the independent I.R.S. to other parts of the Obama administration.

If the inquiry determines any new link to the administration, it could change the political equation for the White House, which has stressed the I.R.S.’s independence even as President Obama has castigated the agency over the allegations of political bias. A bipartisan investigation by the Senate Finance Committee built steam on Tuesday, and the House Ways and Means Committee prepared for the first hearing on the matter on Friday with an extensive request for documents from the I.R.S. The House Oversight Committee formally accused one I.R.S. official of misleading lawmakers on four occasions.

“What we don’t know at this point is whether it jumped the fence from the I.R.S. to the White House,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. “But we do know this: we can’t count on the administration to be forthcoming about the details of this scandal, because so far they’ve been anything but.”

Late Tuesday, Mr. Obama said in a statement that “the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable.”

“The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the I.R.S.,” he said, adding, “This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.”

He said he was asking Jacob J. Lew, the Treasury secretary, “to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the inspector general’s recommendations are implemented quickly.”

(…)

[A] matter portrayed by the I.R.S. on Friday as a little-known operation conducted in Cincinnati, largely out of the sight of Washington officials, continued to sprawl. The report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration offered new details on the scope and duration of the I.R.S. targeting effort.

Mismanagement at the agency allowed “inappropriate criteria” for the singling out of conservative groups to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, starting in 2010, the report said. That resulted in “substantial delays” for groups applying for tax-exempt status, either as 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(3) organizations, and it allowed unnecessary and intrusive information like donor lists to be gathered. I.R.S. officials told the inspector general that all donor information received was later destroyed.

Of the 296 applications the inspector general reviewed, 108 were approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicants and 160 were still open, some pending for up to 1,138 days.

In a statement Tuesday night, the I.R.S. acknowledged that “inappropriate shortcuts were used to determine which cases may be engaging in political activities.” But it said the agency had a responsibility to make sure that such organizations did not engage in impermissible political actions, and that not just conservative groups were singled out. It also said that “there was no intent to hide this issue,” but that the agency had been awaiting the inspector general’s report.

The report said that senior I.R.S. officials told inspectors that no individual or organization outside the agency influenced the criteria used to single out Tea Party or other conservative groups.

But Congressional aides looking into the matter are not convinced. One notation in a 12-page timeline of events prepared by the inspector general stood out for exploration. On Aug. 4, 2011, officials at the I.R.S.’s rulings and agreement office met with the I.R.S.’s chief counsel “so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue,” according to the inspector general.

That was interpreted as an invitation to bring the matter up the chain of command, to the Treasury general counsel, George W. Madison, who left the department in June 2012. Treasury officials declined to comment Tuesday.

No doubt, the question of whether or not anyone outside the IRS was involved in this targeting is going to be a serious focus of the Congressional investigations that will start later this week and, no doubt, the criminal investigation that the FBI has opened up into the matter.  At this point, however, it still appears as though the program was limited to people inside the IRS and was, for whatever reason, allowed to continue even after supervisors in the Washington, DC headquarters found out about. What’s also clear is that the initial statement from the IRS that the targeting was not motivated by political bias simply is not believable. If that were the case, we would expected to find that politically oriented groups applying for 501(c)(4) status would be treated relatively the same regardless of which side of the political aisle they happen to lie on. USA Today has an analysis which clearly shows that 501(c)(4) applications by obviously liberal organizations were treated far differently from those that were obviously from the conservative side of the aisle:

As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups. They included:

• Bus for Progress, a New Jersey non-profit that uses a red, white and blue bus to “drive the progressive change.” According to its website, its mission includes “support (for) progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people’s interests and make tough choices.” It got an IRS approval as a social welfare group in April 2011.

• Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment says it fights against corporate welfare and for increasing the minimum wage. “It would be fair to say we’re on the progressive end of the spectrum,” said executive director Jeff Ordower. He said the group got tax-exempt status in September 2011 in just nine months after “a pretty simple, straightforward process.”

• Progress Florida, granted tax-exempt status in January 2011, is lobbying the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. The group did not return phone calls. “We’re busy fighting to build a more progressive Florida and cannot take your call right now,” the group’s voice mail said.

Like the Tea Party groups, the liberal groups sought recognition as social welfare groups under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, based on activities like “citizen participation” or “voter education and registration.”

ABC News, meanwhile, lists some of the more bizarre and intrusive questions that IRS investigators were sending to conservative 501(c)(4) applicants:

  • “Provide a list of all issues that are important to your organization. Indicate your position regarding each issue.”
  • “Please explain in detail the derivation of your organization’s name.” (in a letter to the Ohio-based 1851 Center for  Constitutional Law)
  • “Please explain in detail your organization’s involvement with the Tea Party.”
  • “Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas.” (a Cincinnati-area Tea-Party activist)
  • “Provide information regarding the Butler County Teen Age Republicans and your relationship.”
  • “Submit the following information relating to your past and present directors, officers, and key employees: a) Provide a resume for each.”
  • “The names of the donors, contributors, and grantors. … The amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.”
  • “The names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they spent on the event or program.” (for events)
  • “Provide copies of the handbills you distributed at your monthly meetings.”
  • “Fully describe your youth outreach program with the local school.”
  • “Please provide copies of all your current web pages, including your Blog posts. Please provide copies of all of your newsletters, bulletins, flyers, newsletters or any other media or literature you have disseminated to your members or others. Please provide copies of stories and articles that have been published about you.”
  • “Are you on Facebook or other social networking sites? If yes, provide copies of these pages.”
  • “Provide copies of the agendas and minutes of your Board meetings and, if applicable, members ship meetings, including a description of legislative and electoral issues discussed, and whether candidates for political office were invited to address the meeting.”

Now, for organizations that are organized by people in their spare time and run out of people’s houses, this is a fairly obtuse and intrusive list of information to request. It looks more like a strategy designed to bury these groups in paper rather than a legitimate search for the truth. The fact that such requests for information were sent only to conservative and libertarian applicants suggests that there was, indeed, a selective bias being applied to the scrutiny that IRS agents were giving to these 501(c)(4) applicants. At the very least, that’s highly improper and may indeed have been illegal. Of all the “scandal” stories currently gripping Washington this seems to me to be the one that’s likely to have the most political impact and, if it does turn out that it goes beyond the IRS itself, then it could end up being a bigger story than it seems at the moment. This much is clear, Congress must investigate this matter thoroughly and, quite probably, consider changes to the law that would address this type of problem in the future, because using the IRS as a tool of political gamesmanship is the last thing we need to see.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, 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. Moosebreath says:

    On the other hand, Bloomberg is reporting that the same letter went to progressive organizations, and at least one was denied 501(c)4 treatment, which no conservative was.

