1. The IRS tax code established the designation 501(c)(4) for non-profit organizations that are operated exclusively for promotion of social welfare through education, charitable, and recreational activities. They are not supposed to take part in or promote political parties or candidates.
2. They may, however, advocate for passage of certain legislation to promote social welfare, but no party or candidates may be named or connected with the promotions, and there can be absolutely no coordination with candidates or parties about such promotions.
3. Somewhere decades ago, the accepted definition changed from "exclusive" to "primarily" for non-political purposes. So political groups began forming 501(c)(4) organizations carefully controlled so that no more than 49% of their activities involved political activities. This left the IRS with the job of having to decide from an organization's application whether it met the 501(c)(4) exemption requirements.
4. Both liberal and conservative groups were doing this, but a few years ago there was a sharp rise in applications from Tea Party and other conservative groups, often with names that included "patriot" or other evocative right-wing names. The IRS had a huge job trying to sort all this out. But, the fact is, it was their job to investigate just what they have since been accused of doing, unfairly targeting conservative groups.
5. Enter Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, who requested from the IRS an inventory of conservative groups whose applications for 501(c)(4) exemption had been selected for scrutiny or were denied. So they gave him what he asked for; and, no surprise, it was a list of conservative organizations. Issa then screamed that conservative organizations had been selectively chosen for scrutiny -- and instituted an investigation claiming the White House had ordered this scrutiny for partisan political purposes.
6. An Inspector General's investigation found no such conspiracy; and in fact it turns out that both conservative and liberal organizations had their applications scrutinized. Again, that was the IRS's job to do. It's just that there were a lot more conservative ones, because applications from conservative groups had skyrocketed in numbers in recent years.
7. This IG report has not stopped Issa. He has been relentless in pursuit of scandal where none exists. (He's also doing the same thing with Benghazi). So far the IRS fake scandal has cost the taxpayers $14 million and required thousands of hours of IRS staff time to produce more than half a million pages of documents they insisted on getting. Issa continues to hammer at the IRS, claiming they are not cooperating.
A couple of weeks ago, House Ways and Measn Committee Ranking Member, Sen. Sander Levin (D-MI), took to the House floor to lambast Republicans' duplicity in trying to create and manipulate a false IRS 'scandal.'
Levin was responding to Republicans' attempts to delay the implementation of new regulations that were designed to help the IRS determine whether an organizations' activities are political. According to the Huffington Post's account, Levin's counter-attack is a battle cry that Democrats are beginning to take up.
First he called out the fact that there is absolutely no evidence of Republican claims that the White House had created an enemies list and was corrupt.Strong stuff. And absolutely on target. THIS is the voice we need blaring from tv sets and at rallies across the country.
Levin tartly brought up the $14 million in taxpayer funds that Republicans had already thrown away trying to create a fake scandal for political reasons, and pointed out that after all of that money, we learned that absolutely nothing sinister was going on. . . .
But Republicans were so concerned! . . . and yet they don’t want to implement the changes . . . designed to “bring certainty in determining whether an organization’s primary activities are political . . . ”
Then Levin got all truth buster on the GOP and brought up the explosion of dark money groups after the Citizens United ruling. . . . [Spending on 501(c)(4) organizations] has skyrocketed. . . . In 2006, $1 million was spent. . . . And in 2012, $256 million was spent by 501(c)(4) organizations.”
Levin pointed out that this designation allows the organizations to keep their donors secret. And that this secrecy is actually what Republicans are trying to protect . . . Why? Because the three largest spenders are [Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ($71 million) and two funds from the Koch brothers (totaling $61 million)] . . . that work at distorting the Affordable Care Act. . . .
Yes, this is all about protecting dark money. It always has been. Levin demanded, “Why are we standing here and saying to the IRS don’t look at 501(c)(4)s. Don’t look at the possible massive abuse. . . .
Because Republicans can’t win elections without dark money spreading lies about Democrats. Republicans can’t afford to run on issues. They have to run on smears, since their policies are determined by the Koch Brothers et al, and thus benefit the top 1% instead of the people.
The Republican intention was to manipulate the IRS with a fake story. . . . [T]here was no scandal other than the fact that Republicans lied and schemed to manufacture this fake scandal for the cameras. . . .
But it backfired. Sure, the public has been duped, but the Democrats did not bow down per usual. The Democrats are on the war path, and they aren’t going down without a fight.