Follow the Law? Both Parties Reject Simple Integrity
By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News
IRS LOGO by Citizens for Ethics
It's not easy to keep a "scandal" going where there's no scandal
Whatever you hear about tax exempt, 501(c)(4) organizations these days, someone is probably playing politics, or simply lying (for the sake of playing politics). And even if you're not hearing about it, they're still lying about it. This is all about bi-partisan deceit designed to defend the flow of dark money from secret donors.
The focal point of the "IRS scandal" these days is a new set of regulations announced by the IRS in November and currently open for public comments, which totaled more than 69,000 before the comment period closed February 27.
In case you missed it, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, have introduced a bill that would block any new regulations, and would also, in effect, make it against the law for the administration to follow the law. That's literally true. The proposed legislation, H.R.3865, has a fictional title: "Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014" and really, who could be against that?
It would be like opposing the "Stop Brainwashing Our Children by the Dept. of Education Act of 2012," which is an imaginary response to an equally imaginary threat. Just like the IRS targeting of political beliefs. Of course Imaginary threats can be more powerful than real ones sometimes, like those WMDs in Iraq that are still imaginary and still exploding people's heads at home and abroad more than a decade after their mushroom clouds were first inhaled .
More than 5,000 applications for 501(c)(4) status swamped the IRS by 2012
Before exploring H.R.3865 further, let's recall the reality of the IRS non-scandal of 2013, which continues to be widely mis-reported to this day (on February 13, the New York Times falsely described the essential issue as "heightened scrutiny the IRS gave to non-profit applications from Tea Party-affiliated groups" -- never mind that it didn't happen, at least not at all like that).
The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission unleashed huge amounts of previously dirty money into American politics, giving a lawful competitive advantage to everyone with money to burn. Not that those people were previously disadvantaged. They already had 527 organizations to take as much money as they had to give, but the 527s had the unfortunate legal requirement of having to report publicly who gave them money, and how much. And this was unfair to rich people who are shy about revealing the politicians they buy.
Citizens United also contributed to the rush to set up 501(c)(4) non-profit vehicles, which had the enticing additional option of being able to keep its donors secret. Citizens United, the organization, is itself a 501(c)(4) with pretty clear political/ideological bias. The case it took to the Supreme Court began when it was prevented from running a documentary hit piece against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Now Citizens United is threatening another lawsuit should the IRS try to enact new rules controlling 501(c)(4) activities.
In other words, the fake IRS "scandal" was a very real part of a much larger Supreme Court scandal. Karl Rove was one of the first in a rising tide of 501(c)(4) applications during 2010-2012. According to reports, from roughly 1750 applications each in 2009 and 2010, the total rose to 2265 in 2011 and 3357 in 2012. The IRS was swamped and casting about for ways to triage the applications and handle them more efficiently. And there's the rub. That would have been easy under the original law, the Revenue Act of 1913, as codified in the U.S. Code, in its relevant entirety:
26 U.S.C., Title 26 Ch. 1, Part 1, sec. 501(c)(4)".
(4)(A) Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes. [emphasis added]