Time for Heads to Roll at the White House and IRS

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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176 Responses

  1. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    I like your phrase “mercilessly investigate” very much.

    And I agree with your content as well.Report

  2. Avatar Rogue Economist
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    says:

    Maybe this is a stupid question, but why IS it illegitimate for there to be heightened scrutiny when a large number of organizations with confusingly similar names magically start filing for tax exempt status all at once? Shouldn’t that raise some red flags regarding possible tax evasion or fraud concerns?

    For instance, startups requesting donations that are embezzled?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rogue Economist
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      says:

      That ship may have sailed, R.E.

      The IRS has apologized rather than explaining that we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be audited by men with pencils. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, RTod? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the tea partiers and you curse the IRS. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that the tea partiers’ audits, while tragic, probably saved lives. And the IRS’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want the IRS on that wall. You need the IRS on that wall. We use words like “materiality”, “confirmation”, “inquiry”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pencil, and start auditing these tea baggers yourself. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

      Mistakes were made, dude. Apologies were given.
      Nothing else happened.Report

      • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        What I am pointing out speaks to the illegitimate accusations of partisanship.

        The IRS commissioner involved was a Bush appointee; the lower-level auditors involved were following the book. A large number of similar-sounding groups created at once would give me cause for concern. The FY 2012 work plan says the following.

        “501(c)(4), (5) and (6) self-declarers
        These groups – social welfare organizations; labor, agricultural and horticultural groups;
        and business leagues, such as a chamber of commerce – can declare themselves taxexempt without seeking a determination from the IRS. EO will review organizations to
        ensure that they have classified themselves correctly and that they are complying with
        applicable rules. In FY 2012, EO will send a comprehensive questionnaire to
        organizations based on Form 990 filings to assess compliance in this area.
        Political activity
        As in any election year, EO will continue its work to enforce the rules relating to political
        campaigns and campaign expenditures. In FY 2012, EO will combine what it has
        learned from past projects on political activities with new information gleaned from the
        redesigned Form 990 to focus its examination resources on serious allegations of
        impermissible political intervention. As in the past, information from outside sources
        about political campaign intervention will be reviewed by a committee of career civil
        servants. In addition, other potential violations identified through risk modeling of Form
        990 data also will be sent to the committee for evaluation. The committee will focus on
        identifying the cases to refer for examination. EO will further refine its risk models
        based on the results of examinations. EO will also ensure reporting and payment
        compliance with section 527(f).”

        If I’m the only one in the room who thinks that a group naming itself “Tea Party Patriots” that self-declares as a 501(c) might possibly be misfiling when they ought to be a 507 non-deductible organization due to directly campaigning either for a candidate or for other ballot issues, then I think I’ve wandered into a haven for gullible people because all four “Tea Party” groups in my county did exactly that and two of them nominated candidates.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rogue Economist
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          says:

          YOU’RE GOD DAMNED RIGHT I ORDERED THE AUDITReport

          • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Maybe you should calm down? Relax in the hot tub? Do some yoga?Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            That was masterfully done, a work of comment art. ^_^Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            So nevermind the facts government is always wrong?Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              In this case, the government has admitted as much.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to trumwill mobile
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                says:

                The government has admitted that the policies were not followed and that it was done at a local level.

                But the thrust of this post and almost all the “hell yeah!” replies that everyone here is assuming that somehow it MUST have been partisanship, rather than say it was either overzealousness and faulty assumptions being made on the local level.

                I would also personally admit that I’d probably be extremely skeptical of any group using the term “Tea Party” in its name would NOT be participating in any sort of political advocacy as required by 501c(4)s.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                Should audits proceed based on your personal skepticism?

                I admit that I am disinclined to believe that this had nothing to do withthe politics of the tarheted groups, but I think either way I feel pretty comfortable saying the government was actually wrong, here. In part, at least, because the government is apologizing. (Which, I should say, is a credit to either the bureaucracy or the administration or both.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to trumwill mobile
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                says:

                Given the huuuuge disparity in IRS employee numbers versus the potential investigations they’d have to do, the agents do need substantial discretion in who to actually go after. I think circumstantial evidence based on an organization’s name and potential disparity between its filed purpose and its actual activities seems to me, to be a sufficient cause. It’s probably not a SUFFICIENT condition on its own, but it’s certainly one element that ought to raise some scrutiny when an organization calling itself “Tea Party xyz” claims to not be involved in political advocacy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                They’re allowed to be involved in political advocacy. A name that suggests political advocacy isn’t a problem.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to trumwill mobile
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                says:

                There’s a bit more to it than that.
                The FEC is the group that checks out the campaign donations.

                An EO designation typically takes 2 or 3 years for approval.
                SOP is to piggyback on the EO designation of a similarly aligned group while the application is being processed.

                I can’t think that Internal Revenue was simply processing applications at lightning speed.

                Something doesn’t add up.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Jaybird, I am in awe.Report

    • Avatar trumwill in reply to Rogue Economist
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      says:

      To be clear here, we’re talking about 75 audits of organizations with unfriendly perspectives during which questions were asked against policy and in which they found nothing. So that I understand, you don’t see a problem here?Report

      • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to trumwill
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        says:

        I compare three things.

        The rules regarding 501(c) and 507 organizations.
        The number of organizations using the name “tea party.”
        The conduct of the organizations I know. Specifically that they endorse candidates, nominate candidates, and endorse or specifically denounce existing ballot issues.

        If I were put in a position to be processing applications and a dozen of these applications came across my desk missing pertinent information, I can’t see how I would be doing anything but failing in my fiduciary duty to the taxpayers if I were to process the application as-is without further questions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to trumwill
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        says:

        Suspiciously like NYC’s stop n frisk policy. I understand those people look suspicious, too.Report

  3. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    I don’t expect much of an investigation into something most of the government would regard as fair and proper. In the near term, the simplest thing for organizations to do to prevent such scrutiny is to affiliate themselves with Jihadist terrorist organizations so the government will start ignoring them, or at least brush any evidence of wrongdoing under the rug.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      The last time I checked there were like 600,000 names on the terror watch list, including Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

      Clearly the problem is not that the government isn’t paying attention.Report

    • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      I’ll just leave this here.

