Government is simply the name for the things we do together…

by Walter Olson on May 13, 2013

…such as harass our political enemies [Michael Cannon, Cato, more; Washington Post on revelations that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra tax scrutiny to groups that "criticize how the country is being run".]

Update: that “just a rogue field office in Cincinnati” story didn’t last long. AP is reporting that the agency’s acting head knew nearly a year ago that tea party groups were being targeted, a fact that might have been of interest to lawmakers pursuing constituent reports of overly onerous document demands from the IRS (see our earlier coverage of that here and here). Meanwhile, ProPublica, the generally liberal-leaning journalistic outfit, has disclosed that the IRS shared with it confidential data from nine conservative-leaning nonprofits.

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Was the IRS scandal a surprise? - Overlawyered
05.15.13 at 10:15 am

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1 William Nuesslein 05.13.13 at 9:51 am

My meager contributions to the Democratic party are not tax deductible, and I am contnet with that policy. An potential organization “People for Democratic Government” might just work for more civic courses in high schools, (A very good idea.) or it might just generate commercials for democratic party candidates (a tax dodge.). The former is tax deductible but the later would not be. The same principle applies to tea party and patriot groups. To call scrutiny of the groups to be political persecution is worse than nonsense. It is in the obnoxious black helicopter and taking guns paranoia.

2 No Name Guy 05.13.13 at 12:12 pm

William: Did the former get extra special attention only because it had the word “Democratic” in it’s name? How about if it were “progressive”? If yes, that that is targeting. That’s the issue here, and that’s dangerous. The issue here is apparently solely because they had those “key words” (Tea party, etc) in their applications, they were targeted.

3 Hans Bader 05.13.13 at 1:36 pm

The IRS’s investigation violated the First Amendment rule against viewpoint discrimination, since it burdened and scrutinized groups based on whether they “criticized” the government, or taught about the Constitution!

The IRS investigated groups, reports the Washington Post, for “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” or for advocating limits on government. This is an ideological litmus test that reflects hostility to the Constitution itself.

http://www.openmarket.org/2013/05/13/irs-investigated-groups-for-teaching-about-the-constitution/

It did not, as some people seem to think, just investigate “Tea Party” or “Patriot” groups.

4 William Nuesslein 05.13.13 at 1:42 pm

@No Name Guy

“Targeting” is one of those obnoxious transgressions that is imprecise enough to allow all kinds of mischief. Tea Party does have party in its name, and if it were a political party, would not be worthy of tax exemption.

Tea Party folks proclaim a heightened concern for good government. Ross Perot’s Reform party of the early 1990′s was similar. People are sincere and well intentioned but incapable of understanding political theory; their beliefs are more religious gobbledygook.

5 Richard Nieporent 05.13.13 at 2:05 pm

William, not to pile on, but what you said makes absolutely no sense. It doesn’t matter whether or not you respect a particular organization or support its aims. The government cannot treat one organization differently than another based on its ideology. This is one issue where everyone is in agreement that this was egregious behavior on the part of the IRS. I am not sure why you are having such difficulty in understanding this.

6 No Name Guy 05.13.13 at 5:40 pm

Imprecise? Are you kidding?

How about IRS goons thinking “those folks over there with “Patriot” or “Tea” in their group name think different than our boss (e.g. President Obama) and we’re going to pile onto them…..never mind all those progressive / liberal / democratic (party) groups that are more or less doing the same thing, e.g. wanting “good government” in a different way, but are on “our” side”.

Sorry, you usually have really good comments here, but you just slipped a half dozen notches on the respect scale today with those massive blinders you have on.

7 Tommcgtx 05.13.13 at 6:16 pm

Perhaps William would feel differently if it came out they were targeting anything with “William” in the name.

8 William Nuesslein 05.14.13 at 6:35 am

The News Hour covered this controversy last night (5/13/13) and provided an interesting point. 527 organizations are for political groups. But their regulations require public listing of donors. Tea party and patriot groups were using 4c status to get around the 527 regulations. It makes sense, and is fair, to check whether applications seeking 4c status are not just avoiding the 527 regulations. The scrutiny is biased against the right because, and only because, right wing groups want to keep their donors secret. President Obama and Harry Reid are absolute dunces when it comes to law.

