The IRS Targeted at Least Two Local Tea Party Groups by Sending Them a Really Long Questionnaire

Categories: Politics

PissedOffPatriotPatrickMichels.jpg
Patrick Michels
Washington is still reeling from the revelation on Friday that the IRS has been singling out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. The news immediately drew howls of bipartisan protest, and pretty much everyone agrees that using the tax system to target political enemies is not what happens in a healthy democracy.

The optics are incredibly bad for President Obama, who has apologized, but it's useful to put things in perspective. For starters, the IRS has a legitimate reason for looking into Tea Party and similar groups. The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin explains:

It's important to review why the Tea Party groups were petitioning the I.R.S. anyway. They were seeking approval to operate under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require them to be "social welfare," not political, operations. There are significant advantages to being a 501(c)(4). These groups don't pay taxes; they don't have to disclose their donors--unlike traditional political organizations, such as political-action committees. In return for the tax advantage and the secrecy, the 501(c)(4) organizations must refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing candidates.

And the conservative groups weren't targeted in the sense that their phones were being tapped or their members were being followed. More like they were being wrapped in red tape. And by red tape, we mean a six-page questionnaire seeking detailed information about the group's membership, funding, programming, political involvement and related matters.

The IRS says that about 300 conservative groups were singled out for this scrutiny, at least two of them local. CBS 11's Jason Allen reports that both the North East Tarrant Tea Party and the Allen Area Patriots had their applications for tax-exemption inexplicably held up.

When they were asked to fill out the questionnaire, NETTP co-founder Julie McCarty said the group refused to divulge much of the requested information. "You think there's not a reason they want every name?" she told CBS 11. "You're setting people up for harassment, intimidation."

For a better idea of what the group was asked to answer, Slate posted the six-page query sent to the Hawaii Tea Party. It's detailed, but the questions aren't outrageous considering the organization is asking to be declared a social welfare organization to avoid paying taxes.

The Morning News' Nicole Stockdale sums it up nicely: "The screw-up here isn't that the IRS was targeting conservative groups; it's that they weren't also targeting liberal groups."


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49 comments
mcdallas
mcdallas

So asking what books you're reading and asking for copies of Facebook status updates isn't outrageous?  That's too bad.

ruddski
ruddski

I feel safer knowing El Presidente Maximo is protecting us from those white supremacist anti-tax terrorists

Americano
Americano

Nixon did the same thing.  Apparently it was against the law then.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

When you deal with a Taxing Authority / or any Government entity for that matter Hire someone who knows what the Authority  expects when it comes to dotting all the( i) and crossing the ( t ) .

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The IRS got caught profiling.  Do you have a problem with the TSA profiling?

What about the cops?

The conduct of our Nation's affairs always demands that public servants discharge their duties under the Constitution and laws of this Republic with fairness and a proper spirit of subservience  to the people whom they are sworn to serve.  Public servants cannot be arbitrarily selective in their treatment of citizens, dispensing  equity to those who please them and withholding it from those who do not.  Respect for the law can only be fostered if citizens believe that those responsible for implementing and enforcing the law are themselves acting in conformity with the law. -- William F. Downes, United States District Judge - Carol Ward v. United States 79 AFTR2d Par. 97-964 No. 95-WY-810-WD  (2 Jun 1997)

Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.  In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. --Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting, Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928).

Do you want to give this kind of power to the Republicans should they gain power?

This thing's got legs.  It may bring on a flat, sales or fair taxation system.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Oh, and by the way -- the fact that groups in Hawaii and Texas were also being targeted means that this was NOT the work of some "low level employees in Ohio."  This was systemic and endimic.

It was Administration policy. Plain and simple.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Had it been MoveOn.Org receiving this treatment under the Bush administration, would Nicholson or the NYT write this same crap?  I think not.  There would have been unholy caterwauling heard from the left in all corners of the country.  Personally, I say have at it, anyone wanting 501(c) status should have to fill out at least 250 different forms in triplicate, all initialed in blue ink.  But, that would be anyone from the right or the left wanting that status, not just one side of the spectrum.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Wow.  Shill much?