    “One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.”

  2. Donald Sensing says:

    Doug, having been reading typical readers’ comments here for a long time, I have finally seen the light and have decided to become a Democrat partisan advocate. So I have to advise you that you are a racist for bringing these smears up.

    Furthermore, as usual, you have shown yourself to be a Republican hack. Did you get this post cleared in advance by Rush Limbaugh? This whole issue is overblown and is nothing but a convenient club that the Republicans are using to beat Obama with. That’s because they have no plan of their own to make this country a better, more fair and economically equitable place; all they have is hatred, bitterness and their chains to Wall Street and the 1 percent. I see you have joined their ranks.

    The IRS has already admitted that mistakes were made, so there is no reason for all the media attention this minor problem is getting. A couple of low-level Cincinnati IRS employees were simply being a little over-careful in processing applications, that’s all. So?

    It’s too bad you keep helping Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell swing their partisan club. This is all a Republican-manufactured “controversy” intended to divert the ongoing failures of the Republicans in working with the Democrat-controlled Senate and Executive in order to put Americans back to work and bring the federal budget under control. That they are also clearly motivated by contempt, pure and simple, for Obama personally is also unarguable. So why did you join that club?

  3. Scott says:

    Browsing through the actual Inspector General’s report, I got the impression of lower level employees exercising poor judgment rather than some conspiracy although there is enough uncertainty to feed whatever view you may have.

    I would like to point out that this “scandal” was not suddenly uncovered last week but rather known within the IRS. It was also serious enough to call the IG in and do an investigation.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Gosh Donald, you conservatives are such… victims.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    The IRS didn’t reject any 501(c)(4) applications as a result of enhanced interrogation techniques on the Tea Parties because reading Ayn Rand cannot be the basis of rejecting an application. The IRS wanted people to voluntarily withdraw:

    Julie Hodges of the Mississippi Tea Party said the group has less than $800 in its account and relied on volunteer lawyers to deal with the IRS. It withdrew its application for 501(c)(4) status in early 2012, citing the delays and questions.

  6. NickTamere says:

    Personally I think that most of the Tea Party organizations should not have tax-exempt status as they’re simply a GOP rebranding exercise and are not issue-centric. a good rule of thumb is whether the organization in question would support a political candidate outside of their primary D vs R alignment if they were actually “better” on the issues related to the organization’s mission statement. I.E. I can see Greenpeace supporting an Independent or Republican candidate if they actually were better on environmental issues, but there’s no way that Rove’s Crossroads would ever go Dem or Independent. NAACP would cross party lines, CAP would be far less likely to.

    (edit: I realize I’m conflating several different classifications of organizations that don’t have the same tax status)

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Doug–do you remember all the nosy questions you had to fill out in preparation for the bar exam? Why is this any different?

    If I’m going to give an organization the possibility of not paying taxes, I can ask whatever damn well questions I want if I’m the government. If you don’t want to answer nosy questions, don’t apply for a tax-free status. I thought you libertarians were all about freedom to contract, right? Why is this any different?

    Do we really have any evidence that similarly nosy questions were not asked of liberal organizations?

    Don’t forget the tax protestor taint….

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @PD Shaw: Why is this any worse than all the roadblocks (waiting periods, ultrasounds) Republicans put in place against women getting abortions?

  9. Donald Sensing says:

    @anjin-san:

    I guess you don’t read too good. As I said in my comment, I have abandoned conservatism and have embraced progressivism. My comment was very clearly in accordance with progressivist principles and current thinking about this issue. So what’s your beef?

    I admit I am new to progressivism, so if my comment is not faithful to the present progressive position on this issue, perhaps you will point out in detail where it strays so I can be better informed.

    “Bueller? Bueller?”

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Good point. That article also has a quote from someone from Emerge America:

    “It is up to the IRS and the government to do the due diligence necessary,” Glazer said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I’m not saying it was fun but it was important.”

    It’s quite possible that the main thing going on here was that the Tea Party people really had no experience at all in dealing with the government and because they were tiny groups, with no experience, they were totally unprepared.

    Take those questions. None of the questions that Doug lists, I don’t think, will sound unusual to someone who works at a non-profit. Generally speaking, at a non-profit, you have to be transparent and ready to account for everything that happens. Which is why, for example, grant writing is now a professional degree.

    So these questions are a pain, but they aren’t insane, or apparently, as the Bloomberg article says, partisan.

    The fact that conservatives are screaming about tyranny, whereas a guy who is probably relatively young isn’t rattled by having to account for what his group does, is pretty much the state of things in America.

  11. anjin-san says:

    @ Donald Sensing

    So you don’t mind being the blog equivalent of an unfunny comedian bombing on stage? Ok, dude, go for it.

  12. Paul L. says:

    @grumpy realist:
    So the Bar is now part of the US Federal Government?
    I bet Republicans would love to see the Media Matters, Thinkprogress and other progressive groups answers to those “nosy questions”. I am sure they would have no problems releasing that information.

    Donald Sensing
    That was beautiful. You nailed the Democrats talking points.

  13. John D'Geek says:

    @Moosebreath: Looking at your link, it also says (emphasis mine):

    In early 2011, the IRS denied the tax-exempt status of an affiliate of the San Francisco-based Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office.

    So they weren’t even bothering to pretend that they were non-partisan. Now if they were helping all women (and not just Democrats), they may have made it.

  14. John Burgess says:

    It’s not just the IRS. The Washington bureaucracy is, in general, left-leaning, if not totally ‘progressive’.

    I had serious trouble at State in getting GS staff to acknowledge that the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be taken seriously, for his position, if not for the policies he promoted. If he made a major statement bearing on policy, it was required to cover it in the regular distribution of Washington policy news, regardless of the Chairman’s party or the employees’ liking of him.

    Personally, I loathed Jesse Helms, but he still had the title and what he said mattered. To cover only those policies with which one agreed was a gross disservice to honest reporting and a serious dereliction of duty. It took writing up notes for inclusion in performance reports to get the behavior changed to the policy neutrality the job required.

