Gooses and Ganders

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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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  1. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    You seem to be implying that it would be hypocritical for conservatives not to be outraged, but if the reason for the outrage was the apparent ideological bias of the scrutiny, then it makes sense not to be outraged if it turns out that it wasn’t actually one-sided.

    That’s how I see it, anyway. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the IRS scruitinizing applications for 501(c)(4) status; the problem was that they appeared to be doing so in an ideologically biased way that disproportionately targeted organizations that opposed the Obama administration’s agenda, with the potential to have a chilling effect on dissenting speech. If that’s not the case, then it’s not as clear that there’s actually a problem.

    There may indeed be a problem—perhaps the screening procedures are simply more onerous than is warranted, or maybe it really was biased after all—but evidence that it was more balanced than previously believed is, all else being equal, reason to be less outraged.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      I should have been more clear… it is not necessarily that they would be hypocritical for not decrying this, for the reasons you offer, but it would appear so if they don’t walk back the previous outrage. Either it is all outrageous or none of it is; if it is indeed the latter, than the prior claims and accusations should be rescinded.

      You’ve offered a pretty reasoned response here. I wonder if (other?) conservatives, especially those prone to ramping up and pointing towards the Outrage-O-Meter, will take a similar view.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I’m still outraged specifically because it appears to be ideologically motivated.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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          says:

          Can you elaborate? Do you mean that because they targeted ideology as opposed to random audits or behavioral analysis (e.g., past issues with tax payments)?Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Yes, if they targeted by ideology, that’s a problem.

            If they targeted by suspected political activity (as Greg suggests below), then that is less so. Although absent the full list, it’s hard to tell if the groups were all ones who were critical of Obama, or if those are just the ones the media is reporting.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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          says:

          I’m not sure this was ideologically motivated. They seem to have been looking at groups that were very likely political in nature based on being part of wide spread political movements. WReport

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Brandon,

      I hadn’t thought of that before (not that I’ve thought about this issue all that much any way), but what you say here is reasonable.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Sounds reasonable to me.Report

  2. Avatar J@m3z Aitch
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    says:

    I’m not a conservative, but I was really bothered by what appeared to be selective targeting (although it’s important to remember it was just closer scrutiny of applications, and there appears to have been no denials). But if this is correct, my bother-o-meter will go down.

    But the outrage machine will ignore it and continue to talk about selective targeting, whether or not it’s true. Innuendo and half-truth are their fuel; they don’t run well on truth.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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      says:

      I should make clear that I was bothered by it as well, but wanted to see how the investigation played out, especially since it seemed like there was both sufficient motivation and ability to conduct a thorough investigation. At this point, I am still reserving judgement. On the one hand, it is a relief to learn that it likely was not ideologically based but I’m skeptical of the government’s ability to even properly generate a list of buzz words that are deserving of higher scrutiny.

      I mean, “medical marijuana”? While a case could be made that such language might be tied to campaigning, my skeptronigon makes me think it was more about keeping tabs on “violent druggies”.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        yeah, this reads like a list of “people we suspect haven’t read the law carefully enough to not make mistakes”…
        Nothing against the IRS helping n00bs!Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        I’m skeptical of the government’s ability to even properly generate a list of buzz words that are deserving of higher scrutiny.

        Hear, hear.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick
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          says:

          Off the top of my head it seems like coming up with a list of suspect buzzwords would be a pretty obvious first screen for groups deserving more scrutiny. Should be the entire reason for more scrutiny, well no, but that would be a way to find groups that are part of contemporary movements.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to greginak
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            says:

            It’s just like a resume; they’re looking for groups that have been associated with the Tea Party for ten years.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
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            says:

            Off the top of my head it seems like coming up with a list of suspect buzzwords would be a pretty obvious first screen for groups deserving more scrutiny. Should be the entire reason for more scrutiny, well no, but that would be a way to find groups that are part of contemporary movements.

            Which, from what I am reading (which may be wrong!), is how progressive groups were treated (“look out for these, but they can be approved”) but not Tea Party groups (“these groups need to be audited, here’s what to do”).

