HOT BLAST: 'Social welfare' and the Tea Party
May 28, 2013 | 804 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, are sworn in on Capitol Hill last week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
From left, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, are sworn in on Capitol Hill last week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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The New York Times reports: "Representatives of [conservative] organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.

"But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review."

One such group hails from Alabama: "The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the 'defeat of President Barack Obama' while the I.R.S. was weighing its application."

It turns out:

"In Alabama, the Wetumpka Tea Party organized a day of training for its members and other Tea Party activists across the region in the run-up to the 2012 election. The training was held under the auspices of the Adopt-a-State program, a nationwide effort that encouraged Tea Party groups in safely red or blue states to support Tea Party groups in battleground states working to get out the vote for Republicans.

"Adopt-a-State was a key component of Code Red USA, a get-out-the-vote initiative organized by a conservative political action committee. The goal of Code Red USA was made clear in one of its fund-raising videos, which told supporters: 'On Nov. 6, 2012, Code Red USA authorizes the defeat of President Barack Obama.'

"Becky Gerritson, Wetumpka’s president, said in an e-mailed statement that her group engaged 'mostly in education on all sorts of topics' and that the day of training was just one of a variety of events that it held for 'educational purposes.' "

 

In light of this Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker and CNN asks, "Did the I.R.S. actually do anything wrong?"

He writes:


"Some people in the I.R.S. field office in Cincinnati took the names of certain groups—names that included the terms 'Tea Party' and 'patriot,' among others, which tend to signal conservatism—as signals that they might not be engaged in “social welfare” operations. Rather, the I.R.S. employees thought that these groups might be doing explicit politics—which would disqualify them for 501(c)(4) status, and set them aside for closer examination. This appears to have been a pretty reasonable assumption on the part of the I.R.S. employees: having 'Tea Party' in your name is at least a slight clue about partisanship. When the inspector-general report becomes public, we’ll surely learn the identity of these organizations. How many will look like 'social welfare' organizations—and how many will look like political activists looking for anonymity and tax breaks? My guess is a lot more of the latter than the former."

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