      “Tea Party conservatives are furious over the IRS admission that self-declared non-profit groups with the words “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in their names were checked for political activity not allowed by the rules for 501(c) not-for-profit organizations. What’s wrong with a good charity named Tea Party Patriots, anyway? It’s not like such groups would engage in election year political activity or anything, right?”Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to Rogue Economist
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        says:

        I’ll just leave THIS here. Or shouldn’t we pick on obviously liberal oriented 501(c) political organizations? Looked at another way, precisely how many voters that ACORN registered were Republican? We don’t even need to get into Donald Duck’s party affiliation. Finally one would be curious just what gauntlet ACORN was forced to run to get their tax exempt donation card.Report

        • Avatar Patrick in reply to Wardsmith
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          says:

          Given that ACORN was sorta exploded, Ward, I’m not sure that equal treatment is what all those Tea Party groups would like.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Wardsmith
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          says:

          I don’t even think we need to go to ACORN.

          I ‘ve worked with I don’t know how many non-profits over the years. Every single one does political outreach; every single one lobbies state legislators; most have some kind of political action committee.

          If I posted a story about a Red State’s revenue department targeting groups that had “mental health,” “developmental disability,” “choice,” or any other word typically associated with orgs that support Dem candidates, people defending the IRS would pitch a fit. And rightfully so.Report

          • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to Tod Kelly
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            says:

            Actually Tod you did Yeoman’s service here and I have no beef with your OP nor its conclusions. I was pointing out the blatantly obvious to Mr. Economist.

            Considering that hundreds of millions were spent this last election cycle by these types of groups it should be painfully obvious as it was to the lawmakers that something needs to change.

            Note that the REPUBLICAN lawmakers were trying to MAKE IT LEGAL to ask about donors, explicitly OPPOSITE from what happened with the IRS who had ZERO legal authority to ask about donors. Further investigation (right after Benghazi no doubt scheduled to finish in FY 2019-20) will undoubtedly reveal that left leaning 501(c)4’s were somehow neglected from /this/ screening process. By then no one will care of course because the Ferengi will be in charge.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly
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            says:

            Which reminds me, it’s not enough to say that since they included the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot” to assume that they would get involved in politics. That’s probably true. The problem is that assuming that because they have those names, they would cross lines. Outside of hostility to conservatives, I see no reason to believe that we should have this suspicion to the point that any group doing so should have to clear themselves of suspicion.

            (Seriously, when conservatives thought that they were making the claims, my response was “They’re paranoid”… I suppose that others shift immediately to “Well, it’s justified” shouldn’t be surprising.)Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman
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              says:

              I think it is more that the IRS knows many non-profits orgs go over the line into direct political activity. So when they saw those words and the TP was making noises in the R’s in gov it was pretty obvious to them those groups were political. I’m not saying the IRS was right, more that as others have noted, many,many non-pros do political actions.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
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                says:

                They’re allowed to be political, though, within parameters. Not in the sameway that Crossroads GPS is, but they’re allowed to be political all the same. A flag that they’re going to be political does not strike me as sufficient, given that they applied to be the kind of non-profit that can be political.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      “So Mr. Tsarnaev, I see you’re claiming pressure cookers and fireworks as a business expense, along with travel costs to “Dagestan”?

      “Yes. I love making IED, I mean celebrating EID, with fried sheep and big explosions.”

      “And Dagestan?”

      “I love fighting Russians. They have told you how much I hate them, no?”

      “Yes, we’ve heard from the Russians – and the Saudis.”

      “Yes, I hate them too. They allowed American infidels to use sacred land as base!”

      “Well, that’s between the Saudis and the infidel occupiers. Now, you’re not one of those Tea Partiers, are you?”

      “No. Though I despise the US military which kills innocent Muslims around the world, and I have sworn vengeance and fiery retribution, I would never dump tea into public waterway.”

      “Wrong Tea Party. I’m talking about the people who don’t like Obama or my federal pension.”

      “But I support Obama! He’s a good Muslim! Who are these people?! I will kill them all! I will blow them up!”

      “Hey, no need to treat them any differently from real Americans, even if they are potential terrorists.”

      “So I could convert them, win their support?”

      “If you can convince some of them to vote a bit more patriotically, it would be greatly appreciated. In the meantime, Mr. Tsarnaev, you are free to go. However I’d advise you not to associate with any pro-Romney types. We’re keeping an eye on them and I wouldn’t want to see you dragged into any of their unsavory activities. Let’s say it would bump you up a few watch lists.”Report

  4. Avatar zic
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    says:

    Sort of reminds me of the way PD’s ‘infiltrated’ liberal groups after 9/11. The enemy must be doing something bad. . . they’re the enemy.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to zic
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      says:

      And I realize I should add that this does in no way excuse either activity; I’m not justifying false equivalencies, but bemoaning human’s worser nature.Report

    • Avatar Kimsie in reply to zic
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      says:

      worse was the FBI deliberately infiltrating PACIFIST organizations… and then trying to destroy them from within.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to zic
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      says:

      Well, some of the pacifist groups were about as pacifist as the PR wing of Hezbollah. I was patrolling Indymedia pretty heavily back then, watching level headed pacifists trying to talk hot-heads out of setting bombs, throwing molotov cocktails, or conducting raids on US military bases. I recall one comment that went something like, “If you go through the wire, they will SHOOT YOU. It’s a nuclear weapon facility.”

      It was a mass convergence of anti-war groups, neo-Nazis (David Duke’s servers were hosting a lot of the protest traffic), violent anarchists, communist revolutionaries, and pro-jihadists. Thus the heavy anti-Israel or anti-capitalist slant to a conflict that wasn’t about Israel, or business, and the odd common usage of neo-con that only included Jewish members of the administration and news media. It’s enough to make a pacifist pacifist sigh and say, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”Report

  5. Avatar Art Deco
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    says:

    Actually, it would not surprise me to discover that low-level civil servants were hostile to Tea Party groups. They are not natural allies.

    Perhaps we ought to replace current practices for awarding tax exemptions. Can some of the attorneys here comment?

    1. End all deductions and exemptions and credits except for a poll credit – $x for each member of the household. The deductions for philanthropy go as well.