Instead of attacking straw men, the right should lobby for a change in 527 law. It is hubris when Michael Savage calls our president a communistic fascist and then decries those, like me,who find Tea Party people and self proclaimed patriots scary. After all Timothy McVeigh had an anti-government mind set.

9 DEM 05.14.13 at 8:24 am

“It makes sense, and is fair, to check whether applications seeking 4c status are not just avoiding the 527 regulations.”

Perhaps it does, but screening applications for the words “tea party” has nothing to do with enforcing the 527 regulations in an even-handed manner. You tacitly recognize this by stating,

“The scrutiny is biased against the right because, and only because, right wing groups want to keep their donors secret.”

Do you have any evidence at all to support the proposition that only right wing groups use the very elastic requirements under 501(c)(4) to evade 527? The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, for instance, is a (c)(4) organization. I suppose the IRS should be paying extra attention to any new (c)(4) applications that contain the word “abortion,” right?

10 Richard Nieporent 05.14.13 at 10:26 am

After all Timothy McVeigh had an anti-government mind set.

William, clearly you are not aware of the old saying “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

11 Tommcgtx 05.14.13 at 11:05 am

William Nuesslein said:

“It is hubris when Michael Savage calls our president a communistic fascist and then decries those, like me,who find Tea Party people and self proclaimed patriots scary.”

What is “scary” about “Tea Party people” and “self proclaimed patriots”? Their stance on limited government (I said LIMITED, not NONEXISTENT government, as Harry Reid would like to claim)? Or is is lower taxes? Maybe it’s their insistance that government actually follow the document that creates it in the first place, our Constitution?Perhaps the fact that they are orderly and clean up after themselves during and after demonstrations? Or is it that you believe the completely unfounded propaganda out there that tries to label them racist, violent extremists? Despite all these terrible, frightening attributes, the point is that the government does not have the RIGHT TO SINGLE THEM OUT, regardless of whether you are cowering in your basement in fear of horrendous tax cuts.

12 wfjag 05.14.13 at 12:37 pm

Isn’t citing Michael Savage a corollary of Godwin’s Law?

13 No Name Guy 05.14.13 at 6:54 pm

Willliam: Care to climb down?

Here’s what the IRS Inspector General said:
“The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. ”

Linky: http://reason.com/blog/2013/05/14/read-the-inspector-generals-damning-repo

14 William Nuesslein 05.15.13 at 4:44 am

@No Name Guy

One must consider the fundamental problem with investigative reports, the authors are inclined to find something and make recommendations. Consider the Roger’s report about the first space shuttle lost. The report made no sense at all according to me and Dr. Feynman. The recommendations were applied at great expense, but we had a second lose.

Republicans, including the substantial number of tea party folks, working for smaller government cut funds to agencies such as the IRS. Combine that with the surge of attempts to do political activities through 4c organizations and you have a nightmare for those who manage work flow.

I would give the bureaucrats the benefit of the doubt in this case. By the way, the tea party Senator from Pennsylvania wanted to default on government debt and send the world finances into a turmoil.

And Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization that actually does social good, including safe and legal abortions for the roughly one third of women who want them at some time in their lives. Governor Romney actually declared jihad against Planned Parenthood.

15 No Name Guy 05.15.13 at 3:28 pm

“One must consider the fundamental problem with investigative reports, the authors are inclined to find something and make recommendations. ”
What the heck? Uh, READ what the conclusions are. I’ve sifted out the chaff to get to the wheat:

“The IRS used…criteria … based upon their names…instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. ”

And yet, William, all the 4(c) groups with “Progressive” “Social Justice” or other similar (e.g. code for Democratic Party) sailed through the process in 9 months, versus 3 years for the groups with “Tea Party”, etc (heard on ABC radio this morning).

Tell me again, how this is EQUAL TREATMENT under the law?

You seem to be willingly ignoring the fact that left leaning groups got a pass while those that apparently took a different view than Team Obama got a back side exam with a fist.

And what is this distraction about PP, Challenger / Columbia, etc?

