Monday, May 13, 2013

Double standard

Conservatives are angry -- perhaps with justification -- at the IRS, and not just for the usual reasons.
The Internal Revenue Service’s special scrutiny of small-government groups applying for tax-exempt status went beyond keyword hunts for organizations with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, to a more overtly ideological search for applicants seeking to “make America a better place to live” or “criticize how the country is being run,” according to part of a draft audit by the inspector general that has been given to Capitol Hill.

The head of the division on tax-exempt organizations, Lois Lerner, was briefed on the effort in June 2011, seemingly contradicting her assertion on Friday that she learned of the effort from news reports. But the audit shows that she seemed to work hard to rein in the focus on conservatives and change it to a look at any political advocacy group of any stripe.
Although conservatives may have some valid reasons for their howls of outrage, I cannot muster much sympathy. For me, the issue comes down to one word: Hypocrisy.

Back in the Reagan/Bush I era, not a single conservative complained when the Christic Institute had its 501(c)3 status revoked after the group filed a lawsuit against various CIA operatives. The IRS claimed that the suit was politically motivated, and that the Institute was a partisan group. Yet the Institute's representatives had never endorsed a political party, and always spoke with what I considered genuine disdain for both Democratic and Republican leaders. From what I could gather, that organization attracted the kind of silly-billy idealists who like to talk-talk-talk about the need to form a new party, the same way mice like to talk-talk-talk about the need to bell the cat.

(There was this one fellow associated with the Christic Institute -- Mark Something-Or-Other -- who spent much of 1992 spreading dark tales about Bill Clinton's alleged involvement with cocaine smuggling. Remember those rumors? They all started with Mark. It seems pretty obvious now that he was an operative using Christic as cover, although that scenario wasn't so obvious at the time.)

By contrast, the various Tea Party organizations are Republicans-only clubs. Anyone who claims otherwise is a fool. At this point, I don't think that tactically-minded Democrats should wish such groups ill, since the teabaggers have, in their zeal, begun to do genuine harm to the GOP brand.

Why would Obama sic the IRS on the tea partiers? He ought to be making secret donations.

In this context, one should also discuss the question of when a church becomes taxable. To the best of my knowledge, no conservatives ever complained when the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of any religious organizations that criticized the Iraq misadventure. (See, for example, this case from 2005.) Yet everyone knows that many fundamentalist churches cling to their tax-free status even though they are little more than GOP propaganda outlets. This history is enlightening:
Also in 1993, the IRS investigated a small church in Binghamton, New York (the home church of radical anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, by the way). Pastor Daniel Little had been so outraged over the candidacy of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton that he and his congregation took out a full-page ad that ran in USA Today and The Washington Times. With the headline “Christian Beware,” it accused Clinton of supporting “policies that are in rebellion to God’s Laws,” along with other vituperative attacks on the Democratic party and liberals generally.

It ended with the question, “How then can we vote for Bill Clinton?” just before it solicited “tax-deductible donations” to help fund even more such advertisements (and it did result in hundreds of contributions from all across the nation). This was perhaps one of the most blatant abuses of a church’s tax-exempt status that the IRS had ever seen, and it’s no wonder that it attracted quite a lot of attention, both positive and negative.

Eventually, in 1995, the IRS revoked the church’s tax-exempt status — but the church sued the IRS to get it back, with the help of Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. Both a Washington, D.C. district judge and Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the IRS, however, dealing a symbolic blow both to the church and to Pat Robertson.