            It’s still not clear to me that we’re not looking at two markedly different levels of scrutiny (and there’s a 501(c)3 versus 501(c)4 issue).Report

          • Avatar Patrick in reply to greginak
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            says:

            Off the top of my head it seems like coming up with a list of suspect buzzwords would be a pretty obvious first screen for groups deserving more scrutiny

            This is what actually makes it a very bad security countermeasure.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick
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              says:

              A HA…that is what makes it such a good measure to take since it seems like a bad countermeasure it would lull the opposition into a false sense of security.

              But slightly more seriously, it isn’t a countermeasure, its just a way of screening groups. Of course sophisticated groups will come up with anodyne names if that suits their purpose , but unsophisticated groups still deserve scrutiny. Especially when those groups that have buzzwords that are popular in current movements.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to greginak
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                says:

                I’d argue (perhaps unfairly) that unsophisticated groups are largely idiots blowing their money to inconsequential effect, and hell, if they’re bending some laws a bit to throw money behind an unsophisticated candidate, they’re either going to eat crow in the primary or get slaughtered in the general or… worst case… put in someone who will get their ass handed to them in the next cycle.

                It’s the sophisticated groups that you need to worry about.

                Now, it’s not *always* a truism (it depends quite a bit on what your screening costs are, how quickly you can do a preliminary screen, what the breakdown is of ‘good actors’ vs. ‘bad actors’ in your problem domain, and relative power conditions), but it’s true fairly often that selecting for bad actors at random is a better security methodology than trying to presort.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick
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                says:

                I’d agree that sophisticated groups will accomplish a lot more and are a bigger issue. Part of Rove’s PAC has a tax exempt status for exampleReport

    • Avatar zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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      says:

      In the initial coverage, IRS folk were saying it was a number of terms; not just ‘Tea Party,’ and many of those terms were progressive.

      That got lost as, in their joy at a scandal, the airwaves were TP’d. Now, we have to wait for that mess to decay; nobody’s going to bother going out there and cleaning it up.

      /link goes to a Freedom Works timeline of the IRS scandal.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to zic
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        says:

        +1.

        I’d read, somewhere early on in the “scandal,” that only one-third of the groups targeted were conservative but somehow that little fact got lost as the outrage-o-meter ramped up and right wingers salivated at the possibility of finally “getting” Obama. I’m so sorry Issa and other right wing shit weasels were disappointed.

        Now, will the media FINALLY stop taking Issa seriously?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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      says:

      My bother-o-meter goes down somewhat, but before I turn it off more-or-less, I want to see:

      (a) Clarification that it was indeed 501c(4) groups that were supposed to be flagged. Fredosso is claiming that there was some asymmetry here (Tea Party 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) whereas with progressive groups it was just 501(c)(3).

      (b) Confirmation that in addition to having lists that included liberal groups, they were actually enforced in relative parity. Which is to say, if all the Tea Party groups got audited but most of the Progressive groups ended up not getting audited, there’s still a problem. the USA Today did an analysis a while back that looked awfully problematic with liberal groups sailing through. Were liberal groups actually subjected to 27-month delays with regularity?

      In other words, I think Fredosso makes some good points, if they are accurate, that we’re still not talking about Tea Party groups getting swept up in neutral policy. But Fredosso could be wrong. I need more indication of that before chalking this up to an example of conservatives complaining about equal treatment.

      Even if there were inequities, though, it is more confirmation of it being a matter of bureaucratic misjudgment rather than a “war on conservatives” as some have had it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Can I ask a dumb question that I wanted to ask when this whole kerfuffle came to light and maybe is even dumber if the narrative has now changed and it maybe wasn’t limited to Tea Party-related groups?

        When this started, the line was “groups named ‘Tea Party’ or some related variant were unfairly targeted for IRS scrutiny when requesting tax-exempt status”.

        Now, I realize that “Tea Party” has come to encompass a lot of things, but when it started I thought one of the, if not the main, planks in their platform was “The Taxes Are Too Damn High”. As indicated by the choice of “Tea Party” for their name, referencing a famous historical tax protest.

        Should we be surprised that a group that is named in such a way as to indicate “the taxes are too high!”, who then files an application to exempt themselves from all taxes, would have that application to exempt themselves from taxes scrutinized more closely (though 27-month delays seem extreme, and if they were asked to provide info that no one else was, that is wrong)?

        I mean, it’s not exactly “fair” or “right” that the guy with potleaf stickers all over his car when he got pulled over gets asked by the cop if they can check his ashtray (or if he has a medical MJ card); but in and of itself, a little extra scrutiny is probably to be expected, no?

