Tuesday, May 14, 2013


A political blogger for the New York Daily News says a liberal-leaning media group he used to belong to was targeted by the IRS office in Cincinnati:
... For two and a half years, I was part of a small media nonprofit, the Chicago News Cooperative CNC), that produced Chicago content for the Midwest edition of the New York Times....

We ran out of money and closed shop last March but not before our own frustrating dealings of more than two years with the same IRS office in Cincinnati that looked into groups with "Tea Party," "patriot" or other possibly ideological-driven words in their names.

Just like those conservative groups, we were seeking tax-exempt status, in our case so-called 501(c)(3) status. And we waited and waited and waited for resolution of a request that, we were told by our lawyer, should have taken perhaps six months.

But for more than two years we cooled our heels seeking adjudication. We heard zilch. The IRS foot-dragging prompted foundations to look at us skeptically and wonder what the heck was taking us so long to get our IRS tax-exempt status....

The questions thrown our way by the Cincinnati office almost entirely involved political matters, such as whether we would endorse candidates....
Apart from the biggest problem here -- that the IRS targeted small fish while largely ignoring Republican- and Democratic-leaning big fish -- I have to wonder whether the keyword targeting was the way it was simply because there were far more right-leaning groups applying for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) status than left-leaning groups, and lots of them had the same words in their names. If, say, 90% of the groups posing as social-welfare organizations but actually engaged in politicking were GOP-leaning, then it would have been appropriate to focus 90% (though not 100%) of the enforcement energy on the right.* And let's face it, there's a hell of a lot more grassroots (and Astroturf) energy on the right than on the left. The proportions really could be that lopsided.

In any case, I'm wondering if we'll hear that more left-leaning groups went through this. I suspect so.

(Via Elizabeth Drew.)

* ... And yes, I'm an idiot, because the percentage being discussed is 25%.


Victor said...

That's what I wrote last Friday somewhere (here?) - that, maybe the IRS did this to more Conservative groups, is because there are more Conservative groups - probably, as you say, FAR more.

It's kind of like if the IRS audited all Major League Baseball pitchers, and the uproar was that they investigated far more right-handers, than left-handers.

Well, DUH!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty clear that the project was to try to sniff out inappropriate filings in the wake of Citizens United, so they went looking for easy hits on suspiciously political-sounding organizations. To me the interesting wrinkle is looking for groups that talk about "the Constitution," because that HAS become a fig leaf for conservative politicking, and in the IRS's shoes I'd do the same thing if I was trying to look for scammers, grifters, and other charlatanry.