  15. Donald Sensing says:

    @anjin-san:

    So there is “no there, there” with you, I guess, since you either will not or cannot tell me how I erred in my top comment. I say again: I am willing to be tutored, but this is the last time I’ll ask. Explain exactly how my top comment does not accurately represent current progressivist views. I am trying to learn how to argue the progressive positions, but perhaps you do not know them very well yourself.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    Now, for organizations that are organized by people in their spare time and run out of people’s houses, this is a fairly obtuse and intrusive list of information to request.

    My understanding is that most “social welfare organizations” form without the assistance of attorneys. That makes the IRS’ job difficult, but as the Inspector General’s Report said the mission of the IRS it to help people understand and comply with their tax responsibilities. Sending them adversarial legalistic tricks to confound them is outrageous. Educate, inform, and make it clear that the approval doesn’t preclude taxation if you exceed the scope of the exemption.

  17. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    As a satirist, you suck.

  18. Donald Sensing says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    Ah! Name calling! Thank you for reminding me of one of the main ways I can be an effective progressive. I must find opportunities simply to call my opponents names or attack their character, personal integrity or sincerity.

    Do progressives do that so they don’t have to actually learn anything about the issue at hand? I need to know so I can use my time better – if I should stop spending trying to understand the issues so I will have more time to think up insults. Is this one of the keys to progressive argumentation?

    This is really exciting for the commenters at this blog to help me become a progressive! I very much appreciate your lesson! Thanks, bozo!

    (Is “bozo” too gentle? Maybe I should be harsher?)

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I’ll take that. I am a progressive. My first comments – day one – were that the IRS and AP things are intolerable.

    Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow — two favorite avatars of liberalism — evidently agree.

  20. wr says:

    @Donald Sensing: Shorter Donald Sensing: “I demand that everyone pay attention to me! To meeeeeee!!!!!!!”

  21. anjin-san says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Just for the record, here is where this progressive stands on the issue:

    anjin-san says:
    Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 22:21
    Fire anyone who was involved up to the head of the IRS. I don’t like the tea party, but there is no room for this kind of crap. Zero tolerance.

    Equal protection under the law is for everyone. My political opponents are every bit as entitled to it as I am.

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    It gets even better. The Barack H. Obama Foundation’s application not only flew through in less than a month, it was even made retroactive for the 27 months they operated while claiming the status.

    I rather liked one Tea Party group’s response. When asked for a list of the books they discussed and for synopses of said books, they mailed in a copy of the Constitution.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    And me on that same thread as Anjin:

    The IRS Commissioner should be fired tomorrow. This is utterly intolerable. Heads should roll, someone in a position of genuine power should be fired. This is not some phony bullsh!t like Benghazi or even just sheer stupidity like Fast and Furious, this is a real thing, this is a real scandal, someone should pay the price. And it should be thoroughly investigated.

  24. JKB says:

    @NickTamere:

    I believe you had to many windows open. This is not USAJobs, nor does this site accept applications for jobs at the IRS.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Oh, and a day earlier at Schuler’s place:

    I agree that the IRS thing is troubling and absolutely intolerable. In the old days we’d have expected to see the resignation of the head of IRS. But in the modern era only grunts are ever punished while the high and the mighty keep their jobs.

  26. anjin-san says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Feel free to share your posts demanding a full investigation/accounting in the US Attorney scandal.

  27. NickTamere says:

    I’d like one of the conservative commenters to explain how these tea party groups meet the criteria for non-profit status when they clearly flout the rules and solely support one political party.

  28. Jr says:

    @NickTamere: They don’t, but no one really wants to have a discussion about Citizen United, which has made the IRS life a living hell.

  29. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I didn’t call you a name, beyond “satirist.” I said as a satirist, you suck, because the quality of your effort is weak. No personal attack in that.

  30. John Peabody says:

    @Donald Sensing, might I (very politely!) ask where the “racism” exists in Doug’s original post?

  31. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Unlike Benghazi, these are both pretty clearly real scandals. There’s no evidence of which I’m aware tying the IRS thing to the president; it seems thus far to be a case of bureaucrats going after those whose ideology they loathed. The AP thing is more problematic politically, in that it seems to have emanated from Eric Holder; it’s not unreasonable to think the president knew about it. In mitigation, though, there does appear to be a legitimate “sources and methods” compromise at the heart of the matter. Thus, it doesn’t appear to be a Nixon-like witchhunt but a Bush 43-like overreach in the name of national security.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    You right-wingers love to trot out the idea that we are just as dishonest and partisan as you are. That’s bullsh!t. As proved in the liberal reaction to the first Obama-Romney debate.

    We are not you. We care about reality. We don’t live in a bubble.

  33. anjin-san says:

    @ Donald Sensing

    Maybe I should be harsher?

    Just try and be a little brighter and all will be well.

  34. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Not only did liberal groups get approved much more easily, the “Barack H. Obama Foundation” got its approval in 30 days. Further, they had their approval back-dated to cover the 27 months they called themselves an approved non-profit but didn’t have the approval.

  35. Septimius says:

    @NickTamere:

    Where in the rules does it say that a non-profit must support multiple political parties?

  36. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think if Mr. Obama ordered the IRS thing we could legitimately discuss impeachment. Because that would be some Nixon stuff there.

    It seems the relevant IRS commissioner is already inconveniently gone. And as someone gently reminded me, Geithner is already gone as well.

    On the AP thing it sure as hell looks like an overly-broad fishing expedition that simply ignored the existing rules. If Holder ordered the AP thing I think he needs to go unless they’ve got one hell of an explanation. And that explanation needs to appear within 48 hours, sources and methods be damned, or he should just go, period. Fast and Furious and now this? Time’s up, Eric.

    Of course the shield law that Republicans successfully filibustered in 2007 would have perhaps been helpful here.

  37. JKB says:

    @James Joyner: it seems thus far to be a case of bureaucrats going after those whose ideology they loathed.

    Of course, the bureaucrats have been “progressive” for a long, long time so the question is why did they feel now was a safe time to act in this manner? That ties to either the culture emanating from the White House or the inattention by the elected and appointed heads of the Executive Branch to actual managing the bureaucracy.

    As I said in an earlier post, and this goes back into earlier administrations, the federal government has become ungovernable, the bureaucrats unrestrained and elected and appointed Constitutional officers unable or unwilling to take the bureaucracy in hand.

    And for Steven L. Taylor, I reiterate, the bureaucracy is evil and must be constantly held on a short leash.

