Democrats turn to politicized IRS for election leverage
The 2014 election is looking so bad for Democrats that they don’t mind ripping all the IRS corruption wounds open. They’re begging the politicized Internal Revenue Service to shut down their opponents. Naturally, they’re careful to throw in some ritual expressions of fairness – why, of course they want the crackdown to affect both liberal and conservative groups equally, how could anyone evah think otherwise? From The Hill:
Senate Democrats facing tough elections this year want the Internal Revenue Service to play a more aggressive role in regulating outside groups expected to spend millions of dollars on their races.
In the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, the Democrats are publicly prodding the agency instead of lobbying them directly. They are also careful to say the IRS should treat conservative and liberal groups equally, but they’re concerned about an impending tidal wave of attack ads funded by GOP-allied organizations. Much of the funding for those groups is secret, in contrast to the donations lawmakers collect, which must be reported publicly.
One of the most powerful groups is Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. It has already spent close to $30 million on ads attacking Democrats this election cycle.
“If they’re claiming the tax relief, the tax benefit to be a nonprofit for social relief or social justice, then that’s what they should be doing,” said Sen. Mark Begich (D), who faces a competitive race in Alaska. “If it’s to give them cover so they can do political activity, that’s abusing the tax code. And either side.”
Asked if the IRS should play a more active role policing political advocacy by groups that claim to be focused on social welfare, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) responded, “Absolutely.”
“Both on the left and the right,” she said. “As taxpayers, we should not be providing a write-off to groups to do political activity, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
She called the glut of political spending by self-described social welfare groups that qualify under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code “outrageous.”
But it wasn’t outrageous when Democrats were doing it, right? It wasn’t outrageous when Democrat groups were pumping millions into Barack Obama’s re-election effort. By an interesting coincidence – and it is a total coincidence, I assure you, how could anyone evah think otherwise, my goodness! – the heavyweight lefty super-PAC, Priorities USA Action, recently announced it would be skipping the 2014 election cycle as it gears up to become an appendage of Hillary For President in 2016. Priorities USA Action brought in a cool $65 million of that money Senator Shaheen suddenly finds “outrageous” to give us four more years of Barack Obama.
This is exactly the kind of Democrat “prodding” that brought us the previous IRS scandal, and that little caper did wonders for their electoral success in 2012, so why not try it again? Simply making these appeals in public should throw a chill into the hearts of conservative groups who listened to people like Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote testify at length about official harassment. Other conservative groups and donors don’t want to go through hell like that, do you? Then sit down, shut up, and stop trying to dislodge the ruling Party from its rightful position of power.
Also, even if imperiled Democrats don’t get the timely intervention from IRS they’re looking for, these high-profile demands for action give them an opportunity to repeatedly name-check the Koch Brothers, and that’s always good for left-wing base turnout.
Perhaps we skeptics would be a bit less skeptical if anyone had, you know, gotten fired over the abuses of power in the last election cycle. But nobody was. There were a few retirements – one of which President Obama falsely portrayed as a sacking for a couple of days, back when he was pretending to be outraged – and Tax Exempt Organizations official Lois Lerner got that long paid vacation, which ultimately ended in her obtaining freedom from “job lock” with benefits, but nobody was ever publicly castigated for wrongdoing and made an example of. The political infrastructure that drove the scandal is still in place; as a matter of Party dogma, the Democrats still insist there was no scandal at all. So why would anyone expect a different outcome this time, no matter how careful Democrat politicians are to tell reporters they want liberal abuses monitored as well? That’s one of the problems with sweeping a massive scandal under the rug: public confidence in the institution is never restored.
Speaking of the IRS scandal, its dimensions widened yet again this week, as Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, revealed that politicized audits of groups that already had tax exempt status, before the infamous Tea Party Slow Walk to Nowhere got under way, were also performed. From the Wall Street Journal:
On Tuesday, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said his committee’s continuing investigation has found that the IRS also singled out established conservative tax-exempt groups for audits.
“We now know that the IRS targeted not only right-leaning applicants, but also right-leaning groups that were already operating as 501(c)(4)s,” Mr. Camp said in a statement. “At Washington, DC’s direction, dozens of groups operating as 501(c)(4)s were flagged for IRS surveillance, including monitoring of the groups’ activities, websites and any other publicly available information. Of these groups, 83% were right-leaning. And of the groups the IRS selected for audit, 100% were right-leaning.”
Democrats, of course, said it was rude of the Republicans to notice things like this, and can’t we just let the biggest abuse-of-power scandal in history slide into the past where it belongs, and move on with the important business of doing whatever President Obama thinks the legislature is still empowered to do, such as pass new regulations that will codify the kind of IRS pressure that shut down the groups that imperil Democrat re-election campaigns?
Mr. Camp spoke at a meeting where the committee was expected to vote to delay implementation of Obama administration rules that GOP lawmakers say would unfairly restrict political activity by conservative groups. The Democratic-run Senate appears unlikely to go along.
In response, the committee’s top Democrat said Republicans continue to exaggerate the matter to suit their political purposes.
“Instead of this prestigious committee using its broad jurisdiction to address critical issues that confront us, it has been consumed by a tireless effort by Republicans to find political scandal, regardless of what the truth holds, as they look toward the November election,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.).
He also chided Republicans for seeking to delay the regulations, noting that “what really remains hidden are donors to groups pouring millions of dollars into campaign advertising.”
Which is, again, something these Democrats have absolutely no problem with when left-wing groups do it. Everything the Left wants is, by definition, for the Good of the People, so their groups need no extra scrutiny, even when they’re just lightly remodeled organs of Barack Obama’s political campaigns re-inventing themselves as advocacy organizations. Everything these hellish Tea Party types want would make the government smaller, which would hurt the people who depend on it, so they get endless, agonizing scrutiny in which the IRS never actually gets around to denying their applications; it just keeps them in limbo for years, until the election has come and gone, while prospective donors grow increasingly nervous about forming connections with organizations that enjoy perpetual scrutiny from the dreaded Internal Revenue Service.
And if 100 percent of the existing exempt groups that get audited are right-leaning, well, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, even though this whole scandal began with IRS officials admitting they conducted improper scrutiny of conservative groups. How could anyone evah think these weren’t just honest mistakes, over-zealous low-level employees run amok, and a series of astonishing coincidences?