Symbolic? Absolutely. If the church does not intervene in any future political campaigns, it can continue claiming 501(c)(3) status and receive all of the attending benefits. Even the letter in which the original status was revoked did not, according to the IRS, “convert bona fide donations into income taxable to the Church.” The church can even reapply for official tax-exempt status.
Given the rich history of Republicans using various dodges to protect the tax-exempt status of their propaganda outlets, I cannot become too upset at any IRS officer who wanted to look into the issue. The keywords "Tea Party" and "patriot" might well provide a clue to possible abuse of the system. From the NYT:
The I.R.S. has been under pressure from Democrats and campaign finance watchdogs for some time to crack down on abuse of the 501(c)4 tax exemption, which is supposed to go to organizations primarily promoting “social welfare” but which is routinely granted to overt political advocacy groups with little or no social welfare work.
One thing's for sure: Conservatives might now enjoy more widespread sympathy if they had protested when the shoe was on the other foot.
I know this "Mark" person from personal experience. I was working for a non-profit and I took part in a focus group about the 2008 elections. I made a remark about the right wing media and how they were always attacking the Clintons with out right lies and conjecture. A reporter printed my remark and where I worked. The next day, "Mark" called my office and asked me about all the reporters who had called me about my quote. I told him that no reporter called me and that the comment was not made during working hours. He forced me to tell my superiors about the comment which fortunately they ignored. I googled this guy and it seems he was involved with a Christian fundamentalist church group in Virginia and that he had been very vocal in his comments during the time of Clintons' impeachment. Years later, I learned that it was none of his business who I talked to after hours and that if he wanted to report me and my activities it should have gone through the organization itself and its' board of directors. This was a very scary time for me as I thought he had the ability to get me fired. It is still amazing to me how this particular segment of our society was so powerful or at least had so much sway over our lives during that time.
Are you serious? The IRS twenty years ago denies one group using vastly different standards before major legislation was passed regarding campaign finance on groups that are debatable, and you suggest that there is moral equivalency here? Tell me you aren't serious- I don't read your blog often so I don't know if that post was a satire or real.
Con Teach, are YOU for real? My point was that if you didn't stand up for the principle then, don't expect me to return the favor now. The hell of it is, no teabag group has actually had their tax exempt status revoked. The Christic Institute did.

And guess what? They're also going after Media Matters' tax exempt status in a huge way. I know what you're about to say: "But they haven't lost that status yet." True, but it is also the case (if I may repeat myself) that no tea party group has lost its tax exempt status either. And the harassment of MM looks to be a lot more strenuous, because Congressional Republicans are pressuring the IRS. Imagine the outcry if Democrats in congress pressured the IRS to go after Viguerie's group.

And if you think about it -- OF COURSE the IRS should double check to see if an openly anti-tax group is playing by the rules. It seems logical that a group defined by its resentment of the IRS might want to deceive the IRS. For the same reason, your local constabulary would probably want to keep an eye on a club calling itself "Heroin Distribution Society" or "Cop Killers Anonymous."

Anon 7:11: Fascinating stuff. Are you sure we have the right Mark? You can write to me privately. Or just give me the first letter of his last name. I confess that I'm ticked off at myself for taking him seriously back in 1992 -- actually, it was probably late, late 1991. But...we learn.
Anon 7:11: -- does this ring any bells?


I can't remember his last name but it may have started with a "D". I was so worried for my job and the organization I worked for that I was happy when the whole thing blew over. I do remember in googling Mark that he was high up in the MA Republican party as some sort of offical. When Clinton went on vacation to Marthas' Vineyard immediately after he admitted to his involement with Monica Lewinsky, this "Mark" made the remark that that was the only zip code that would take him. If it is the same "Mark" who was spreading stories about the Clintons in the early 90s and my situation happened in 2008, despite the passage of time, a leopard does not change their spots...especially those with CDS.

As to the link you sent me...I remember it well. I lived in that area all my life until a year ago.
How can one wrote you privately?
Post script to my comments; I remembered the last name but
"Mark" s last name began with the initial I gave you but the first name was spelled differently. When I originally googled him, I had the correct spelling but over the course of time forgot it. What shocks me is that this man now works for the same organization I did. He must be keeping his political views private as we were and continue to be considered non-partisian. Sorry about that Joseph, he sounded much like the person who scared the hell out of me.
Ah. Different Marks -- same markings, as it were. The Mark of whom I grew suspicious now works for the University of Arkansas.

My email addy is embedded in the parchment scroll in the top left-hand corner. If I made it more obvious, I would receive an abundance of communications from Nigeria.
So... Joseph, you aparently fall into the camp of Clinton-scandal "debunkers," eh?

And as far as your'e concerned little ol' Mena Airport was clean as the proverbial hound's tooth?

And the Rose Law Firm never had any dealings with the arming of Iraq?

And Jackson Stevens was just as admirable/progressive a sugar daddy as George Soros?

And it was Vince Foster's superhuman strength than gave him the ability drag himself to the park long after he acrobatically shot himself?

And on, and on, and on.

Come on, big boy! Sober up! Every administration, those with good and as well as horrid economic policies, has had its share of malfeasance, corruption, and even murder.

The fact that the Mossad (via various proxies knowing and unknowng) used Bill and Hilary's dirty laundry to run pincer move after pincer move against them doesn't make that old 90's laundry any brighter, whiter, or sanitary.

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