  38. stonetools says:

    it’s one thing to organize a chess club or Lions International chapter out of your basement. Make that be as easy as possible. It should be a whole nother thing to organize a political advocacy organization aimed at funneling anonymous corporate cash into the pockets of political candidates. If that’s your game, you shouldn’t have tax-exempt status at all. The only way for the IRS to distinguish which game an organization is up to is to ask lots of probing questions.

    Now the conservatives want their false flag corporate fundraising operations to continue, so they aren’t concerned with having the IRS apply the rules impartially to all. They just want the IRS to stop asking questions at all.
    The mess is yet another example of the pernicious effect of Citizens United on our politics. Why do you think there’s a huge surge in 501(c)4 applications by conservative advocacy organizations? I guarantee you it’s not because of a wave of conservative interest in forming social welfare organizations. Its the corporate money, folks. Follow the money-or rather, make it impossible to follow the money. That’s what it’s all about. As Penn Juliette says, everything else is BULL&*#%.

  39. Surreal American says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    As I said in my comment, I have abandoned conservatism and have embraced progressivism.

    Like most wingnuts, you’ve abandoned conservatism long ago or you never really adhered to it in the first place. You just didn’t know it at the time.

    What you’ve embraced instead still remains an open question.

  40. CNN is reporting that this may become a criminal investigation. Now we get to see if the right is interested in the merits of the case…..

    Or if they’re just interested in damaging Obama politically.

    (My money’s on the latter…..)

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Yeah, the bureaucracy. LIke the government bureaucracy involved in the Libor Scandal so assiduously ignore by people like you? Like the government bureaucracy that blew up a fertilizer plant in Texas? Hello?

    Liberate business of all rules and shackle only government. Right. Got it. Utopia!

  42. Tony W says:

    because using the IRS as a tool of political gamesmanship is the last thing we need to see

    Yes, that is the exclusive territory of the CIA and military. Oh, and the FBI and DEA. And the NSA. Well there’s also the SEC and the EPA. Hmmm…..not sure I like where this is going.

  43. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: They already gave the explanation, the AP’s phone logs were taking to plug a leak. Someone leaked to the AP about the CIA involvement in Yemen and it could have put in agent in harms way.

    The AP issue isn’t even a scandal, the DOJ can legally take calling logs and they don’t even need a subpoena, they can simply ask the phone companies and it has been that way for 34 years. The AP is whining about it since now they realize that the press doesn’t get special treatment and they too have deal with water-down fourth amendment rights.

  44. anjin-san says:

    the bureaucracy is evil

    Hmm. I have a relative who is severely disabled. “The bureaucracy” has helped us to keep him alive and safe. I am pretty sure that that is not evil.

  45. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds: We care about reality. We don’t live in a bubble.

    The reality is that the federal government is out of control. Apparently, beyond the capabilities of our hired help, elected representatives to bring under control. When the hired help prove incapable, it fall to the citizens to pick up the slack. Someone must bring unelected and amorphously “accountable” bureaucracy under control so that it returns to being a benefit to the People rather than being run by the bureaucrats for their own interests and partisan beliefs.

    If not we, the People, then who?

  46. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    And for Steven L. Taylor, I reiterate, the bureaucracy is evil and must be constantly held on a short leash.

    I dunno. Conservatives seem to be very much in favor of beefing up bureaucracies aimed at keeping immigrants out and women pregnant . And they just LUURVE that big government bureaucracy called the US Military.

  47. michael reynolds says:

    @Jr:

    Actually, there were practices in place that required the government to inform the subject (AP in this case) of their planned action so that the target could take it to a judge. So the government violated its own rules.

    Beyond that, simple judgment should have stayed their hands. Simple respect for freedom of the press should have made them hesitate. This was a fishing expedition that drew in as many as a hundred reporters using those twenty lines. It was contemptuous of the free press and arrogant. At the very least.

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    And of course you entirely ignore my points about equally if not more egregious misconduct by big business. Because you don’t really give a rat’s ass about anything but attacking Obama. Which of course makes my point that you people are different than us. We actually care about the principles involved, and we care about the truth.

  49. anjin-san says:

    @ stonetools

    And they just LUURVE that big government bureaucracy called the US Military.

    bithead once spent an entire day arguing that the military is not part of the federal government. Beyond classic.

  50. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: They have to notify them within a year of when the investigation began and I believe and they did.

    Freedom of the press is important, but I really have no patience for organizations that leak information that really shouldn’t leaked……and the CIA involvement in Yemen is one of them.

  51. Paul L. says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: @michael reynolds: @Donald Sensing:

    You right-wingers love to trot out the idea that we are just as dishonest and partisan as you are. That’s bullsh!t. As proved in the liberal reaction to the first Obama-Romney debate.

    We are not you. We care about reality. We don’t live in a bubble.

    The real scandal is the rich don’t pay their fair share, loopholes, subsidies, Sequestration and Climate Change
    The Real GOP Scandal is Not Being Talked About

  52. stonetools says:

    @Jr:

    The AP issue isn’t even a scandal, the DOJ can legally take calling logs and they don’t even need a subpoena, they can simply ask the phone companies and it has been that way for 34 years. The AP is whining about it since now they realize that the press doesn’t get special treatment and they too have deal with water-down fourth amendment rights.

    Indeed. Anyone who represents institutions that have been targeted for investigation by the DOJ would tell you that this is par for the course. The AP just want to be treated like special snowflakes, which they aren’t.
    Again, the Republicans have been giving the Obama Administration a hard time about not cracking down on leaks, so they aren’t in a position to object to the DOJ action against the AP.

  53. al-Ameda says:

    I’m glad that the IRS was apparently putting ‘non-profits’ on notice that engaging in overtly partisan activities could cost then their non-profit status.

  54. beth says:

    @Jr: This just seemed really lazy to me. I’m finding it hard to believe that this was the only way they could find the leak. It seems like the work of just a few select people who should have known better but decided to take the quick and easy way out.

    The IRS scandal however does sound to me like low level employees, poorly trained and managed, overburdened with increased workloads and bizarrely confusing tax codes taking out some of their frustration at hearing themselves be referred to as incompetent and criminal over and over by the tea party. I’m not excusing what they did, and heads should roll, but I can see how it happened quite clearly.

  55. matt bernius says:

    Now, for organizations that are organized by people in their spare time and run out of people’s houses, this is a fairly obtuse and intrusive list of information to request.