        This always seemed a more likely explanation to me than an actual attempt by the Administration to suppress conservative dissent; particularly since this was being done in the election cycle – had this controversy hit the news then with the way it was being spun, it could have been electorally catastrophic for the Administration.

        TL; DR – like Will says at the end of his comment, from the beginning this looked more to me like “a matter of bureaucratic misjudgment rather than a “war on conservatives””Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph
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          says:

          When they first arrived on the scene, I thought I remember hearing/reading that they were using “Tea” as an acronym/backronym for “Taxed Enough Already”.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Right, my point (if I had one) that this looked to me less like IRS scrutinizing “conservative” groups and more like them scrutinizing guys who say “I shouldn’t have to pay so many taxes!” – which is sort of the IRS’ job.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              Indeed.

              My initial thought was, “That’s fucked up!”
              Then it was, “There are a lot of questions surrounding this. I want to see what the investigation reveals. If what we think now is anything close to the truth, that’s fucked up!”Report

            • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              While that would be logical, I don’t think that would be any more defensible than cops targeting cars with 420 bumper stickers.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Trumwill
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                says:

                Will, my point was not that the guy should be “targeted” (pulled over JUST for having the sticker); but once pulled over for some other reason (say for waiting for the stop sign to turn green), he probably should expect extra scrutiny, and there is nothing unusual or necessarily wrong with that as long as the cop is according the motorist his normal rights (if the cop asks to search the car, and the motorist consents, say).

                (NEVER CONSENT).

                Similarly, these groups applied to the entity that is responsible for prosecuting tax evasion, while using names that may imply they would like to escape taxation.

                The IRS didn’t go looking for these groups, but when they asked the IRS to be exempted from taxes, I don’t think it inherently strange that their application might be looked at more closely.Report

  3. Avatar miguel cervantes
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    says:

    Details matter, and were the same groups asked to give up membership lists, reading materials,
    prayers, event strategies, it’s ‘apples and oranges’

    http://conservativeintel.com/2013/06/25/no-there-are-no-indications-irs-targeted-progressives-as-it-did-tea-party-groups/#Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to miguel cervantes
      Ignored
      says:

      Please bring something stronger than that. “No indication” is not evidence.

      Note that none of the targeted conservative groups was actually denied. At least one liberal group was: http://www.salon.com/2013/05/15/meet_the_group_the_irs_actually_revoked_democrats/

      Which is not to say liberal groups had it worse. Just that such scant evidence so early in an investigation is not particularly useful for drawing sweeping conclusions.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        I guess you haven’t gotten The Memo Kazzy. CAIR is a front group for Islamic terrorism. Or something like that. It will become clear to you once all those government moles from the Muslim Brotherhood reveal themselves by imposing Sharia Law on the rest of us.Report

      • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        On a related note. A post by Kevin Drum on the targeting of open source software groups. Money quote . . .

        ” while it’d be pretty easy to convince me that some of these organizations deserve closer scrutiny, the IRS’ “screening” has been wildly disproportionate. Groups that are unquestionably above board have been in limbo for years, unable to start fundraising in earnest, because the IRS refuses to finally approve or reject their application for 501(c)3 status.

        Fundamentally, it’s the same story that the Tea Party organizations have faced: the IRS has a reasonable question about the legitimacy of some of these groups, but they lack the resources to actually resolve those questions, so instead they just cast a massive net and catch everyone.” Quoting anonymous source.

        http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/06/revealed-why-irs-targeting-open-source-software-groupsReport

  4. Avatar miguel cervantes
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    says:

    And CAIR, and MMFA, and the Barack Obama foundation. headquartered in Nairobi, tied to Bashir, the genocidaire, they all were waived through.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    People who question authority get extra scrutiny.

    Well, of *COURSE* they would. Why shouldn’t they?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Organizations whose agenda is explicitly political get extra scrutiny when applying for a tax break not available to political groups? This is an outrage! Next you’ll tell me that the Chamber of Commerce gets extra scrutiny when registering as a religious group!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        This is one of the problems with government encroaching everywhere. Yelling “WHAT THE HELL?” becomes a political act.