    2. Replace corporate profits taxes with a periodical incorporation maintenance fee, assessed infrequently. The fee would consist of an equity issue to a federal trust. The trust could sell the issue at auction at a time of its convenience. (I suppose a downside is that owners of limited corporations would be stuck with a limited partner they do not like). Philanthropic corporations lacking an ownership group would be exempt. In return for the philanthropic status they accept limits on compensation for their employees and 1st degree relations thereof as documented in audited financial statements to the secretary of state where they are incorporated.Report

  6. Avatar Just Me
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    says:

    Part of the … included I do believe also requesting screen shots of organizations Facebook pages to see if there were any political postings on their wall. There is nothing wrong with flagging by keywords, but when you then go outside the law and ask for information such as donor lists and Facebook postings I think we should all be concerned.Report

    • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Just Me
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      says:

      And if the group has an employee paid to post to Facebook in the group’s name in the name of No On Prop 7, Yes On Prop 9, Re-Elect Judge Crazy, and Support Candidate McLoon For County Commissioner, then what? They don’t qualify as a 501(c), they’re supposed to be a 507 and they’re fraudulently using tax-exempt donation money for direct political campaigning the same as if they were using the money to print yard signs with those slogans.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Rogue Economist
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        says:

        So they would be okay if they didn’t pay the employee who posted on their Facebook account?Report

        • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Just Me
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          says:

          It would need to not be on their facebook account. A 501(c) group is not allowed to engage in direct political advocacy for specific ballot issues or individual candidates. They are limited to “issue advocacy” only.Report

          • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Rogue Economist
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            says:

            For an example, if theteaparty.net were to register as a 501(c) they would clearly be in violation based on their public facebook page.Report

          • Avatar Just Me in reply to Rogue Economist
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            says:

            I still don’t get why they would want screen shots of any organizations Facebook wall. One would think that they could see for themselves live any organizations wall at any time of the day. Are they also asking for a copy of every email, flyer, or contact that a 501(c) has with the public? Btw what is your thoughts on them asking for donor lists?Report

            • Avatar trumwill in reply to Just Me
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              says:

              One would think that they could see for themselves live any organizations wall at any time of the day

              Yeah, it reads to me like they weren’t asking “What are your employees posting on the organization’s Facebook page” but rather “What are your members posting on Facebook?”

              The former is legitimate, but that’s pretty publicly available. The latter strikes me as more problematic.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to trumwill
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                says:

                The latter would be similar to handing out membership lists, phone number lists or email lists directly to members and using the organization’s resources to pass around advocacy. That’s still a violation.Report

              • Avatar trumwill in reply to Rogue Economist
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                Uhmmm, no. The latter is me, being a member of Arapaho Patriots, posting on my Facebook page “Ted Cruz for President!”Report

              • Avatar trumwill in reply to trumwill
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                says:

                In other words, my membership in Arapaho Patriots does not make what I post on Facebook the IRS’s business. If they can demonstrate that I somehow used AP resources, then maybe they have a case. But I don’t see why they should be granted access to my Facebook Wall just to see if maybe I did that.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to trumwill
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                says:

                If you post it to your personal facebook page, there is no problem. If you post it directly to the Arapaho Patriots facebook page that would be a violation. Do you see the difference?Report

              • Avatar trumwill in reply to Rogue Economist
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                says:

                Sure, that’s the difference between the two things I mentioned. You said that the latter was also in violation.

                The phrasing of the article suggests that they wanted to know the social networking activity of its members. Not the social networking activity on the Arapaho Patriots Facebook page.

                Now, maybe they were very specific and mindful of the appropriate boundaries. However, given that in addition to what they did here they asked questions that are (usually) in violation of IRS protocols, I am not sure why I should give them the benefit of the doubt here.

                Even if, you know, conservatives.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Rogue Economist
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                says:

                You said the following.

                Yeah, it reads to me like they weren’t asking “What are your employees posting on the organization’s Facebook page” but rather “What are your members posting on Facebook?”

                I see that there was ambiguity here. I will be more detailed.

                Case 1. Organization employees post “VOTE TO REELECT JUDGE MCDUFF” to the organization’s page. Problem.

                Case 2. Organization members post “VOTE TO REELECT JUDGE MCDUFF” to the organization’s facebook wall. As this is similar to the organization collecting everyone’s email and then asking Will Truman to quietly email everyone in order to launder the list and create a false illusion that the group is not engaging in direct advocacy, this is still a Problem.

                Case 3. Will Truman, who happens to be a member of Arapaho Patriots, posts a personal endorsement of a candidate to his own personal facebook wall. No problem.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rogue Economist
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                It’s all very simple, Will. Tod is wrong and gross partisanship is ok here because the targets are conservatives. I can’t see why that’s so hard for people to figure out. It’s in Article mmbleffmmf of the Constitution, the “conservatives don’t get the benefit of the doubt” clause (aka the “damned guilty until they prove themselves innocent” clause).Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Rogue Economist
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                says:

                James,

                The way I see it, any organization that leans to the right ought to be audited if they’re looking for a 501(c). Those non-profits are supposed to be charity and conservatives want nothing less than the destruction of the common good. So that makes conservative 501(c) groups suspicious on their face, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rogue Economist
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                says:

                conservatives want nothing less than the destruction of the common good

                Well, maybe not Tim Kowal and Dennis Sanders. But we should probably audit them anyway, just to be safe.Report

  7. Avatar Scott Fields
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    says:

    Tod –

    I’d like to think I’m consistent when it comes to my contempt for abuses of government power and I agree with you that this was clearly an abuse of government power. But, I’m having a bit of trouble gauging where you believe this should fit on the abuse spectrum. First, you state:

    That person (or persons) need to be sacked, and perhaps even more – as does the head of the IRS and the head of the Cincinnati office that seems to have performed the harassment.

    Does “perhaps even more” mean you think something criminal occurred here? The IRS has copped to violating their own policy (self-incriminated themselves, I might add)and there was definitely some bureaucratic stupidity here, but what do you think rises above a firing offense? As the AP article states, the head of the IRS in 2012 is no longer in the job, does the current, acting, Commissioner need to go?
    Secondly, you call for action:

    voters need to find a way to send Obama and any presidential candidates who might follow him the very strongest messages: that this will not be tolerated

    What is the “this” here, exactly? Again, according to the AP article, 300 of 3400 claims for tax-exempt status were flagged for further review and of those about a quarter were singled out because they had “tea party” or “patriot” somewhere in their applications. None of the targeted groups were actually denied their tax-exempt status. As harassment goes, this is pretty benign, isnt’ it?
    To be clear, I agree with you that the IRS needs to clean house after malfeasance like this. But, this was political malfeasance more than anything – you don’t hand the paranoid real reasons to fear the government.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Scott Fields
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      says:

      This is a good question, Scott.

