[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
As if it weren't already clear that the so-called "IRS scandal" is nothing of the sort, now it's becoming even clearer that it's a just another bit of that down-the-rabbit-hole-up-is-downism in which conservatives have come to specialize in recent years.
The Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights -- which, among other things, monitors the far-right extremists who have been filling the ranks of the Tea Party -- has an excellent takedown of the IRS nonsense:
While it is well-known that the so-called IRS scandal has been used by Tea Partiers to bash the IRS, less well known are the actual facts of the case.Be sure to read the whole thing.
Some of the flagged groups did have their tax-exempt status delayed or did face some additional scrutiny, but not a single group has been denied tax-exempt status.
A May 14 draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that none of the 296 questionable applicants had been denied, “For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).” (p. 14)
In fact, the only known 501(c)(4) applicant to recently have its status denied happens to be a progressive group: the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. Although the group did no electoral work, and didn’t participate in independent expenditure campaign activity either, its partisan nature disqualified it from being categorized as working for the “common good.”
The Inspector General’s report found that in the “majority of cases, we agreed that the applications submitted included indications of significant political campaign intervention.” (p. 10). In fact, only 91 of the 296, roughly 31%, of the applications reviewed for the report did not have “indications of significant political campaign intervention.” In other words, more than two thirds of those flagged for processing by a team of specialists had those indications.
That sort of political campaign intervention would normally disqualify a group from 501(c)(4) status, but the deluge of Tea Party applications combined with the politicization of the process has allowed them to slip through. A closer look by IREHR at the activities of some of the Tea Party groups that are currently under review or have received non-profit status from the IRS, reveals a difficult and dangerous situation.
As the report concludes:
Rather than the so-called scandal cooked up by Tea Party groups, the real criticism of the IRS may be that it has let so many of these groups get away with what are apparently egregious violations.That's what all the yelling's about. It's to keep people from seeing the plain truth: Many of these people really are tax cheats trying to game the system for partisan advantage.