by Carl Hiaasen
"Please provide copies of all your current web pages, including your blog posts. Please provide copies of all your newsletters, bulletins, flyers or any other media or literature you have disseminated to your members or others. Please provide copies of stories and articles that have been published about you."
Or, more precisely, sending questionnaires. They went out to scores of tea party groups that were seeking tax-exempt status as "social welfare" organizations.
The organizations were targeted for special scrutiny because they had the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their titles. Some questionnaires even requested the names of all donors and the amounts of each contribution.
It was a political abuse of power aimed, ironically, at groups who are pretending not to be political just to get a juicy tax break.
The gimmick of choice is Section 501(c)(4) of the revenue code. Groups receiving that golden designation are allowed to collect unlimited contributions without paying taxes.
They're not banned from political involvement, but by law they're supposed to be "primarily engaged" in activities promoting "social welfare" and "the common good" -- not partisan politics.
It's a total farce.
Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS spent untold millions of dollars on behalf of Republican candidates while attacking Democrats during the last election cycle. On the other side,
Both rabidly partisan organizations enjoy tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4). They claim to run strictly "issue" advertisements that aren't really political, which is a hoot.
What's not so hilarious is that the
Initially, the tax agency suggested that the crackdown was an isolated operation by agents in its Cincinnati office. However, in recent days it was revealed that a few
A Treasury inspector general's report issued last week criticized
President Obama said the actions described in the report "are intolerable and inexcusable." He didn't use the word stupid, but it applies.
There's no sign that the president knew about the
Owing his job to a Republican, Shulman seems an unlikely instigator of an
After Shulman completed his term last November, IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller became acting commissioner. Six months earlier, Miller had been briefed about some cases involving increased scrutiny of tea party-affiliated groups.
However, in letters to
No such pious fervor exists for investigating and exposing the fraudulent status of large groups like
They're not "social welfare" organizations worthy of a tax exemption. They're wealthy partisan advocacy machines with purely political missions -- to promote their candidates, and to influence voters.
They are prized by both parties as safe and bottomless repositories for huge campaign donations, which is why you don't see congressional leaders declaring war on the 501(c)(4) charade.
The c stands for ca-ching.
IRS Went After Small Fry, But Let The Big Ones Get Away | Politics