Those have zero to do with anything about the question of how the IRS abused groups with a certain view point. Please, stick to the question at hand and spare the good readers irrelevant distractions – then again, I know why you’re pulling out canards, to distract from the blatant violation of the Constitution that the IRS committed.

16 Richard Nieporent 05.15.13 at 6:33 pm

The report made no sense at all according to me and Dr. Feynman.

You and Dr. Feynman? Did he consult with you before he made his findings? I believe someone is having delusions of grandeur.

Consider the Roger’s report about the first space shuttle lost. The report made no sense at all according to me and Dr. Feynman. The recommendations were applied at great expense, but we had a second lose.

By the way, the Rogers Commission Report was the report that determined the cause of the first Space Shuttle disaster, Challenger, based on the investigation done by Dr. Feynman. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986. The second Space Shuttle disaster was the Columbia that occurred on February 1, 2003. It was due to damage that was sustained during takeoff when a piece of foam insulation broke off and damaged the protective heat tiles. This had nothing to do with what happened to Challenger. I would suggest that your comments might be taken a little more seriously if you took the trouble to get your facts correct.

17 William Nuesslein 05.16.13 at 11:11 am

Gosh, Mr. Neiporent, I found the Roger’s report to be stupid and so did Mr. Feynman. Feyman wrote a wonderful essay about his work on the commission. At the end of the essay he capitulated to the conclusions of the lawyers. I do not understand why as the subsequent lost of another shuttle resulted from precisely the same problem as the Challenger, namely faulty engineering analysis, showed Dr. Feynman’s segasity. Challenger involved the working of the O rings, with Columbia it was the intuitive notion that a foam would distribute its impact over a lsrge surface area and was not a problem. There the Archimedes principle applied: given delta however small, the foam or a bullet, there exists a velocity V such that V times delta is significant.

Anyway, various groups, such as home-schoolers, are intertwined. Back when Dick Armey was majority leader an arcane bill came up that had a provision affecting home schoolers. The fax machines and telephone lines of Congress were overwhelmed. It was spectacular. My sense of it is that right wing operatives saw 4c status as a way to get around the listing of donors required by 527 status. The consequent scrutiny can be fair and disproportionate.

By the way, the focus of the IRS scandal seems to be moving from “targeting” to a delay in informing the White House. Such a shift is consistent with my view of the matter.

Yes, I know that Dr. Feynman was arguably the smartest man of his time and that I compete for the dumbest. That is why I was pleased to see that he independently came to the same conclusion as I did. I wish that I kept a copy of Dr. Feynman’s essay. Readers of overlawyered.com would enjoy it.

18 No Name Guy 05.16.13 at 3:28 pm

Ahem…..it was NOT faulty engineering analysis on the Challenger. Wrong Sir.

It was an Engineer that said DO NOT LAUNCH. And the manager said “take off your engineering hat and put on your managers hat”.

“‘A manager came by my room and asked me if I was concerned about an 18 degree launch,’ recalled Ebeling. ‘I said ‘What?’ – because we’re only qualified to 40 degrees. I said ‘what business does anyone even have thinking about 18 degrees, we’re in no man’s land, we’re in a big grey area.’ ”
“‘We discussed what might happen below our 40 degree qualification temperature and practically to a man we decided it would be catastrophic,’ added Ebeling. ”

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2007/01/remembering-the-mistakes-of-challenger/

And to get back on topic, that has nothing to do with the fact that the IRS treated different groups DOING THE EXACT SAME THING differently.

Sir, why can’t you just see the obvious? The IRS was illegally using political considerations to treat group A different from group B. It’s not difficult.

19 Melvin H. 05.16.13 at 6:43 pm

William, evidently the IRS budget was not cut enough (or really, the amount of increase in the IRS budget was reduced): Many of those on the conservative side of this also had to deal with very intrusive questionnaires dealing with (for example) who was in the group and who were the members’ relatives, what social media sites they were on, whether members appeared on any TV talk shows, &/or even future speeches and memberships, etc. That goes far beyond what the standard IRS form (1024, IIRC?) asks for–and was not apparently asked for for those other, non-Tea Party/Patriot/Conservative/etc. groups.

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