      As I said in the OP, it might well have simply been negligence on the part of several parties in the chain of command. If so, then I certainly don’t see any need for an “even more.” Fire those responsible for the inappropriate acts and take some action (up to and including firing) for those in charge of oversight and move on.

      But I’m also well aware that in election years people tend to get a little crazy, and those with emotional ties to parties sometimes become a little consumed with winning at all costs. And so it doesn’t actually seem to me to be beyond the realm of possibility that that the idea to target groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names was “suggested” by someone higher up, if not explicitly directed.

      If that’s that case, then I see something much darker taking place. Maybe not by the entire admin (which I find highly doubtful), or even by any of the well known key players (not quite as doubtful, but sill quite so). If so, then I would be surprised if there are not criminal and/or civil penalties at stake. And if there aren’t – if there’s some kind of rule/law/something that says people from X branch of the government are allowed to target people for belonging to an opposing party (especially a mainstream one like the GOP) without risk of penalty (something I doubt is the case on paper, even if it is the case in practice), then that needs to be changed.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        So it’s totally okay for tax exempt status to be abused for partisan political purposes, because to crack down on that might be partisanship?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
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          says:

          Sure, Nob, that’s a perfectly legitimate interpretation of Tod’s argument.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
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            says:

            It’s an implication of the argument and the way you and Will have been expanding on it.

            If that’s not the case, show me what level of circumstantial evidence would be sufficient.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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            says:

            So for you, the mere words patriot or tea party are sufficient evidence that they broke the rules? Because as Tod pointed out, the issue is not whether they engaged in political activities. They can legally do so. It’s whether they engaged in prohibited legal activities. For circumstantial evidence on that, yeah, I want more evidence than their name.

            And there’s absolutely nothing in demanding actual evidence that implies it’s ok for a group to abuse their tax exempt status. You seem to be arguing that two wrongs make a right, or that this wrong is right because it’s conceivable there’s another wrong. And, friend, that is precisely the logic of NYPD.

            If I may say so, you don’t sound like your normal self tonight, Nob. I hope it won’t come across badly if I suggest you sleep on this one.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Nob Akimoto
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          says:

          You might want to at least find more to go on than that they put the word “Patriot” in their name, before asking them to clear themselves of suspicion.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Since the IRS isn’t a politically appointed department AFAIK, the explicit direction seems quite a stretch. Add to that the fact they blew the whistle on themselves and it appears even more unlikely. Investigate the hell out of it, but don’t expect that to make a difference. The tea party groups won’t accept the findings unless it ends in Obama’s impeachment and Democratic disqualification in 2016.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    …I have a hard time believing someone in the administration wasn’t fully aware. That person (or persons) need to be sacked, and perhaps even more – as does the head of the IRS and the head of the Cincinnati office that seems to have performed the harassment.

    Old anecdote. When the Bell System was broken up in the 1980s, there were well-defined activities that the local telephone companies could not legally do. Every employee received training about which activities were barred, and instructed that in case of uncertainty, to speak with their supervisor. And informed that, if they broke the law and the judge was in a bad mood the day their case came up, they could go to jail. After several months, it was discovered — following an external complaint, informally made to a supervisor — that a group of employees in Omaha were violating the law. They knew they were violating the law. They didn’t tell their supervisor what they were doing, and there was no way that, short of looking over their shoulders every minute of the day, the supervisor would know that they were violating the law. Nor any way that the CEO could possibly know.

    I have absolutely no trouble believing that one or more low-level employees could pull this off and no information that passed up the management chain would indicate that there was a problem. I can guarantee, though, that if management is fired for misbehavior they didn’t know about, their replacements will implement detailed tracking schemes in order to ensure that it can’t happen again. And that somewhere down the line, the question will be asked, “Why the f*ck do IRS agents waste so much time filling out detailed reports for management on every single audit they perform?”Report

    • Avatar Turgid Jacobian in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      I can guarantee, though, that if management is fired for misbehavior they didn’t know about, their replacements will implement detailed tracking schemes in order to ensure that it can’t happen again. And that somewhere down the line, the question will be asked, “Why the f*ck do IRS agents waste so much time filling out detailed reports for management on every single audit they perform

      The waste is to stop the fraud and abuse.Report

    • Avatar trumwill in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      The primary concern I have with regard to higher-ups is that there were a lot of complaints made for quite some time. Now, I thought those complaints were likely bogus. But shouldn’t somebody, somewhere have looked into it and discovered it sometime well before now? Or, if they did discover it, put a stop to what they are now apologizing for?Report

  9. Avatar Plinko
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t believe any political advocacy groups should be afforded tax-exempt status. Heck, I think most “charitable” organizations should not be afforded such status.

    That said, as long as it’s the law, I agree on an investigation and firing the offenders if it turns out they went out and tried to single groups out because of their political affiliations. But I am not so convinced that it necessarily goes any higher. This is exactly the kind of thing that would be within the power and whim of a petty bureaucrat and the investigation might turn out exactly that.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Plinko
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that’s more likely, and more damning as an indictment of a system run amok (or a set of attitudes that needs to change). You could liken it to the days of Jim Crow, where the beliefs of a particular governor or state police commander, be he enlightened or backwards, was pretty irrelevant when every glorified deputy, bank clerk, county underling, and soda fountain peon thought it was their duty to screw with people on a personal daily basis, because by gosh they had a reason to make sure all the rules were being followed.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        Clearly we should just follow your recommendations and just make sure we profile and harass the brown muslim folks instead. Lesson learned!Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        I would disagree pretty heavily that it’s a damning indictment. As I see it there’s either discretion, which means the possibility of abuse, or there’s no-tolerance, which means general miscarriages of justice, but all on the straight and narrow.