        If not a seditious one.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          This is why we should eliminate the whole idea of tax exempt status.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Taxes aren’t “infringing” on speech. THEY MAKE SPEECH POSSIBLE.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Though I do find myself tempted by this thought the more I think on it. Get rid of it entirely. Bam, churches now have to pay. Bam, Planned Parenthood has to pay. Bam, you organized? Congrats, pay up.

            But now we finally have free speech. Let the pastors endorse a presidential candidate from the pulpit! Let Planned Parenthood come out and say “VOTE FOR HILLARY CLINTON!”

            Let the sword of Damocles fall.

            Let the organizations then go on to speak their mind and let the organizations that survive only because of weird donation loopholes in tax law wither away.

            And if people start talking about organizing in opposition to this? Just make sure that they’ve paid up.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Fishing government, encroaching on the free market in tax exemptons.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            This pretty much encapsulates the difference between our thinking.

            “We’re putting together a group of people to educate the population on our pet issue and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

            Your automatic assumption seems to be that when someone gives money to this group that this money should be taxed. Like, duh, of *COURSE* it should be taxed.

            My automatic assumption is otherwise.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              You do understand the distinction here, right? If you’re educating the population on our pet issue, that’s fine. If you’re claiming to do that but every cent you take in goes straight to the RNC, that’s tax evasion. What the IRS is doing, which is their job, is to try to distinguish case 1 from case 2. Look, give all the money you want to your favorite candidate: this is America. Even take money from your company’s stockholders and give that to him: this is John Roberts’s America. But don’t sneak it to him with special tax breaks via a fake educational group and then claim your rights have been violated if you get caught.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Another assumption you and I don’t share is that the RNC and the tea parties are aligned.

                I tend to think of stuff like “Christine O’Donnell” and “Sharron Angle” and “Ken Buck” when I think of the tea party (not exclusively, of course).

                The whole “we’re trying to educate people about the Constitution!” thing just might result in the RNC *LOSING* power rather than gaining it. Votes get split, ideologues rather than compromisers win the primary (to lose in the general), and the RNC is stuck saying “what in the hell just happened?”

                They’re not on the same side. They’re opposed.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Not so different: they both agree that it’s unconstitutional for black president to do the stuff that was OK when a white one did it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                I think that that would sting more had not the left discovered that it’s okay for Obama to do the unconstitutional stuff because, hey, Bush did it.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Not true. The left has been far more critical of Obama’s lapses than the right ever was of Bush. Or have the Daily Kos, Glen Greenwald, and other lefties embraced drones and NSA data sweeps?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                It depends on what one focuses on, I suppose. I think back to such things as “Porkbusters” and the large number of fiscal conservatives (and, of course, their libertarian cousins) who fought against Bush’s excesses back in 2005. Now, of course, it’s easy to say that “2005! That’s a fine, fine time to start fighting against Bush!” and, of course, you’d have one heck of a good point.

                When it comes to NSA data sweeps, we’re still in the opening salvos of everybody’s responses. I don’t yet know where “the left” stands on it. Glen Greenwald is one of those guys who I think is amazingly principled and is doing a great, great job on the subject… and I’m pleased to know that the left is embracing him again. Last time I checked, he was one of the worst concern trolls secretly helping the libertarian right. As for Kos, I admit to not having been keeping up with them since Dean dropped out of the race in 2004.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                On his final day in office, Bush walked out of office with a 75% approval rating among Republican’s. Heck, among self-described Tea Partiers, he still has a 57% approval rating, if I remember the poll from a year or so back correctly.

                There was never any _true_ conservative backlash (yes, Reason types were against him, but they always were) against Bush and the early 2000’s GOP’s habits until the day they needed to be too effectively attack Obama.

                The debt and deficit has always been something that appeals to elected Republicans only when a Democrat is in office or it gives them an out to cut money for poor and/or non-white people. The same thing largely appeals to Republican voters as well. See, the rise in the Tea Party directly after Obama’s election.

                I’m sorry, Jaybird, but I was paying attention to the news during Bush’s second term and there was never any real movement against Bush’s domestic spending outside of the usual libertarian circles and the odd noise from Tom Coburn.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Well, if porkbusters wasn’t a _true_ backlash, I guess there is a lot less opposition to Bush’s fiscal policies than I thought there was. In that case, I’d say that the conservative opposition to Bush’s policies is a reason to see them as a bunch of “TEAM RED!” hacks rather than actually principled opposition.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          There are actually some right wingers who are saying that if the TP groups hadn’t’ had their tax exempt status held up they would have been able to keep building the TP momentum and get millions more R voters and O would have lost. So they are actually arguing that the TP groups were explicitly political and thereby not deserving of tax exempt status, but they don’t seem to understand that.

