You'll recall that our president recently opined that the IRS targeting scandal contained "not even a smidgen" of corruption. He's also asserted that the wrongdoing was not motivated by politics, recycling the thoroughly debunked excuse that it all just amounted to some "bone-headed" decisions "out of a local office." In fact, it was a coordinated campaign of abuse and harassment managed by officials at IRS headquarters in Washington, DC. New allegations from the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee indicate that in addition to wildly disproportionately singling out, slow-rolling, and denying right-leaning organizations seeking tax-free status, the IRS was also turning the screws on existing conservative tax-free groups through audits:
Before February 2010, the IRS was processing and approving Tea Party cases within three months without Washington, DC intervention. Tea Party cases were flagged due to “media attention” in February 2010, not as a result of any confusion as to how to interpret 501(c)(4) law. Additionally, we now know that the IRS targeted not only right-leaning applicants, but also right-leaning groups that were already operating as 501(c)(4)s. At Washington, DC’s direction, dozens of groups operating as 501(c)(4)s were flagged for IRS surveillance, including monitoring of the groups’ activities, websites and any other publicly available information. Of these groups, 83 percent were right-leaning. And of the groups the IRS selected for audit, 100 percent were right-leaning.
Two big takeaways from that passage, starting with that last sentence: Of the "flagged" groups that had already received 501(c)4 status, every single one that faced an audit was conservative. Every one. I would like to know the time frame and parameters for that determination (where did this pool of "flagged" groups come from, and how long did the scrutiny last?), but on its face, it looks terrible. Corrupt, even. For another chilling example of corruption and government thuggery, read Catherine Englebrecht's story. The first bolded portion above shows that the Obama administration's excuse for their latest round of speech-limiting regulations is as false today as it would have been in 2010. These moves weren't designed to address a crisis of ambiguity or confusion. They're designed to diminish the influence of organizations that overwhelmingly lie at one end of the political spectrum. The initial round of improper targeting arose from "media attention." Indeed, Democratic Senators started publicly pressuring the IRS to crack down on conservative organizations' tax status in...2010, perhaps because they saw a red wave building offshore. The agency's former director specifically mentioned "bitter" complaints from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) that helped prompt the abusive targeting practices:
In an interview with House investigators, former IRS Acting Commissioner Steve Miller was asked what the problem was in the law that needed to be fixed. He responded, "So I'm not sure there was a problem, right? I mean, I think we were —we had, you know, Mr. Levin complaining bitterly to us—Senator Levin complaining bitterly about our regulation..." Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat, is among the most partisan Members of the U.S. Senate. The letter also details evidence that IRS and Treasury officials believed that the Supreme Court had erred in its Citizens United decision and, instead of respecting the authority of the Court, wrongly took it upon themselves to offset the impact of the law with IRS regulation.
Who, aside from our mendacious president, can possibly conclude that the IRS abuse of conservative organizations wasn't political? In any case, now that Democrats may be on the brink of another election debacle, they're once again urging the IRS to break out their enforcement hatchets. Am I awake?
Senate Democrats facing tough elections this year want the Internal Revenue Service to play a more aggressive role in regulating outside groups expected to spend millions of dollars on their races. In the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, the Democrats are publicly prodding the agency instead of lobbying them directly. They are also careful to say the IRS should treat conservative and liberal groups equally, but they’re concerned about an impending tidal wave of attack ads funded by GOP-allied organizations. Much of the funding for those groups is secret, in contrast to the donations lawmakers collect, which must be reported publicly. One of the most powerful groups is Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. It has already spent close to $30 million on ads attacking Democrats this election cycle.
Show of hands: Who believes these Democrats want "equal treatment" for both sides? Why aren't they complaining about the influence of money in politics when it comes in the form of massive campaign spending from Democrat-aligned unions -- whose contributions dwarf the Koch Brothers'? If they're so obsessed with fighting "secrecy," why have Democrats moved to exempt unions from their legislative efforts to force outside groups to disclose donors? Is that part of the "equal treatment" regimen? In fact, outside lefty groups with union ties just dropped $600,000 on anti-Republican ads in just two races over the course of two days. Democrats, oddly, aren't howling about that.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography