Sunday, June 09, 2013

Aren't we tired of this yet?

Much like Benghazi, the Congressional Republicans, desperate for any scandal they can find, are trying to flog the IRS story into some impeachment-worthy conspiracy, when it's actually just a simple case of a group of bureaucrats trying to do their jobs.

The current version of the "conspiracy" here is: Obama ordered the IRS to investigate right-wing political organizations because he is a power-hungry tyrant!!

I think that pretty much covers it, but by the time you read this, it might have morphed into something that sounds even scarier.

The Republicans know that power-hungry tyrants do this kind of thing, because this is something that Republican presidents have done for decades: Nixon tried to use the IRS against his political enemies (it was one of his articles of impeachment), but wasn't allowed to; and the IRS under George W Bush was infamous for targeting liberal groups, like Greenpeace, the NAACP, and churches that spoke out against the war.

Congress has convened five hearings, and have turned up nothing but lies and half-truths in their efforts to smear the president. IRS officials have resigned or been fired, because people further down in the organization were trying to do their job as best they could.

The entire administrative structure of the IRS has been lambasted by the Republicans for their "lack of leadership" (completely ignoring the fact that there is no leadership because the Republicans in Congress have blocked every appointment Obama has made - including his appointment of an IRS director - for the last five years).

The IRS is an easy target, because nobody likes paying taxes. The fact that they already have a negative image in most people's eyes makes smearing them much easier. But, for once, they aren't the bad guys.

Let's start from the beginning. The tax code gives us a number of different classifications based on what we do. One of them, a tax-exempt status, is designated 501(c)(4), and it's defined as "Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, ...the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes."

This allows groups to be formed to construct basketball courts for inner-city kids, build a gym for a high school, set up after-school reading programs, operate food banks, or any other activity that can be defined as "social welfare." And it goes further: to prevent people from arguing that defeating a politician would qualify as "social welfare," the IRS specifically excludes political organizations from this particular tax-exempt status.
(ii) Political or social activities. The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
And that inconvenient fact is what the Teabaggers want everybody to forget.

So, after the Citizen's United ruling in 2010, the number of groups applying for 501(c)(4) status doubled, and an already overworked IRS tried to keep up. A couple of workers in the Cincinnati office realized that they could pull up a large number of the "bad" applications by searching for political terms in the applications. (Remember - politics are't allowed for these guys.) Unfortunately, all of the terms they came up with happened to be conservative - probably because conservative groups, and particularly Tea Party groups - had a long history of financial discrepancies.
But when the Cincinnati group explained their test to IRS exempt organizations division chief Lois G. Lerner, she objected to it and it was changed. A few months later, the IRS would release new guidance that suggested scrutinizing “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement,” and after that, “organizations with indicators of significant amounts of political campaign intervention (raising questions as to exempt purpose and/or excess private benefit.)”
Which showed that the GOP was just playing political games when they called for the resignation of the acting IRS Commissioner, since the language had already been corrected by the time he sat down in the big chair. The Commissioner in place when the "bad" language was there? Bush-appointee Douglas Shulman.

Were more conservative groups reviewed than liberal groups? Absolutely. And you know why? Because there were more conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Conservative groups accounted for about 84 percent of the spending reported to the FEC — mainly through Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Liberal groups spent 12 percent of the dark money. Nonpartisan groups made up the rest.
In actual fact, the congressional investigation has not only found nothing, they now have evidence clearing the White House. But Darrell Issa (R-CA) is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee investigating this lack of a scandal, and he's been running one witch hunt after another since Obama came into office. And now, it turns out, he's sitting on the evidence.
House Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings on Sunday said that the so-called scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of tea party groups was "solved," but Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has refused to release the testimony of a "conservative Republican" IRS manager because it indicated that the White House was not involved.

Last week, Issa had told CNN host Candy Crowley that IRS agents "were directly being ordered from Washington," but he declined to produce complete transcripts of the testimony of IRS employees to back up his claims.

On Sunday, Cummings explained to Crowley that he had "begged" Issa to release the full transcripts. "He's the chairman of the committee, we're not in power," the Maryland Democrat pointed out. "If he does not release them, I will. Period."

"I’m willing to come on your show next week with the chairman, with the transcripts, if he agrees to do that," he added. "But if he doesn't, I'll release them by the end of the week."
These are some of the little facts you need to remember if the subject of the IRS "scandal" comes up.


Grung_e_Gene said...

Republicans will never tire of lying because it fills them with righteous endorphins. They love to rage against the poorand oppressed for the machine.

Nameless Cynic said...

But this constant drumbeat of "scandal scandal scandal!" - despite the complete lack of scandalous behavior - should be harming their cause: the only people who should believe them any more should be their inbred base. But every time they come up with a new one, they still get people to listen to them, at least for a while, until they're proven wrong again.