Through a new IRS rule, the Obama Administration has found a way to increase pressure on non-profit groups by redefining what it means to be “political.”
On Thursday, Kimberley A. Strassel of the Wall Street Journal wrote that the rule introduced by the Treasury department and the IRS,
“can shut up hundreds of groups that pose a direct threat by restricting their ability to speak freely in an election season about spending or ObamaCare or jobs.” [Emphasis added]
Strassel stresses that this new rule was so important to Democrats that during the negotiations for the massive new 2014 spending bill, they scratched some of the items on their “wish list” in order to keep it.
“…throughout the negotiations Democrats went all in on keeping the IRS rule, even though it meant losing their own priorities.” [Emphasis added]
“President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election. They’ve been at even greater pains this week to ensure that the same conservative groups are silenced in the 2014 midterms.”
Notably, the new rule does not impact labor unions, who are filed under 501(c)(5).
It all started with the Citizens United ruling
The targeting of certain political and religious groups began in early 2010, after a Supreme Court ruling determined that “corporations have a First Amendment right to make independent expenditures in candidate elections,” as described (misleadingly) by Adam Liptak of the New York Times, in an article that discussed how President Obama criticized the ruling in an exceptionally unpresidential way – publically during a State of the Union Address – with Supreme Court justices sitting right in front of him.
“Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., one of the justices in the majority in the decision under attack, shook his head as he heard the president’s summary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and he appeared to mouth the words ‘not true.’”
It should be noted that the New York Times, as well as President Obama’s description, of the ruling is “not true.”
The Supreme Court did not allow “special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections,” as Obama lectured. What the ruling found was that corporations, non-profit groups, and unions could spend money on communications (such as television advertisements) in favor of, or against, political candidates.
Direct contributions to candidates by corporations, unions or foreign entities is still illegal. Whether or not one agrees with the ruling, it should be described correctly.
President Obama said during a January 2010 weekly address, that the Citizen’s United ruling
“gave the special interests the power to spend without limit – and without public disclosure – to run ads in order to influence elections.”
It should also be noted that 501(c)(4) groups never had to disclose their donors. This statement, like so many statements from the White House, was misleading at best.
How Citizens United led to “increased interest” in conservative groups
The progressives, including the establishment GOP, were horrified that groups like the Tea Party could air television commercials. And since these conservative groups did not have to disclose their donors, the Democratic attack machine could not target their donors. In order to thwart the Supreme Court decision, progressive democrats and left wing organizations pressured the IRS to “investigate” groups.
The goal was to find that certain groups were conducting too many political activities to be considered “general welfare” groups. Hence, the new rule redefining “political.”
In September 2010, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus “sent a letter to [former] IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman requesting an investigation into the use of tax-exempt groups for political advocacy.”
He wrote in part,
“Political campaigns and powerful individuals should not be able to use tax-exempt organizations as political pawns to serve their own special interests…”
Ironically, Politico reported that after the IRS targeting scandal was revealed, Baucus declared,
“The American people have questions for the IRS and I intend to get answers,” he said, “The IRS will now be the ones put under additional scrutiny.”
In October 2010, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin “urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to quickly investigate the tax status of Crossroads GPS and other organizations that are directing millions of dollars into political advertising without disclosing their funding sources.”
He wrote in part,
“I ask that the IRS quickly examine the tax status of Crossroads GPS and other (c)(4) organizations that are directing millions of dollars into political advertising, and respond with your findings as soon as possible.”
Not surprisingly, Durbin also expressed faux outrage in the wake of the scandal.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Durbin said,
“It is absolutely unacceptable to single out any political group — right, left or center — and say we’re going to target them. That is unthinkable. That goes back to some of the worst days of the Richard Nixon administration.”
In October 2010, the George Soros-funded Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center urged the IRS
“to investigate whether Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, ‘is operating in violation of its tax status because it has a primary purpose of participating in political campaigns in support of, or in opposition to, candidates for public office.’”
A New York Times editorial in December 2011 called for the IRS to “crack down on the secret political money” by non-profit “partisan operatives ludicrously claiming to be ‘social welfare’ activists under the tax law…”
In September 2012, Senator Carl Levin said in part,
“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – the organization that grants these groups their tax-exempt status in the first place – should be protecting the voting public from these groups that pretend to be acting in the social welfare but are instead engaging in partisan politics.”