    I’m still processing the report, but on the topic of “unfair questions,” let me reiterate a couple counter arguments to this particular line of thought:

    1. If these questions were only asked to certain organizations under review, then this is problematic. If these questions were asked to ALL organizations under review, then it’s less an issue of Political Bias and more a question of what questions are correct to ask in a first round review.

    If these questions were only asked of Conservative groups, then there is a serious problem.

    2. Note that while some of these organizations were truly grassroots, (i.e. formed in someone’s living room), other applicants included well funded giants like Crossroads GPS. This leads to a different question — should “professional” 501(c)4’s be asked a different set of follow-up questions than small-scale 501(c)4’s? Or should everyone be treated “equally.”

  56. Dave Schuler says:

    Hmm. I don’t think that bureaucracy is evil. I think it’s human.

    And necessary. Any organization that’s larger than a good-sized family will inevitably be a bureaucracy. Or a tyranny.

    Since it’s necessary and human, it will also inevitably need oversight. I think those are the cores of what’s gone on at the IRS: human nature and lack of oversight.

  57. Scott says:

    What I’m waiting for is the next step in the politicization of the IRS: the emasculation of the IRS by the mere accusation of bias. For example, wealthy taxpayers being audited ( primarily because they are wealthy and have extremely complicated tax situations) and then crying foul and claiming they are being targeted because they gave to some politician or some cause.

  58. Barry says:
  59. john personna says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I voted you neither up nor down. My thought though was such parody is the weaker path. A strong case would have to be about why tea parties are not political parties. Of course that is a hard argument to make.

    The bottom line is the political activity is not tax exempt.

  60. NickTamere says:

    @Septimius: absolutely nowhere, but if you’re looking for a distinction between two (or more) parties on your pet issues and one is more aligned with your stated beliefs yet you continually, repeatedly support the other it gives the lie to the assertion that your focus is the issue, not the party.

  61. JKB says:

    @Dave Schuler: human nature and lack of oversight.

    Hence, my short leash statement.

    But a group of humans, especially with the power to do violence upon others as a government can, will inherently behave evilly without strong constraints. Our very own Constitution is an strong attempt to constrain this tendency while also bringing the necessary government to bear.

    We’ve deviated from the basics set forth by our Forefathers and it seems the federal government has become ungovernable. Abolition is not the solution but a return to core duties for which the federal government is necessary and divestment of non-core activities would go far in bringing the beast to heel.

    The great sadness is that we seem to have lost the culture at the IRS and I suspect elsewhere in government that such behavior as this is unconscionable. Once lost, culture is near impossible to reintroduce, leaving us with a culture where bureaucrats must be stopped from doing evil rather than them not doing it by default.

  62. NickTamere says:

    @Septimius: there’s also the rules for 501c3s that state “organizations are absolutely prohibited from supporting political candidates, and are subject to limits on lobbying. They risk loss of tax exempt status if these rules are violated. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to intervene in elections to public office”.

  63. John D'Geek says:

    @NickTamere:

    I’d like one of the conservative commenters to explain how these tea party groups meet the criteria for non-profit status when they clearly flout the rules and solely support one political party.

    Take a look at the the WIki page for NOW — they are a 501(c)(3), which is supposed to be less political than a 501(c)(4). You’d have a hard time explaining how NOW is anything but a de-facto liberal democratic organization; but, just like the Tea Party groups, NOW is technically non-partisan.

    Political non-profits are the “way it is”. Unfortunately.

  64. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “I think if Mr. Obama ordered the IRS thing we could legitimately discuss impeachment. Because that would be some Nixon stuff there. ”

    With all due respect, Michael, you are acting as a “useful idiot” here.

    What the IRS did here was to take a long time to approve the tax exempt status of a bunch of outwardly poliltical groups. Was it wrong? Sure seems to be. But it also seems to be the work of a bunch of bureaucrats who were suddenly tasked with the job of determining which of these hundreds of new groups were eligible for this status because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — and were given no new money or staff to do this, because the Republicans were actually cutting their budget.

    What Nixon was doing was directing the IRS to audit and harass those he decided were his political enemies.

    These current cases were, at worst, an inconvenience to the Tea Party groups.

    For some reason you have chosen to accept the right wing’s ludicrous framing of this issue instead of looking at — or even waiting for — the actual facts.

    So you’ve just handed them half the battle. With you on their side, it’s no longer “if it happened the way they said and if Obama was involved, impeach!” it’s “it happened the way they said, and if Obama was involved impeach!”

    You are accepting the lies of people you know wil lie about anything. Get a grip.

  65. wr says:

    @JKB: “it fall to the citizens to pick up the slack. Someone must bring unelected and amorphously “accountable” bureaucracy under control so that it returns to being a benefit to the People rather than being run by the bureaucrats for their own interests and partisan beliefs”

    Then let’s all thank god you’ve got all those guns. When it’s time to start murdering public officials, I’m sure you’ll be ready to do your part.

  66. beth says:

    @wr:

    Then let’s all thank god you’ve got all those guns. When it’s time to start murdering public officials, I’m sure you’ll be ready to do your part.

    What will happen when he realizes that many of those amorphous bureaucrats are neighbors of his? Or part of his family? What idealogues like him fail to remember is that the government IS we the people made up of citizens, just like him.

  67. John D'Geek says:

    @john personna:

    The bottom line is the political activity is not tax exempt.

    Apparently they are. See my link above — NOW is higly political and entirely tax exempt. 501(c)(3) even.

    Quick estimate, non-profits have been political since at least the late sixties — probably a lot earlier than that.

  68. JKB says:

    @wr: When it’s time to start murdering public officials, I’m sure you’ll be ready to do your part.

    You have very disturbing fantasies about doing harm to public officials. You do know that is wrong, don’t you? Perhaps you should speak to someone trained to help people with disturbing fantasies.

    But even if you don’t, please understand it is far more effective to either elect public officials who have the skills and strength necessary to enact the management control necessary. Or to make it in the best interest of those we have not to enact such controls. Doing violence to them would only drive them into the waiting arms of the bureaucrats. And theirs would be an evil laugh.

  69. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Since you are so concerned about government overreach, perhaps you could share your postions on say, the death penalty, gay marriage prohibitions, intrusive mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, secret CIA prisons and waterboarding.