        This is nothing on the sort of abuse people suffer at the hands of the justice system daily, abuses that go generally unnoticed and unpunished.
        From here it looks like the abuse was caught and punished, in Jim Crow the system was designed in no small part to abuse an entire class of people, I find it a long, long leap to make the comparison.Report

        • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to Plinko
          Ignored
          says:

          Plinko I’m sure the Democrats have apologized for their Jim Crow laws. Perhaps you can find it for me?Report

          • Avatar Russell M in reply to Wardsmith
            Ignored
            says:

            Perhaps is you can dig up some of the CONSERVATIVE dixiecrats who actually passed and endorsed Jimmy Crow the nation would owe you a great debt. I do however think you might have trouble finding a liberal democrat(as the party as it is now is left-ish) who supported jim crow. but keep getting those history lessons from hannity. because democrats are the real racists dont ya know.Report

            • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Russell M
              Ignored
              says:

              No, you would not. An official of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce had this to say about George Wallace (as reported by Alan Crawford): “he was the leading liberal in the legislature [in the 1950s]. A lot of people regarded him as downright pink…”.

              Southern Democrats ran the gamut on issues extraneous to race relations. Only an odd minority – generally located in the Southern periphery – were known opponents of segregation (Claude Pepper and Ralph Yarborough were among the few).Report

  10. Avatar greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ll bet at least a handful of IRS workers will be fired within a week if not a month. Those workers will not be turned into oppressed martyrs like Scooter Libby. None of the wrong doers will be pardoned for their crimes. The victims ( the TP groups) will not be subject to character assassination like some other victims of gov inappropriate behavior have been.Report

  11. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m with you Tod. The administration needs to jump on this with both feet and as much transparency as possible.Report

  12. Avatar CK MacLeod
    Ignored
    says:

    What if it turns out that the “targeted” Tea Party etc. groups were a part of a subset of a larger group of new 501(c)(4) groups coming on all at once, especially after it was learned how the 501(c)(4) designation could be manipulated? Could be that we will then have Mother Jones and possibly TPM, and possibly even LoOG, to thank for years of TRUE!!!! e-mails from angry uncles insisting that Maobama launched the IRS, Nixon-like but worse, at his valiant patriot foes?Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    This is just like stop and frisk. Hey, it may only look like there’s disproportionate targeting of a particular group but, seriously, if you were walking on the same beats as these cops and knew what they knew? You wouldn’t be talking about “rights”. You’d be talking about “reasonable suspicion”.Report

    • Avatar FridayNext in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree with this. But of the many Tea Partiers and other conservatives in my family as well as not a few public pundits and pols, stop and frisk and racial profiling are perfectly reasonable. They want more of it, not less. At least when the people and groups are being profiled is someone else.

      Profiling by law enforcement/regulatory agencies. I’ll add that to my list of things people claim they are for/against but only when it’s convenient to their side. It goes right up there with federalism, small government, the Bill of Rights, the Filibuster, biblical authority, and constitutional originalism.Report

    • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Sure, grabbing random black men off the street to frisk them for Walking While Black is EXACTLY the same thing as scrutiny of cell-groups from the New Order Of The Star Spangled Banner who are applying for tax-exempt status.

      Prime, buildable swampland in Florida for sale cheap, too.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I thought about this as I listened to Levin and Hannity go absolutely ape shit on the radio yesterday.

      The logic, both in favor of this practice and in opposition to it, is nearly identical. But I doubt they’d admit that.

      FWIW, I oppose stop-and-frisk and what appears to have happened here. If they wanted to ferret out groups that were likely to be engaged in non-exempt political activities, they should not have limited their keywords to “Tea Party” and “Patriot”. Though they also shouldn’t have included “Green” and “Recycling” as the clown show on talk radio advocated. Sigh.Report

  14. Avatar Rogue Economist
    Ignored
    says:

    Fox News has posted one of the letters. Which of the informational requests do you find objectionable?Report

    • Avatar Turgid Jacobian in reply to Rogue Economist
      Ignored
      says:

      Oh, here I thought from not reading carefully before that they were conducting tax audits, not status audits. Huh. This is less bad than I thought, though still probably not great.Report

    • Avatar Randy Harris in reply to Rogue Economist
      Ignored
      says:

      Information requests like these are fairly common, although this one seems to be overkill.

      The IRS often requests additional information form organizations applying for tax-exempt status. Often this is this result of the organization not adequately completing the application form in the first place.

      If certain organizations were innapropriately singled out for information requests, then there has been improper conduct that must be dealt with.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Rogue Economist
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, the letter starts out by being addressed to the “Waco Tea Party” (pronounced “Wacko”). Then they address the recipient as “Sir or Madam”, implying they work in or frequent a brothel like typical political whores. Then they claim they can’t complete “considering” the application without being provided more information. Why not just say, “We’re too stupid to even think about doing our jobs without you holding our hand every step of the way, because we don’t know jack.”

      Next they demand the group sign a confession stating “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I…” Why not just plead guilty and be done with it?

      Then the IRS says that the applicant shouldn’t include personal information like bank accounts or social security numbers because that information could be publicly disclosed and result in identity theft or other “adverse consequences”. Talk about a thinly veiled threat. The IRS already knows everybody’s bank account and social security numbers, and now they’re mentioning that if you screw up, your bank account numbers will probably land in the laps of the Russian mob or Nigerian scam artists due to the IRS posting them where everybody can see them.

      Then after warning the applicant not to fax or mail a response, it asks for copies of all their current web pages, blog posts, along with copies of stories that have been written about the applicant. How are you supposed to send copies without faxing or mailing?

      Then item 2 asks for copies of the pages of the applicants social networking sites. What the heck is a “page” of a Twitter feed?

      Item 3 asks for two copies of the groups Articles of Incorporation, one showing the state’s date stamp, and one not. If all you’ve got is the current, stamped Articles, how do you “uncopy” the date stamp? Couldn’t the IRS just look at the stamped copy and just sort of imagine what it might look like without the stamp?

      Item 4 asks for an updated roster of the group’s board and officers. But why would a newly formed group applying for tax exempt status have an updated roster instead of keeping the original members because they haven’t yet gotten trounced at the polls and thus haven’t fired half the idiots on the board? These new groups wouldn’t have an “updated” roster.

      Item 5 asks for expenditures in 2010 and 2011 (when the organization may have not even existed), and then demands they be”very explicit” about the details. That is blackmail bait, as Jerry Springer or Dick Morris could well attest. It’s none of the IRS’s business how much people spend on prostitutes, much less detailing what went on with them.