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the Democrats were worried about the Tea Party. It is also not a stretch to believe that the “rogue agents” at the IRS were simply following orders.
IRS targeting of conservative groups
Lois Lerner offered an “impromptu” apology in May, 2013. Her statement was pure theater, and was anything but spontaneous. Lerner was attempting damage-control, knowing that a Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, was about to release a report on the matter.
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post gave Lerner, who later pleaded the fifth during a House Oversight committee hearing regarding her role in the scandal, a “bushel of Pinocchios” for several of her statements made during her faux apology.
Once the scandal was brought to light, President Obama said,
“If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable and it’s got to be fixed.”
But a funny thing happened, all of the outrage seems to have dissipated.
The outrageous lack of outrage over continued IRS targeting of political enemies
Russell George ended up being targeted himself, particularly by an unhinged Carolyn Maloney during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said,
“This is a Republican-appointed inspector general. This is someone who has donated and worked for prominent Republicans. Are we as Democrats and the public to believe that he is objective and simply followed the truth where it leads?”
Yet, the Department of Justice assigned a “hate crime expert” to lead the IRS probe. Barbara Kay Bosserman, an “avowed” Obama supporter, donated thousands of dollars to both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. She also donated money to the Democrat party and the “Obama Victory Fund.”
Bosserman, one of the authors of the 2009 “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” was a guest at the White House in 2009.
John A. Koskinen, the new IRS head (also an avowed Democrat, as his affiliations reveal), was reported by USA Today as stating that the IRS is “‘on the home stretch’ of completing the congressional investigations into possible political targeting of Tea Party groups.”
Not surprisingly, this past week the Department of Justice said that it had
“…no reason to believe, based on TIGTA’s audit, that the IRS acted according to political considerations, and that the FBI would therefore decline to pursue criminal charges against anyone involved.”
And so it continues….
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Treasury Department “dumped a new proposal to govern the political activity of 501(c)(4) groups.”
The article continues to report,
“That this rule was meant to crack down on the White House’s political opponents was never in doubt. What is new is the growing concern by House Ways and Means Committee investigators that the regulation was reverse-engineered—designed to isolate and shut down the same tea party groups victimized in the first targeting round.” [Eemphasis added]
In fact, as Strassel reports,
“The new rule that the Treasury Department and the IRS introduced during the hush of Thanksgiving recess…recategorizes as ‘political’ all manner of educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in.”
It is not a shock that the Democrats and the establishment Republicans are not standing against the tyranny.
After all, the groups being targeted by the IRS are radicals, anarchists, extremists, terrorists, unbiblical, legislative arsonists, committing jihad, have bombs strapped to their chests, committing extortion, taking hostages, want to “tear down the house our founders built,” want to “blow up the global economy,” and are “holding a gun to the head of Americans.”
Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists. #GOPshutdown
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) September 28, 2013
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 3, 2013
Geez, remember when Sarah Palin’s target map was considered to be “violent rhetoric?” Jane Fonda, for example, blamed Palin, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party. Jared Lee Loughner, by the way, turned out to be mentally ill with a “left-wing” ideology, as described by a classmate.
The good news
The new rule is still accepting comments. Perhaps if there are enough comments, the Obama Administration will be forced to stop this outrage and clear violation of the First Amendment.
The new rule is called,
“Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities”
Here is where you can comment on it. The section offering comment guidance (yes, really) says in part, ” the Treasury Department and the IRS request comments on whether there are other specific activities that should be included in, or excepted from, the definition of candidate-related political activity for purposes of section 501(c)(4). ” And additionally notes,
“A public hearing will be scheduled if requested in writing by any person who timely submits written comments. If a public hearing is scheduled, notice of the date, time, and place for the public hearing will be published in the Federal Register.”
Comments are accepted until February 27.
It seems as though the Obama Administration, the GOP establishment, and the mainstream media have learned their lesson in regard to the continued targeting of certain groups by the Internal Revenue Service. Instead of faux outrage and public declarations to get to the bottom of the matter, they have learned that keeping quiet works just fine. Will you be quiet, too?