  70. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    We’ve deviated from the basics set forth by our Forefathers and it seems the federal government has become ungovernable. Abolition is not the solution but a return to core duties

    In this universe, as opposed to The Wingnut Continuum, government enforcement of the tax law is a core duty of the federal government and is old as the Whiskey Rebellion. Note that George Washington personally led the expedition to put down those tax evading “patriots” . Guess that makes him “First Deviant ” as well as well as ” First President”.

  71. Donald Sensing says:

    US News, “Senate Dems Have as Much to Explain as the IRS“:

    The same Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee [Max Baucus] who this week is calling for hearings into IRS activities, specifically called on the IRS to engage in that very conduct back in 2010. And he wasn’t the only one. Just last year, a group of seven Senate Democrats sent another letter to the IRS urging them to similarly investigate these outside political organizations. …

    From Max Baucus to Chuck Schumer to Jeanne Shaheen, key Senate Democrats publicly pressured the IRS to target groups that held differing political views and who, in their view, had the temerity to engage in the political process. The IRS listened to them and acted. And other Democrat senators like Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor said and did nothing about it.

    The NY Times was reporting on this as far back as 2010.

  72. PD Shaw says:

    @John D’Geek: I think John Personna is referring to my comment in the other threat that if a tax-exempt organization spent money on campaigning, that money would be taxable. If, for example, a local tea party group spent $250 k on an advertisement promoting the election of Mit Romney, I think they would have to pay a tax on that sum.

    I believe most political activities conducted by a 501(c)(4) are more in the nature of issue advocacy, lobbying legislatures or regulatory bodies and perhaps a small amount of information disbursement about the candidates, but that might be a grey area.

  73. anjin-san says:

    @ Donald Sensing

    It’s worth noting that your link takes us to an opinion piece by Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation. That’s not news, it is simply more chaff from the right wing noise machine.

  74. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    I will admit NOW is a better example than the Sierra Club in terms of politics , but NOW does in theory have a narrow focus, that only aligns with the liberals.

    Basically dislike by the other side does not take away social welfare.

    The NRA teaches gun safety, right?

  75. Scott says:

    @Donald Sensing: That’s right. Congress creates the laws. Bureaucracies have to enforce them. 535 Congressmen try to micromanage the bureaucracies by sending endless inquiries on behalf of their constituents. Bureaucracies get beaten up and called before Congress. All roads go back to Congress.

  76. Septimius says:

    @NickTamere:

    absolutely nowhere, but if you’re looking for a distinction between two (or more) parties on your pet issues and one is more aligned with your stated beliefs yet you continually, repeatedly support the other it gives the lie to the assertion that your focus is the issue, not the party.

    That doesn’t make any sense. Are you saying that the Tea Party groups have stated beliefs that are more aligned with Democrats (or some other party), yet they continually, repeatedly support Republicans? Why would they do that?

  77. Donald Sensing says:

    @anjin-san:

    The facts don’t matter, of course; simply smear the source. I have already learned that on this site. But I appreciate you hanging in there to show me how to argue progressively.

    I apologize for pointing out that the NY Times reported on this, since the Times is unassailable to us progressives and such reporting would have much more credibility than that right-wing racist Brian Walsh.

  78. anjin-san says:

    I apologize for pointing out that the NY Times reported

    Instead of playing your victim fiddle, why not post the links, so people can read the stories and judge their veracity for themselves? That you chose to go with an op/ed piece from a highly partisan source tells us something about your motives.

    BTW pointing out that a partisan is a partisan is hardly a “smear.” Words mean things.

  79. john personna says:

    To me it seems straightforward, either eliminate the distinction between the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, or police “parties” who try to pose as “clubs.”

    We wouldn’t want the Democratic Party to register as a 501(c)4, and then make a game of dividing their activities, would we?

  80. beth says:

    @Donald Sensing: Actually, both the original link and the NYT mention that the Democratic senators asked for investigations into tax exempt political groups – no party or idealogy mentioned. The letter sent by seven Democratic senators to the IRS which is also linked shows that they asked to have 501(c)4 organizations investigated. How the author divines “differing political opinions” from this, I’m not sure.

  81. C. Clavin says:

    Donald Sensing apparently doesn’t type too good well.
    In addition his interpretation of Progressivism seems to be as askew as his understanding of Conservatism.
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/irs-scandal-more-about-political-bias-than-incompetence/#comment-1742154

  82. wr says:

    @John D’Geek: So your answer to the question of how tea party groups meet the standards for a 501 c4 by talking about whether an entirely different organization should qualify for a completely different tax status? That may be the greatest piece of obfuscation I’ve ever seen on the internet.

  83. matt bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I believe most political activities conducted by a 501(c)(4) are more in the nature of issue advocacy, lobbying legislatures or regulatory bodies and perhaps a small amount of information disbursement about the candidates, but that might be a grey area.

    I’ve now read the report twice and this nails it on the head. And, from my reading, the problem is that the Exempt Organizations wing of the IRS (a) does not understand and cannot articulate that grey area, and (b) a lot of the people who applied for 501(c)4 status don’t understand that grey area either.

    Also, as far as I understand, 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 status is normally retroactive (at the very least to the point of filing). So contra @Jenos Idanian #13 point, EVERYONE (conservative and liberal) get’s retroactive treatment.

  84. wr says:

    @beth: “What will happen when he realizes that many of those amorphous bureaucrats are neighbors of his? Or part of his family? What idealogues like him fail to remember is that the government IS we the people made up of citizens, just like him. ”

    Of course. This is the great truth that paranoids like JKB and the rest of the Teatards can never bring themselves to face. They’re so desperate to think of themselves as bold warriors fighting tooth and nail for Freedom they have to ignore the fact that in a representative democracy the government is us.

  85. AemJeff says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    So “satirist” is an insult?

  86. NickTamere says:

    NOW is very much an issue-advocacy organization, it just happens that most of those issues align with Democrats. If there’s an example of a republican supporting Lilly Ledbetter or the ERA whom NOW rallied against I’ll buy that argument. I assume the National Right to Life Committee strongly favors republicans, but that’s issue-centric. I think this is pretty straightforward.

    Others may not agree but I think the Tea Partiers are phonies because for all their talk of government intrusion and civil liberties they are very much against civil liberties they personally disagree with (*cough* gay marriage) and supported a millionaire CEO who spoke up for pedophile priests over the one person who voted against the Patriot Act. If you can tell me the principle they were standing for in that election I’d love to hear it.