      That relates directly to item 17, asking if the applicant has any “close relationship” with any politician or candidate, and then asking for the “details” of the relationship. Will the IRS be satisfied with a sort of brief Penthouse Forum style rundown, or do they want the whole mantel full of sex tapes?

      Item 18 follows up by asking for the details of any agreements for the provision of services, sharing of facilities, cooperative arrangements, or “anything else”. That would cover casual sex in return for dinner, shared tooth brushes, toilet lid agreements, who cooks breakfast, etc. Again, yet more blackmail bait.

      You can bet these are not the same forms sent out to Democrat organizations.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        “Next they demand the group sign a confession stating “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I…” Why not just plead guilty and be done with it?”
        WTF…huh….you’re just trolling now…right?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
          Ignored
          says:

          I very much read this as tongue-in-cheek.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to greginak
          Ignored
          says:

          Yeah, when I started out saying the IRS letter was addressed to “The Wacko Tea Party” you can bet that it was all in fun. Still, some of those questions are pretty onerous. Could any one of us meet those standards, especially ones about sending copies of all your blog posts? It would take me two or three election cycles just to track down all of mine. Then I would ask if we’re really paying a civil servant to burn a year’s federal salary to read through every line of crap I’ve ever posted on teh Internet, or whether such requests are just a form of pointless torture like making Sisyphus roll a stone up a hill, some Kafkaesque nightmare of trying to appease a bureaucrat who can’t be satisfied.

          It reminds me of an episode of Stargate SG-1 where two ascended beings were at odds. The evil one said, “You can’t destroy me!” and the other said, “No, but I can fight you, and then all you can do is fight me back.” So they spent the rest of eternity locked in a violent stalemate. The IRS can easily afford the manpower it would take to tie up a huge number of political organizations with pointless, unsatisfiable paperwork requests, forcing the new organization’s limited staff to spend their time and resources compiling lists of old blog posts and tracking down obscure receipts instead of doing anything else.

          In this case, I don’t think anyone at the IRS even cared whether any of these Tea Party organizations would or would not eventually be shown to meet the guidelines for a 501(c). It was all about tying them down and inconveniencing them when they could least afford it, hopefully causing despair, burn out, and dissolution.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Rogue Economist
      Ignored
      says:

      The specific information? I find none of it objectionable – at all. Targeting specifically conservative groups in an election year, without sufficient cause – to the point that the IRS actually made a full public apology? Very, very objectionable. Kind of like how I don’t find testing drivers intoxication levels to be objectionable, but I find it highly troubling to decide to pull over all the African Americans and test them just in case.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        So let’s say instead you pull over all drivers coming out of a certain area of town and heading home at 2 in the morning on a friday night.

        Is that objectionable? If not, why not? It seems to me that circumstantial evidence stemming from the use of “Tea Party” in a name might indicate an organization is in fact likely to be engaged in political advocacy of some sort.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, but so would a host of other groups who don’t include the phrase “Tea” in their names and who didn’t get singled out for what we might term “enhanced interrogation.” So you’ve got a rough neighborhood at 2 AM on a Friday night, but the police are only pulling over blacks and Hispanics, not the white folks. If the IRS had received plausible complaints about the Tea Party organizations (which is a very trivial bar considering they put ads on television with their little 501(c) disclaimers) it would make sense, or if they’d uncovered a pattern of abuse, but that apparently wasn’t what happened. Someone just got a bee in their bonnet and started investigations and reviews more as a form of harassment. If such investigations were standard procedure the IRS wouldn’t have apologized, nor would they have apologized if they could show that statistically the investigations were even handed among newly formed 501(c)’s or newly formed political advocacy organizations.

        As a side joke, there was a sheriff who patrolled a Texas roadhouse on Friday nights at closing time as an easy way to nab some drunk drivers. One Friday night a man staggered out a few minutes early, obviously drunk, and the sheriff just watched from his unmarked patrol car, waiting for his evening’s arrest. The man wandered back and forth around the entrance, made some loud, drunken phone calls, then started wandering all over the parking lot trying to find his truck. Meanwhile the other patrons slowly trickled out, got in their cars and trucks, and went home.

        The drunk staggered around with his keys in his hand, occasionally dropping them and struggling to pick them back up without falling over. Finally the parking lot was empty except for the drunk, his truck, and the sheriff, so the drunk walked straight over to his truck, opened the door, and got in. The sheriff swooped into action, had the drunk get out of his vehicle, and gave a field sobriety test, which the man passed with flying colors. A breathalyzer likewise indicated that the man hadn’t had a drop. The sheriff was perturbed and demanded to know why the man was staggering all over the parking lot. The man said, “Because I’m the designated decoy.”Report

          • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Rogue Economist
            Ignored
            says:

            Were the Tea Party groups that made the endorsements among those seeking nonprofit status?Report

            • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to trumwill mobile
              Ignored
              says:

              It certainly looks like the Waco Tea Party is playing close to that line.

              Waco Tea Party was one of the groups scrutinized.

              One of the questions was about their hosting of events to specifically bring candidates speechmaking time. The “GOP Is For Me” group appears to work in parallel with them which is illegal coordination of a 501(c)(4) group with a partisan group.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                Was the Waco Tea Party among the groups making the endorsements?

                The “GOP is For Me” does strike me as something perhaps worthy of an audit. Having the words “Tea Party” (much less “Patriot”) in their name, not so much.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                The Waco Tea Party coordinates their efforts with GOP Is For Me according to the GOP Is For Me blog.

                That would be illegal coordination and proof that Waco Tea Party constitutes a tax evasion scam rather than a legitimate 501(c)(4) group.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t know what is traditionally allowed, as far as that goes. The Center for American Progress is known to be tight with the Obama Administration, for example, and outside of their Action Fund they’re not even a 501(c)4.

                But if there is actual evidence suggesting wrong-doing, and behavior of the sort that is not generally allowed (not selective enforcement), it should be looked into and tax status revoked where applicable.

                I object to flagging on the basis of a name. The Tea Party groups are not a singular organization. The Waco Tea Party isn’t the Arapaho Tea Party isn’t that guy who shows up to events wearing a sign isn’t the brother I have who claims affiliation with the Tea Party but isn’t actually a part of any formal organization.

                I think flagging the word and assuming not just political activity, but malfeasance, is not okay. Even if, you know, because conservative.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                ” The Tea Party groups are not a singular organization. ”

                I Know Nothing.Report

              • Avatar trumwill in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Sorry, I forgot who you were.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Clandestine cell structures are a time-honored tradition of American politics, money-laundering, and tax evasion. The fact that the Tea Party and Patriot groups epitomize it is undeniable.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                “Point of order, sir. Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Clandestine Order of the Party of Tea? I have in my possession 57 names…”Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                A history lesson, Mr. Blue.

                By the late 1840s, secret anti-immigrant organizations began to form in a number of states. They used different names, but collectively they were referred to as the “Know-Nothings.” This moniker, first employed by the New York Tribune on November 16, 1853, arose from the members’ reluctance to talk about their organizations: When asked about their activities they would often say, “I know nothing.” One of the most famous of these groups was the Order of the Star Spangled Banner in New York State; others used similarly high-sounding names.

                New York (1844) and Boston (1845) elected nativist mayors and the 29th Congress include four nativist members, four from New York and two from Pennsylvania. A national convention was held in 1845 under the banner of the “Native American Party.” Modern students will find this name curious, since it consisted entirely of whites of European descent, precisely the group now excluded by the term “Native American.” Neither then nor now is the term used to include everyone who is a native American.

                In 1854, an effort was made to expand the movement through the formation of the American Party. The organization advocated a 25-year residency requirement for citizenship and the limitation of public office to native-born Americans. Members actually went farther and promised to support only Protestants.

                State houses throughout the country were captured by the Know-Nothings and governors were elected in Massachusetts and Delaware. The Know-Nothings victory in Massachusetts was nothing short of sensational, including the governor, all members of Congress and all but three members of the Massachusetts legislature.

                Does any of this strike you as being similar to the structure and behavior of Tea Party or Patriot groups and if not, why not?Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Is the descent into self-parody fun? Anything like a water slide? Those are fun.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes or no. Does the structure and conduct of the so-called “Tea Party” groups in any way resemble that of the Know-Nothings?Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                I took a blood oath not to say. And since there were animal sacrifices involved, I am truly bound. Or I will be in deep trouble with the Freemasons.

                To answer your question… “in any way?” Yeah, but not in such a way to make this a remotely serious avenue of discussion. No, this is fundamentally unserious. Thus, I respond here the way I do, giving it all of the seriousness of which it is due.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                This is entirely serious.

                A group with severe issues regarding policies of nativism and racism that wrap the flag round themselves illegitimately calling themselves “tea parties” and “patriot” groups. That hold national conventions yet claim when challenged each cell is unaffiliated with the others. That create similar organizations on local levels that purport to be unaffiliated even while coordinating electioneering tightly.

                This is a serious avenue of discussion.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, you’ve had an open mic here. If it’s the Clandestine Order of the Party of Tea is as obviously nefarious as you say it is, I’m sure you’ve convinced lots of people. And since the connection to a group from 150 years ago is a serious, serious issue, I’m sure that you’ve also convinced people to take you seriously on this issue and future issues.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                You could explain why you think I’m wrong.

                Why don’t you start right here.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m almost tempted because the more you talk, the more you expose yourself. But I feel pretty good about what we’ve already established, and I’ve got to go into work today.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                In other words, you have nothing but automatic gainsaying and you have no logical leg to stand on.

                Thank you for admitting as much.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                Just in case there was anyone actually wondering why I haven’t chosen to engage Rogue Economist’s comparison here, it relates to the fact that it makes complete sense to me that he finds Nazi Germany an appropriate analog to The LOOG.Report

      • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        So in essence, you don’t care about any of the actual questions, but how dare they be asked of the New Order of the Star Spangled Banner’s cells. At least that is what you seem to be saying, and what seems to be coming out of the right wing pundits who have demanded exactly this level of scrutiny be applied to Muslim charity groups, mosques, and other organizations that they want to religiously profile.Report

        • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Rogue Economist
          Ignored
          says:

          Youre equating Tod with the right wing? Brilliant.

          And no, they shouldn’t have to answer for the OSSB, new or otherwise. And assumung bad faith because they have the word Patriot in their names simply isn’t justified. They applied for the type of status that allows for as much pokitical activity as Crossroads GPS and the Center for American Progress *Action Fund*.Report

  15. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    So did this covert political activity actually deny a single applicant non-profit status?

    Did it flush out one single organization dealing in banned practice?Report

  16. Avatar jaded
    Ignored
    says:

    So churches that get involved in politics and tell their parishonors who to vote for or are in bed with a political party should still get carte blanche and called non-profit? And Tea Party IS political. Calling yourself Tea Party Patriots For Freedom is usually for a political group. Why should political groups get the perks of non-profit? I worked for the American Enterprise Institute in the 90s and it was more libertarian then but calling it a non-profit was as a joke because their “scholars” published propaganda that went right to the politicians and the Bush Administration. Before anyone says I’m unfair, I don’t think that a liberal think tank that does the same for the Obama Administration should be non-profit either.

    But look at it this way. The Right Wing and social conservatives have claimed “America” “patriot” and “freedom” and “Tea Party” for themselves. If they’re going to call their particular “non-profit” one of those words then they painted the target on themselves.Report

  17. Avatar jaded
    Ignored
    says:

    How about groups like Crossroads that were able to maintain non-profit status when they were clearly meant as political money raising groups? Does that sound acceptable to you?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to jaded
      Ignored
      says:

      They’re legally allowed to participate in political campaigns. They’re not skirting rules when they’re doing that.Report

      • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        That’s not wholly true.

        501(c) Groups — Nonprofit, tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code that can engage in varying amounts of political activity, depending on the type of group. For example, 501(c)(3) groups operate for religious, charitable, scientific or educational purposes. These groups are not supposed to engage in any political activities, though some voter registration activities are permitted. 501(c)(4) groups are commonly called “social welfare” organizations that may engage in political activities, as long as these activities do not become their primary purpose. Similar restrictions apply to Section 501(c)(5) labor and agricultural groups, and to Section 501(c)(6) business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards and boards of trade.

        The sentence doing all the work there and the reason there is heightened scrutiny of the New Order of the Star Spangled Banner groups is “as long as these activities do not become their primary purpose.”Report

        • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Rogue Economist
          Ignored
          says:

          These groups (right and left) have been allowed to operate for years and years. I can only assume this behavior is thus allowed. If you want to change the rules or how the rules are interpreted, it shouldn’t be done on an ad hoc basis.Report

  18. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    Whose head should roll at the White House?Report

  19. Avatar JakeCollins
    Ignored
    says:

    The head of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee whose term has since expired. But maybe we can invent a time machine to go back fire him nonetheless.
    Right now there is no evidence that higher-ups at the IRS were involved; even if they were, the IRS is an independent agency run by Bush’s old cronies… saying that Obama staffers were involved is ridiculous speculation.
    Maybe the OP should have done some research before committing verbal diarreah all over the LoOGReport

    • Avatar FridayNext in reply to JakeCollins
      Ignored
      says:

      Of course right now there is no evidence that higher ups were involved. Isn’t that what investigations are suppose to find out? Besides political grandstanding, that is.Report

      • Avatar JakeCollins in reply to FridayNext
        Ignored
        says:

        Of course there should be investigations. But baseless speculation unaware of the basic facts of the case (e.g., who the head of the IRS was) should be mocked ‘mercilessly.’Report

  20. Avatar FridayNext
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree this is something that deserves a vigorous, sober investigation and action should be taken against those who are found to have acted inappropriately or criminally.

    No argument.

    But does anyone else find it ironic that a group that loves profiling when at the expense of dark skin potential criminals and muslim groups, is now upset that they are being profiled? Or that a group that preaches consistently about large government hand outs and out-of-control government spending and deficits is upset because their application for a government subsidy received extra scrutiny?

    That doesn’t make any potential malfeasance right. I was just noting the irony.

    IMHO, any talk of tax reform has got to do tighten up on tax exemptions. In a country where the NFL can claim to be “non-profit,” the concept is beginning to lose meaning.Report

  21. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    What I find wacky is that we’re not in the “this happened, is it representative of bad faith on the part of the IRS?” phase of the political process.

    We’re in the “The IRS has come out and said ‘Mistakes Were Made’ and even gone on to *APOLOGIZE*” phase of the political process.

    I don’t know that arguing that mistakes weren’t necessarily made is particularly good politics at this point. I mean, hey. Knock yourself out. To the extent that those defending the IRS here are my principled political opponents, I don’t want to interrupt them when they’re making what it sure as hell seems to me to be a mistake…

    But, seriously, this is at least bad enough for the IRS to say “we shouldn’t have done this”. That makes me wonder what we don’t know yet.Report

    • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      We’re in the “The IRS has come out and said ‘Mistakes Were Made’ and even gone on to *APOLOGIZE*” phase of the political process.

      We’re in the “someone is covering their butts because the GOP controls congressional hearings” phase. An apology was issued, but the facts aren’t clear that an apology was necessary or warranted and after looking at one of the letters even Tod Kelly doesn’t object to the questions that were asked.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to Rogue Economist
        Ignored
        says:

        Rogue, you’ve /partisanly/ fought the good fight here. You’ve narrowed the focus of your investigation 100% in favor of your group. You are an archetype for the meme. Meanwhile there will be an investigation and heads will certainly wobble if not topple.

        Your previous contention that the IRS “self reported” is laughable on its face. There were hundreds of complaints including from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Partisan blinders are after all partisan blinders. You may now return to your acorn hunting.Report

        • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Wardsmith
          Ignored
          says:

          The House Republicans launch an “investigation” every time someone releases a flatus without proper clearance. You’ll forgive those of us thinking types if we take this no more seriously than the constant fishing expeditions into “Benghazi”, whether Obama actually shot a gun, whether Hilary Clinton actually saw a doctor, the “War on Christmas”, the “War on Easter”, the “War on Men”, the “War on Mismatched Socks”, the fact that the First Lady attended the Olympics with the diplomatic delegation, the fact that the First Lady actually exercises, the fact that Obama took completely constitutional and legal steps in ordering the Executive branch prosecutors to work with ICE regarding deferment of deportations, or any of a hundred bizarre and completely untrue “investigations” that serve the purpose of allowing conservatives to wake up with wetted sheets over the idea of an impeachment.

          I feel like I’m back in 1997. Thank goodness the GOP are busy wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer money not coming up with anything meaningful themselves, rather than wasting millions of dollars by hiring a special prosecutor who will never come up with anything meaningful.Report

  22. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    As I see it, this is a “Who knew what and when” situation.

    Those who knew should be held culpable. Those who should have known but through professional negligence or ineptitude should also be held culpable.

    Regarding partisanship, I don’t doubt that those involved in the scandal were motivated by partisan politics. But I don’t think this points to a broader liberal conspiracy in the IRS.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, it turns out there was a good reason the story was released for the Friday news dump. The new AP story for today is:

      WASHINGTON (AP) – Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.

      The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.

      But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ”Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.

      More details at the link, and the story is just getting started.Report

      • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        Proof positive that Shulman was a Republican. Erm, whoops he was actually a Democrat.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        And now its becoming an avalanche.

        The National Review inquisition update says that Jewish organizations were also specifically targeted.

        In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” . . .

        and

        The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”

        If that’s not over the line, what is?

        Congress had already been sending fiery letters to the IRS demanding to know why they were asking questions beyond what they were allowed by statute, and what the purpose of such questions was. Such questions have already led to accusations that they were conduction opposition research for Obama, which would not be good because of the precedent for that:

        He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner. — impeachment charge against Richard M. Nixon

        Report

  23. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    So this has been all over the news, and frankly, it’s a concern to me. But to think that politically motivated IRS audits and “looking into” stuff 1) hasn’t happened before, 2) happens on both sides, 3) will continue to happen as long as their is an IRS and politicians, is plain damn foolish.

    Folks recall IRS employees looking up celebrity / political figure’s tax returns from a while back? Of course.

    All that being said, I support a full, complete, transparant investigation followed quickly by public hangings of the guilty individuals. Will it happen? If it was a few low rogue folks, they’ll be hanged. If it was political? It’ll fall off the radar soon and things will get back to normal since NEITHER side has any interest in changing the status quo, just making political points.Report

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