          I’d sooner do away with tax exempt status than much of anything else. All the buzzwords involved revolve around groups that are very likely political.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          No, it doesn’t. But raising money for candidates when claiming only to be yelling “WHAT THE HELL?” is a political act because YOU’RE RAISING MONEY FOR CANDIDATES!Report

    • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Or, if you had any interest in capturing the affair accurately, “groups seeking a non-political tax break with political names get extra scrutiny.”Report

  6. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The IRS has historically been used to investigate “enemies”, be they left or right, depending upon who’s in power or who’s making the request (say an individual senator, etc.)

    The only good that comes out of it, is that when one side “discovers” this and there is a dust up, and some heads roll.Report

  7. Avatar Michelle
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    says:

    I wonder if Darrell Issa, Fox News, and a large majority of the conservative commentariat are now going to apologize for scandal-mongering and blaming Obama for playing politics with the IRS now that it’s been revealed that the man who initiated the screenings is a conservative Republican who apparently targeted all groups who appeared political.

    What am thinking? Of course they won’t.Report

  8. Avatar Cletus
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    says:

    The local Tea Party chapter here registered as a 501(c)(4) claiming that post-election they were going to do a whole lot of civic work, constitutional education work, sponsor seminars for people understanding their tax forms and things like that. It was all lies, they closed their doors the day after the election after doing nothing but fund campaign stops and advertising for local candidates. I keep hoping they’ll get charged for the fraud but I doubt it will happen.Report

  9. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    It would not make sense not to tax what is a multi-billion dollar industry, the campaign industry, in which most people are involved to make a profit. That is, if we’re going to have taxes at all, this is precisely the sort of thing we should be taxing. But I understand the free speech problem with advocacy groups that may have trouble paying taxes and still having the money to actually advocate for their issues (an ironic issue, given that it is also a free speech problem that ultimately says that people should be able to give as much money as they want to campaigns, meaning that it costs more and more to have a voice at all). It seems, then, that if we’re going to have a system that costs this much to have a voice, tax exempt status is going to be an important part of it.

    The real issue, then, is the delay in verification. The problem, it seems to me, is that if these groups are only exempt if they are not strictly political groups supporting candidates (a valid rule, I think, for the reason given above), then not delaying until they can be verified will in many, if not most cases, result in political groups getting tax exempt status until after the election is over, in which case it’s too late for the review to matter. On the other hand, it means that “non-political” groups (the scare quotes are only meant to signal that I think this is all political, and I don’t think “political,” but “campaign,” should be the operative concept) who are trying to get their issues noticed during election years will in many, if not most cases not get reviewed until the election is over or nearly so, meaning that they won’t be able to serve their purpose. This seems like a pretty difficult problem to solve, and I’m not sure any quick fix — e.g., just erring on your preferred side of caution (tax ’em all first, verify later, or don’t tax any, verify later) — is very attractive to me at least.

    Maybe the best approach is to deal with campaign finance directly?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
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      says:

      The real problem was dismantling government so that there weren’t enough resources within the IRS to sort through the claims combined with really unclear guidelines on who was/wasn’t exempt.

      But I like your idea of taxing the campaign industry; a sin tax, like alcohol and tobacco and gasoline.Report

  10. Avatar miguel cervantes
    Ignored
    says:

    You fell for the squirrel yet again;

    A November 2010 version of the list obtained by National Review Online, however, suggests that while the list did contain the word “progressive,” screeners were in fact instructed to treat “progressive” groups differently from “tea party” groups. Whereas screeners were merely alerted that a designation of 501(c)(3) status “may not be appropriate” for applications containing the word ”progressive” – 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from conducting any political activities – they were told to send those of tea-party groups off IRS higher-ups for further scrutiny.Report

  11. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    No one here has mentioned the fact that the reason everyone _claimed_ it was about conservative is because Issa _specifically_ told the inspector general’s office to investigate _just_ claims that conservative groups were targeted.

    In other words, this wasn’t Issa deciding to selectively reading something. This was Issa deliberately _creating_ something that was inherently a lie, and managing to lie about it for months.Report

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