APThe IRS angered a lot of people by giving extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. But The New Yorker’s Jeffery Toobin writes that scrutiny isn’t “the real scandal” involving politics and the IRS.
The Tea Party-related groups were seeking tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code. 501(c)(4) groups are allowed to “educate” people about politics but have to refrain from partisan activities to keep their tax-exempt status.
As Toobin points out, the Tea Party groups might have seemed pretty partisan when they applied for tax-exempt status using names with words like “Tea Party” and “patriot.”
The real scandal is that any partisan groups have ever been able to get tax exempt 501(c)(4) status, Toobin says. He points to the conservative group Americans for Prosperity as one such group.
(Of course, partisan liberal groups have also gotten tax-exempt status. A decade ago, I worked for now-defunct community group ACORN, which had a “nonprofit” arm but still sent organisers out to knock on people’s doors to endorse particular political candidates.)
Still, the anger over IRS officials giving Tea Party groups a hard time is unwarranted. Here’s what Toobin had to say:
Campaign finance operates by shaky, or even nonexistent, rules, and powerful players game the system with impunity. A handful of I.R.S. employees saw this and tried, in a small way, to impose some small sense of order. For that, they’ll likely be ushered into bureaucratic oblivion.
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