The IRS punks out

From the New York Times:

The Internal Revenue Service said Thursday that it has delayed and is revamping new rules intended to curb political activity by tax-exempt groups and that were proposed after the agency was accused last year of targeting Tea Party groups.

The I.R.S. said it made the decision after receiving 150,000 comments — both positive and negative — about the proposal, the biggest public response to any proposed rule in its history. The decision postpones public hearings originally expected for this summer.

The proposal is intended to clarify how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofit groups are allowed to spend on it. Nonprofit groups ranging from Americans for Prosperity, a free-market grass-roots organization co-founded by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, to the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental organization that chiefly supports Democrats, are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the battle for control of Congress in November. The delay announced Thursday means the new rules will not be in place before Election Day.

I’m one that is tired of the exorbitant sums of money being thrown around to buy off our government.  Based on what I’ve read, there isn’t much the IRS would have to do to change the rules and still allow people to use their “free $peech” as defined by the Supreme Court.

Under the current rules, non-profit groups that are either 501(c)3 groups or 501(c)4 groups have leeway to do some political lobbying.  Simply take all political groups and make them c3 groups and leave c4 groups to everyone else.

If you really want to get technical, every single one of these PACs and other groups have been violating the law with no fear of punishment anyway.  When you look at the rules for 501(c)3 groups in regards to campaign intervention, the following passage comes directly from the IRS website:

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

Name one group, either left or right, that has not violated the bold text above.  Yet, not a single group has had their tax-exempt status revoked.  Instead, we’re having to listen to all the whining about people being “targeted” for their political beliefs.  I think Americans should start whining about people violating the law and getting away with it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  If you decide to name your civic group with a highly political and highly charged name, don’t bitch about having to face extra scrutiny in an election year when you’re not supposed to be primarily a political group.  That would be the same as me starting a social group, the Knights of Kingdom Kome, and being pissed off because people think we’re racist.

The whole idea of a scandal is being drummed up to keep people from seeing how much and how hard our political system is being bought from under our feet.  There may indeed be some people who are voicing their opinion in what they see as a display of civics.  The innocent few are far outweighed by the heavyweight hitters from both sides who are funneling millions upon millions of dollars in dark money to try to affect the outcome of elections in order to control the direction of our country.

Instead of having  clearly defined set of rules, the IRS caved in.  We’re still going to hear howls about some kind of conspiracy from the Obama administration even though these same rules have been there for a while.  The IRS should find the testicular fortitude to clearly define the rules anyway.  If both sides are pissed off, that means the rules change was likely headed in the right direction anyway.

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7 thoughts on “The IRS punks out

  1. How about no tax exempt status for any political activity? Then either everybody goes home happy or everybody goes home pissed off. Either way is fine with me.

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  2. The notion that artificial “persons” like corporations or non-profit organizations possess and are entitled to use all the rights guaranteed to citizens under the Constitution is the most abhorrent and corrosive notion I can think of. I can assure you that no such provision is made for such things in the Constitution, but you won’t hear ‘Constitutional Originalists’ like Justice Scalia mention that, no sirree.

    As I saw on a bumper sticker a while back, “I’ll believe that corporations are people just as soon as I see Texas execute one.”

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    • I love that statement about Texas and corporations. Thanks sums up my view perfectly.

      I can understand extending some rights that are necessary for the operation of the business. Putting corporations on equal footing with people is absurd. It’s further insulting when you understand what this country did to keep segments of our society from enjoying those same rights for centuries.

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    • Way back when corporations first came into being in the U.S., they were for a specified time period and a specified purpose, which was supposed to serve the public good. One of the early examples was building the Erie Canal. The purpose for incorporation was that no private entity was willing to take on that much risk, that they would be personally liable for. Also for a long time, corporations could only operate in one state and that changed in the late 1800’s, if I’m not mistaken. (Standard Oil played a large role in getting that changed).

      The move toward corporate personhood started in the early 1800’s and they really managed to consolidate it towards the end of the 19th century.

      One of the arguments against “corporate personhood” was that no matter how great or how despicable a person may be, they will eventually die and the world will be rid of them. Doesn’t work that way for corporations, though. One example is First Union Bank, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. It started in 1833 as Georgia Railroad and in 1835 the charter was amended to include banking. 180 or so years later and they’re still around, in a somewhat different form. The railroad side of it has evolved into CSX.

      I’m not totally against the concept of corporations as they did serve a function in their early days. They became what many people warned that they would, though. In a period of 50-75 years, they had pretty much gotten everything they wanted, including corporate personhood.

      So I’m totally against the concept of corporate personhood but the fight was lost 125-150 years ago.

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      • Thanks for the history lesson. You are indeed a treasure trove of knowledge. I knew corporate personhood was pretty much set in stone at the turn of the 20th century, but I had never considered the history of companies like Wells Fargo and how they spun off.

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      • I appreciate the refresher, Hillbilly; it took me waaaay back to a Con Law course I took as an undergrad (and later taught as a sub during my grad school days). 🙂

        All that said, though, the greater danger is the slippery slope on which the entire corporate personhood concept stands. Justice Rehnquist himself said that the ‘rights guaranteed under our Constitution belong to all who exercise them,’ or words to that effect.

        Hmm.

        Then does a corporation or a non-profit group possess the right to bear arms? Can it assert the Fifth during criminal proceedings? Even further, does a corporation or a non-profit have the right to vote? And how about the ‘right to life’ that our conservative friends and associates assert so vociferously?

        The right to unlimited, anonymous political expenditures (disguised as free speech) is bad enough, but it’ll be even worse when a corporation decides to blow away a few of its critics and then tries to claim that it was afraid and was simply standing its ground (and is therefore immune from prosecution).

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