  87. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @matt bernius: Retroactive to the point of application? I can see that; it makes a lot of sense. If they qualified, then they qualified from day one. Thank you for the clarification.

    However, in the case of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, the article states that they operated for 27 months before getting approval, and that that approval came within 30 days of their application. That says, at least to me, that they operated for 26 months proclaiming themselves a registered non-profit, THEN applied, and got that approval — which was made effective for over two years before they applied.

  88. anjin-san says:

    @ AemJeff

    Yes, “satirist” is an insult, and “partisan” is a smear

    Or perhaps it’s just time for Donald to run home to mommy, as the other kids are mean.

  89. anjin-san says:

    It’s worth noting that the Barack H. Obama Foundation has nothing to do with President Obama.

  90. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: It’s worth noting that the Barack H. Obama Foundation has nothing to do with President Obama.

    Absolutely true — just like President Obama has no official ties with Organizing For Action, which runs the web site http://www.barackobama.com. However, if he disapproved of what either was doing, he could demand they stop using his name. They continue to use his name at his sufferance.

  91. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos Idanian #13

    I will break my pinhead boycott for a moment.

    The Barack H. Obama Foundation was created to honor the memory and further the ideas of Barack H. Obama of Nyan’goma Kogelo village. They are not using President Obama’s name, they are using his fathers.

    President Obama is not the only Barack H. Obama who ever lived. He does not have exclusive rights on the name.

    As usual, you are either lying, or simply ignorant. What else is new under the sun?

    Over and out.

  92. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “As usual, you are either lying, or simply ignorant. What else is new under the sun?”

    In this case, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was — willfully — ignorant.

    Most of the time he’s lying.

  93. John D'Geek says:

    @wr:

    That may be the greatest piece of obfuscation I’ve ever seen on the internet.

    Huh?

    Well, John Persona and PD Shaw seem to have understood my post, so I’ll let them translate for you.

    @john personna:

    Basically dislike by the other side does not take away social welfare.

    Yeah, that’s sorta the problem isn’t it? When is “issue advocacy” really just “political speech”? For the Tea Party, lower taxes and less intrusive government is just another issue — one that the left does not like. Just like the right does not like NOW.

    Unfortunately, seperating the two is not easy at all — the whole “grey area” thing mentioned elsewhere.

  94. John D'Geek says:

    @NickTamere: Disagreeing with an issue does not make it less of an issue.That was my whole point for using NOW. I can’t stand that organization. I consider them to be phonies as well. But they are, much to my chagrin, legitimate.

  95. anjin-san says:

    Boehner On IRS: ‘Who’s Going To Jail Over This Scandal?’

    I guess we have kicked that whole “Innocent until proven guilty” thing to the curb.

  96. grumpy realist says:

    And still no one’s answered my question about whether this whole mess got snafued via a bunch of tax protestors.

    You look like a tax protestor, you’ll be treated like a tax protestor.

  97. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Yeah, that’s sorta the problem isn’t it? When is “issue advocacy” really just “political speech”?

    Huh? That is a simple test. Parties have broad platforms. Advocacy groups are narrow in their focus.

    Again, any argument that says the “Tea Party” is an issue group also says that the “Democratic Party” is an issue group.

    People who don’t want the Democratic party to have a 501(c)4 are boxed in at this point.

  98. matt bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    However, in the case of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, the article states that they operated for 27 months before getting approval, and that that approval came within 30 days of their application. That says, at least to me, that they operated for 26 months proclaiming themselves a registered non-profit, THEN applied, and got that approval — which was made effective for over two years before they applied.

    No malfeasance there either. This gets into the complexity of 501(c)3/4 law.

    1. you don’t need to register to declare an organization a 501(c)4. Official recognition is only needed if you are investigated.
    2. As far as the retroactive tax-exempt status, this entire incident went down *prior* to a rule change in 2013 that shifted things from what it was (inception of organization) to what it is now (filing date with IRS).

    So the granting of retroactive status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation back to the date of its founding was completely in keeping with practices at the time.

    If this same thing happened today, then the Foundation would have only been granted retroactive status back to the date of it’s filling. And that’s because the rules changed earlier this year.

    This, again, gets to the complexity of these codes and the fact that most people reporting on these topics haven’t taken the time to research what they are writing about (or are ignoring facts in order to make more political hay).

  99. john personna says:

    @matt bernius:

    Did Jenos miss the “H”?

    Abon’go Malik Obama, first born son of Barack H. Obama of Nyan’goma Kogelo Village, Alego, Siaya, Kenya, founded the Barack H. Obama Foundation in memory of his father Barack H. Obama.

    It is a world hunger org, founded out of Africa. (Ah, I see Anjin already caught this.)

    Oh, and he might or might not be skimming in Africa.

  100. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @john personna: Yes, you and anjin are right. President Obama was born Barack H. Obama II. It is common to drop the suffix when the senior passes on, which is why it’s seldom mentioned.

    However, the 30-day approval still stands as a hell of a fast turnaround. And the alleged corruption makes the haste even more interesting.

  101. bill says:

    those of you with a good memory should recall that this happened during the clinton administration too, and there’s a familiar face involved again- steven miller (not the rock dude). and yes kids, it is a scandal now despite the walter mitty/chauncey gardener impersonator in the white house.

  102. Justinian says:

    The requests for information the I.R.S. sent to Tea-party groups are not simply inconvenient. One request, in particular, strikes a blow to the very existence of the organization it is reviewing:

    Provide copies of the agendas and minutes of your Board meetings and, if applicable, members ship meetings. . . .

    Who would want to be part of a organization that has to provide minutes of its meetings to the I.R.S.? Who would want to move, to second, to discuss a motion or to vote on it, knowing that everything they do has to be reported to an agent of the federal (or any other) government?

    The right of free association is one of the less mentioned parts of the First Amendment, but is it no less important than the freedom of the press or of religion. Free association means not merely forming clubs or participating in peaceful public demonstrations, but more importantly it means forming organized action, and organized action in a free society such as ours is founded on parliamentary procedure (rather than strong-men dictating things). And the ability to deliberate and decide things privately is part of it.

    For this reason alone, the recent actions of the I.R.S. are not only abusive of its authority, or abusive of the Tea Party movement, but are abusive of the very idea of America being a free country.

  103. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Justinian: Who would want to be part of a organization that has to provide minutes of its meetings to the I.R.S.? Who would want to move, to second, to discuss a motion or to vote on it, knowing that everything they do has to be reported to an agent of the federal (or any other) government?