By your logic, Joe McCarthy was entirely justified because there really were some Communists in Hollywood.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

All political groups use the 501(c)(4) designation, so what is the big deal here that there is political activity?  The caveat is that the 501(c)(4) organization cannot endorse a specific political candidate.


How is this any different from the "churches" organized as a 501(c)(3) that endorse political candidates from the pulpit or allow certain political candidates to address their congregations from the pulpit?


There are a total of 29 categories for a 501(c) organization that is exempt from paying income taxes on revenue directly related to their charter.  They are however, subject to income tax on business income unrelated to their charter.


For a thumbnail view: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501%28c%29_organization


PS:  Holy shades of Richard Milhous Nixon, Batman!

smithjosh
smithjosh

Man, I was hoping to get Schutze to opine here, not Nicholson. I wanted to hear about how it was just rich people in Preston Hollow who were trying to steal tax dollars from poor people in (insert economically depressed neighborhood here) to make the Koch-topus more money. Oh well, I guess an ounce of bias will have to tide me over until Jim can give me the truckload.

PersistentID2345
PersistentID2345

The 'social welfare' aspect is spelled out explicitly in the statutes. There was a dearth of violations found among these investigated conservative groups in violating the statute. Left and Right organizations both had diligently scrutinized this 501(c)(4) code in order to fall in line within its boundaries. There was no justification based upon this 'social welfare' aspect,  contrary to the NYTimes reporter.

Stockdale at DMN states "Let’s not forget that there’s a good reason the IRS was searching for political organizations trying to register as tax-exempt as a 501(c)4 'social welfare' group: The law requires it."

This is BS. The law requires the IRS to find violations of 501(c)4. If Stockdale was right then where are the violations?

If the right wing intentional targeting did not initially bear results then why continue the targeting? Any attempts to justify this targeting or tone down the outrage are ludicrous.


roo_ster
roo_ster

One other thing...Be careful dismissing abuses of power when Your Guy is the one doing the abusing.  The wheel keeps on turning and it won't be too long before You are receiving a proctological exam by politically motivated gov't agents.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Uh, yeah, I think the DO is all wet on this one.  This story is still developing.  It seems that the IRS not only harassed these groups, it violated its own rules & maybe the law by disseminating un-approved applications to leftist organizations.  FTR, this has been confirmed by ProPublica, one of the leftist orgs that got the docs.

Oh, also that the IRS was collecting those names for yet another list of folks to go after.  

This stuff is pretty serious shinola. 

guest
guest

Well said Comrade Nicholson, this story is indeed overblown. Now please report to Guantanamo Bay within 72 hours for re-education, we've been listening to your phone calls and do not like what we hear.

DMZ3
DMZ3

I read that the "social welfare" bit was something of a misnomer. It mainly means you're working for the community as opposed to enriching your own members. The IRS allows all sorts of political groups to be tax-exempt, and the IRS even allows them to make endorsements and donate to political campaigns. It just can't be their primary purpose, to prevent politicians from starting non-profits to hide disclosures. That doesn't seem to be the case here.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-14/don-t-buy-the-social-welfare-defense-of-the-irs.html

I'm one of the liberal commenters here, but I think the DO has it wrong on this one.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@oakclifftownie If you are opposed to a "progressive" administration then that is sage advice.  If you are friendly to its policies, then you are wasting your time, because you application is going to sail through without review.

Which is the point.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@oakclifftownie  

So basically you are saying that you are in an adversarial  situation with the government and that the taxing/government authority is your enemy who will take any and all steps to maximize that entity's position.


that is twisted ...

mcdallas
mcdallas

@holmantx Big, hairy, cottage-cheesy legs.  Uncrossed ones at that.

observist
observist topcommenter

@everlastingphelps   That's like the 2nd, maybe 3rd rule of partisanship: if your party does it, it was just some low-level functionaries, if the other party does it, it goes all the way to the top.

observist
observist topcommenter

@RTGolden1  The number of 501c3/4 applications more than doubled, and the IRS is supposed to determine if they're traditional "social welfare" organizations like churches, or PAC-like organizations that shouldn't qualify for the exemption.   If you're some IRS analyst who has to guess which ones might be political enough to warrant extra attention, but don't have time to read all 3,300 applications, how would you select them?  "Tea Party" and "Patriot" are obvious because those names were all over the place, and it probably returned a list of 200+ applications.  What keyword search would you use to find the liberal ones?  Green? Black? Pinko?  "Aw hell, now I got to start reading the applications to try find the libruls."  We'll see how it pans out, but I think we'll find this is a case of gov't employee corner cutting / laziness and nothing more.


ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

Don't forget to include "...  without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, lost, found, queried, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighter."

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@PersistentID2345  

Ummm ... you can't be in violation of the 501(c)(4) requirements until you have the designation letter from the IRS for your organization.  And the IRS would determine that by auditing your Form 990 and  your organization's activities.


Does any one here now see why there is a problem with John Wiley Price and the 501(c)(3) known as "KwanzaaFest" that on one of its Form 990 returns, reported 98+% of its expenses, totaling some $300k, as "Miscellaneous"?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@everlastingphelps And the flip side is when the other side regains control those involved in this today will willingly do the bidding of the new masters.

 

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @oakclifftownie  I basically said what I said .What you take away from it is up to you .

But if you want is simple ? A CPA or TAX ATTORNEY is a great person to use if you want the proper help to get a TAX EXEMPT Status .

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@MushMouth1@oakclifftownie http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-asks-for-reading-list-tea-party-group-sends-constitution/

People do not understand what is involved/expected  in applying for TAX EXEMPT Status .

After reading this story I doubt some of these folks understand how much work being a functioning TAX EXEMPT group really is .Much less the hassles paperwork and reporting and organizational structure that being one involves .

Been there done that . I won't be doing it again . 




keeponkeepinitdown
keeponkeepinitdown

@observist @everlastingphelps 

So one needs to know where a small city in Africa is in order to find it objectionable that one of our ambassadors, and other Americans were murdered while the government and military did nothing?

Sorry, but only in your liberal snob world does Obama get to sleep well at night while Americans are murdered just because other people can't find a place on a map.


BTW: How many violent uneducated Algerian peasants can find the USA on a map? Answer: None of them have maps and they can't read anyway. So what is your point.  

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@observist @everlastingphelps

“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to . . .cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.” — Article II, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon, adopted by the House Judiciary Committee, July 29, 1974

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@observist @RTGolden1 how about MoveOn.org, a 501(c)(4) organization.  They've been all over the news, they're as much a political organization as the Tea Party.  Where's their questionnaire?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@oakclifftownie @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  While what you say is true, what we have is situation no different from the reign of Louis XVI or Nicholas II where you had to pay off an intermediary in order to be able to see the monarch.

Government agencies must be equitable and transparent to all who have dealings with it.

Investigations of and prosecution of the violation of laws and  regulations administered by that agency is a different matter.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@observist @everlastingphelps @RTGolden1 incompetence?  that would imply that the error had been made across the board.  It wasn't.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people having to jump through hoops to get a 501 status.  I just want everyone to have to jump through the same hoops.  You know, fair.

observist
observist topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @observist @RTGolden1  That was just my shorthand for whatever one might call the organizations that apply for 501c3 status but don't meet the criteria related to political campaigning.   Given the competing explanations of nefarious plot or employee incompetence, I choose incompetence.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@observist @everlastingphelps @RTGolden1 Obviously you have a problem with logic AND reading comprehension.  

I started it with "by your logic".  That means I <i>don't agree</i>, but <i>if</i> Eric was right, then the following would ALSO be true.  

There <i>were</i> some communists in Hollywood.  That didn't justify what McCarthy did.  By the same token, that some groups might be applying that don't meet the criteria doesn't justify what the IRS has (and likely still is) doing.

observist
observist topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @RTGolden1   The point of your post was to show that McCarthy was entirely justified, so we know you believe that.

Also, it's well established here that you are in fact a partisan shill, but as a gesture of good faith, I'll admit I was wrong in saying that you admit to being a shill. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps ...and, obviously, neither would  you.  Otherwise, one would think you'd have had a well-thought out and worded reply, instead of stooping to this level.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@observist @everlastingphelps You wouldn't know logic if it was shoved up your ass sideways with a Rule of Inference.

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