Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Future of the Real IRS Scandal!

I saw this from Kevin Drum, who sent me to Dave Weigel, and from there to a brilliant paper designed to fuel infinite resentment for conservatives, summarized by James Pethokoukis beginning with this gem:
1. Let’s say Tea Party groups had continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010.
And ending with the conclusion that the Democrats stole the 2012 election by suppressing the Tea Party vote by foot-dragging on certifying their tax-exempt status.

To which my first reaction is: that's nothing! Of course we should assume that Tea Party groups would naturally group in Years Three and Four the way they grew in Years One and Two. And we should further assume that they should grow in Years Five and Six at that same rate, too -- so we're probably talking about them pretty much reaching 60% of the electorate by 2014, and 80% by 2016, and well over 200% of the electorate by the 2020 elections. Of course that's what we should assume! By that logic, it's pretty obvious that by the end of the decade Republicans would have easily had at least 90 Senators and 400 Members of the House, not to mention well over 450 electoral votes in the presidential elections. Anything else is clear evidence of stolen elections!

And of course that was only stifled by the insidious IRS plot. Never mind, as Weigel notes, that the real heavy Tea Party lifting was by already-established tax-exempts; never mind also, as Drum notes, that back in the real world the Tea Party was never very popular outside of the Republican core and, by 2011, was quite unpopular with most voters. All that would have been totally completely different if a whole bunch of small, local, groups had been properly equipped with prompt approval of their tax status.

At any rate, my other favorite part of this particular conspiracy is this from one of the study's coauthors:
The Tea Party movement’s huge success was not the result of a few days of work by an elected official or two, but involved activists all over the country who spent the year and a half leading up to the midterm elections volunteering, organizing, donating, and rallying. Much of these grassroots activities were centered around 501(c)4s, which according to our research were an important component of the Tea Party movement and its rise. … Unfortunately for Republicans, the IRS slowed Tea Party growth before the 2012 election.
Got it? The complaint is that the IRS was slow in granting all these groups a tax status that depending on them not being primarily devoting to electioneering, thus preventing them from..."volunteering, organizing, donating, and rallying" for the "midterm elections."

I mean, as far as I can see (and I only read co-author Stan Veuger's summary post, not the whole paper) the entire thing is premised on a "constitutional right" for these groups to get tax-exempt status so that they can do things they aren't supposed to do with that tax-exempt status. And there's not even a pause to explain why some might see something amiss in that.

As I've been saying for some time: they're not even trying.


  1. Actually, I think the sad thing is: This is what happens when they really are trying.

  2. It's not the reality that matters, it's the appearance of reality.

    A for instance: The Christian Broadcast Industry thrives; radio broadcast flourishes across the land. But the meme is that Christian ownership is under attack. Source:

    So it doesn't matter if the Tea Party is being done wrong or not; it matters that there's a perception its being done wrong. Conveniently, this allows its failure to be blamed on that mythical wrong, too.

  3. AEI has now gone into full Heritage mode....

    My question is who's next?

    1. I'm still confused that Norm Ornstein is there.

  4. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why the IRS would not give extra scrutiny to any group that takes a political name and applies for a nonpartisan tax status. Yes, that should also apply to anything that calls itself the Socialist Party Community Center--and if anyone did that, I'll bet they scrutinized it.

    Of course, not having the 501(c)(4) status approval doesn't actually stop you from doing anything; you just don't get the advance guarantee of tax-exempt treatment. Besides that, I understand a number of organizations simply declared themselves 501(c)(4) groups (which you can legally do), made their inappropriate political donations, and then folded up shop before tax time ever came around. No organization, no reporting.

    1. Scott,
      Quite right, of course. But, when these groups seem to have gotten more scrutiny than those on our side of the aisle playing the same game, that seems wrong. Perhaps some IRS agents thought the name filter worked particularly well for the right side of the aisle, and helped them identify some cases that (correctly) needed more scrutiny, and hadn't come up with such a device for the left.

      The whole enterprise stinks, though, for what Jon points out. I'm actually less concerned that these Tea Partiers got held back than the notion that OTHERS didn't.

      But, yes, these are crocodile tears of the highest order. I wish Congress would appropriate enough money to the IRS (and encourage them) to go through the ranks of 501(c)(4)s and actually go after the ones that should NOT have been granted that status in the first place.

    2. It seems to me that the basic problem was that the Supreme Court jumbled the rules with the Citizens United decision; Rove showed what could be done with Crossroads GPS, leading to a big wave of applications; and the IRS higher-ups failed to provide new guidelines to cover the situation (which explains the applications lying around waiting for word from Washington). They shouldn't have used specifically conservative search words, but they shouldn't have had to make up their own criteria either.

      By the way, does anyone actually know that they got more scrutiny? They constituted only a third of the total number examined, and I really doubt anyone knows what the proportions of conservative, liberal, and neutral applications were in the original population of 70,000 applications a year.

    3. I believe that the real problem lies in donors who needed the confirmation of tax-exempt status before they would make their pledges. If they couldn't deduct the donation, there was no way that they were making it.

      You know why, of course. They didn't want to spend their own money on Republican causes.

  5. It's all crazy and the worst part is so many people believe it. For someone totally into their cause, they donate without tax exemptions. We did to Presidential campaigns where we got zero tax write-offs. If the tea party groups needed the tax exemption, they weren't in it for the vote or group but for the bucks! The writer who wrote that piece is in it for the same thing or they are ignorant.. my bet is the former.

  6. When the IRS story first broke, big news orgs described it as an issue of inappropriate auditing of political organizations.. That word was used several times in the NYT.

    When it became clear that this wasn't auditing of political organizations, but scrutiny of organizations that were not supposed to be primarily engaged in politics, Republicans had no way to address that. Everybody -- Republicans included -- believes that a group called the Tea Party Patriots is probably engaged in politics; finding out that such a group might primarily engaged in politics would, let's say, leave the earth unshattered. But if the IRS subjects such a group to special scrutiny when it claims its political activities are limited -- that's shocking! It's WTW (Worse than Watergate).

    And then when Republicans start explaining their electoral losses as a consequence of IRS scrutiny of groups that held themselves out as not primarily engaged in electioneering, well, you get the picture. They don't like the way the IRS broke the rules but thy don't think the rules should apply to them at all as a remedy.


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