    Even more significant, if the application is approved, everything submitted to the IRS will become public record.

  104. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    Huh? That is a simple test. Parties have broad platforms. Advocacy groups are narrow in their focus.

    What about moveon.org? They have a PAC and a 501(c)(4). They have a broad agenda. Everyone knows the PAC and 501(c)(4) aren’t really separate organizations except for the purposes of maximizing political efficiency under the law. That’s not unusual – any group that wants to be effective in politics will have both and in that regard the tea party groups are not unusual.

  105. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    If you are going to take the position that all political parties should be 501(c)(4), that’s fine.

    That isn’t, however, current law.

    [and seriously, no one wants to explain why if a Tea Party can be a 501(c)(4), a Democratic Party can’t be as well.]

  106. John D'Geek says:

    @john personna:

    [and seriously, no one wants to explain why if a Tea Party can be a 501(c)(4), a Democratic Party can’t be as well.]

    “Tea Party” is more analogous to NOW or MoveOn.org — it’s a movement, not a political party. It’s a bunch of activitsts that want America to do X. Now, if you’re thinking that NOW should be a political party then go for it. The fact that a blatant political activist organization is 501(3)(3) really bothers me.

    Really, I see no difference between NOW and the Tea Party.

  107. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    I don’t see that at all. In fact, as I said at Marginal Revolution:

    A week ago no one would have said the Tea _Party_ was more like the Sierra Club than a political party. Now it is a useful belief.

    (Note that the Sierra Club leads thousands of weekly hikes across the country, and will teach you snow camping.)

    You’ve simply decided that a PARTY which called itself a PARTY up until last week is not a PARTY because that is convenient to you, politically.

    Good luck with that.

  108. fred says:

    Stop dumping on IRS. Employees are just doing their jobs which congress has muddled over the years. There are too many groups in our society that should be paying taxes and are not. Hopefully the outcome of this GOP “scandal” is that IRS will be provided more definitive polities and rules to follow in evaluating applications for tax exempt status.

  109. Rick DeMent says:

    @Justinian:

    The right of free association is one of the less mentioned parts of the First Amendment, but is it no less important than the freedom of the press or of religion.

    “Free association” is not mentioned anywhere in the constitution.

  110. john personna says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    Neither is tax exempt status normally considered a necessary precursor to free association.

  111. JKB says:

    @wr:

    I will point out to both you and beth, Ariel Castro was also a neighbor. So pointing out that these employees whose individual inability to conduct their job with the ideals of this great nation in mind integrate with the multitude of other employee actions and decisions to do great evil upon the citizenry, look just like everyone else is hardly informative.

  112. John D'Geek says:

    @john personna: Tea Party refers to the “Boston Tea Party”, not a “political party”. It is — or was — a bunch of people fed up with modern taxation.

  113. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    It is a pun on the two meanings of PARTY, yes.

    That is why it has a PARTY platform.

    (In contrast, MoveOn at least pretends it is a “a 501(c)(4) organization which primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on important national issues. “)

  114. john personna says:

    Anyway, the whole point of John D’Geek’s position, shared by many Tea Party supporters, is that the IRS should continue to ferret out differences between people who are political groups and those who are social welfare groups … they should just rule that the Tea Party is now about social welfare … and that it never was the political movement we thought it was even last month.

  115. wr says:

    @JKB: Well then, I guess you’d better start your murder spree, just in case one of your innocent-looking neighbors turns out to be a killer.

  116. Matt Bernius says:

    @Justinian:

    The right of free association is one of the less mentioned parts of the First Amendment, but is it no less important than the freedom of the press or of religion. Free association means not merely forming clubs or participating in peaceful public demonstrations, but more importantly it means forming organized action, and organized action in a free society such as ours is founded on parliamentary procedure (rather than strong-men dictating things). And the ability to deliberate and decide things privately is part of it.

    This is entirely correct. And these people could still free associate (and as pointed out didn’t need to even formally apply for 501(c)4 status to gain it).

    But the thing you and other keeps missing is that not only did these people want to form a group, they wanted *certain protections and allowances under the law, far beyond “the ability to deliberate and decide things” that are granted NOT BY THE CONSTITUTION BUT BY THE TAX CODE.

  117. anjin-san says:

    a bunch of people fed up with modern taxation.

    Well, God forbid people should actually have to pay for the government services they enjoy. Tyranny at it’s worst!

  118. Justinian says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    In reply to Rick DeMent, who wrote:

    “Free association” is not mentioned anywhere in the constitution.

    The wording is as follows, with emphasis added:

    Article [of Amendment] I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  119. Justinian says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    In reply to Matt Bernius, who wrote:

    But the thing you and other keeps missing is that not only did these people want to form a group, they wanted *certain protections and allowances under the law, far beyond “the ability to deliberate and decide things” that are granted NOT BY THE CONSTITUTION BUT BY THE TAX CODE.

    The objection fails to deal with just how outrageous is the request of the I.R.S. for the minutes of the Tea Party’s meetings. Asking for non-profit status should not entail any such thing.

    This “tax code” — is it statutory or administrative law? Is it somewhere in an act of Congress that non-profits must forfeit the privacy of their deliberations and decisions in return for non-profit status? How could such a thing occur without a storm of protest, and series of challenges in court?

    No: the action of the I.R.S. is of its agents, acting in a manner that is arbitrary and capricious and abusive.

    Non-profit status is not a grant from the government. It is simply recognition of the fact that the organization in question is truly non-profit in nature, that no one is making any money, or taking any profit, from it. Organizations should not have to forfeit their freedoms for this status any more than a person should have to forfeit his liberty in order to file his taxes “jointly” or as “head of the household.”

  120. Rick DeMent says:

    @Justinian:

    The the right of the people peaceably to assemble has nothing to do with “free association”. They are two different things. You can argue and I would agree that the idea of “free association” flow from the penumbra of the right to peaceably assemble, but then you have to get real comfortable with the whole idea of unenumerated rights, of which, privacy, free expression and other “rights” which are routinely attacked as “legislating from the bench”

    The right to peaceably assemble means that the government has no power to prevent groups from forming in the public square to voice grievances, the right to “free association” is about the ability to exclude people from joining a group in very limited, but none the less important circumstances. The notion of “free association” was used as a basis for segregation and to exclude woman from powerful organizations for years and still is. But in order to qualify to exclude people you have to give up your tax exempt status.