Thursday, May 16, 2013

The IRS Scandal: Tempest In A Teapot


After the previous essay on Benghazi, I got a bunch of email.

The gist of which is best summed up as:

Okay, Benghazi, fine, whatever. Fine. But what about the IRS thing? Huh, what about that? How are you going to defend your boy Obozo on that, huh? Huh? It’s Obumer’s Watergate, Man, he’s going down! Impeachment! Impeachment!


The IRS scandal.

You mean the IRS scandal where not one, not a single one, of the targeted conservative groups requesting 501(c)3 or (c)4 designations were denied tax exempt status despite being engaged in blatantly political activities in direct violation of the intent of the tax code? You mean the IRS scandal where not one of the targeted organizations were denied their rights as citizens of the United States or, in point of fact, were not harmed in any way? You mean the IRS scandal where no actual laws were broken? Where there was no actual cover up? And where the IRS itself found the problem and corrected it and then reported it to the American people?

You mean that “scandal?”


Folks, there’s a scandal here alright, starting with the one where hysterical conspiracy mongering conservatives in Congress will now use this non-issue as yet another excuse for obstructionism, yet another excuse to beat their fleshy chests in a pity party of make-believe persecution while managing to avoid doing any of the actual work they supposedly get paid for.

They’ll form committees and demand investigations and assign an independent counsel.  They’ll bloviate and pontificate in furious fulminous outrage. They’ll give self-important red-eyed interviews to the feverish rumor mill of Fox News.  They’ll stroke the corpulent fecund ego of Rush Limbaugh and his legions of misshapen trollish minions who are even now rubbing their flinty hands together and leaking noxious fluids and squealing in orgasmic glee.  They’ll stand by with eyes slyly averted while Glenn Beck spins his bizarrely ludicrous gold-tinged conspiracy theories replete with Nazis and Hitler and Mao and Sharia Law and the coming of the Mormon End Times of Doom. And they’ll send forth their scrawny pet Tea Party chimp and she’ll caper about dancing her little clockwork monkey dance to the sound of music only she can hear with the whites of her crazed eyes rolling madly in their sockets while she screeches her little set-piece monkey screech of Impeachment! Impeachment!  Then they’ll trundle out John McCain with his war medals a’clankin’ and a’janglin’ and he’ll briefly rouse from the excrement smeared bamboo prison of his cloudy yellowed existence and angrily shout Pickles! yet again.  And when the circus has done run its course, when all of the greasepaint saturated clowns have exited their gaudily painted little car and tooted their little horns and squirted their little seltzer bottles into the cheering crowd, when in the end it turns out that there’s really no scandal at all, and there’s nothing that they can pin on Obama or use to deflect Hilary Clinton from 2016, well, then congressional conservatives will sullenly slink back to their dark little spider holes and dust off their forgotten Benghazi script.

What congress will not do, is their actual jobs.

And most Americans won’t even notice.  America heard “IRS” and “Obama,” their blood began to fizz and pop, and they were off and running down to the store for a fresh supply of torches and pitchforks without once stopping to ask even a single question.

Because they didn’t need to ask questions, they didn’t need to think. 




When the bells ring, the dogs drool.  It’s really just as simple and as reflexive as that.

Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out, that’s how we do business in America these days. Kill ‘em all, let God sort it out.

But here’s the thing, Americans should have asked the questions.

That way they wouldn’t look so damned stupid all of the time.

At this point, most Americans couldn’t even tell you what this whole thing is actually about. 

Fine, so we’ll ask: Say, what’s this whole thing actually about?

It seems that the Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative groups for detailed investigation.  Republicans are calling it “The New Watergate” and “The New Iran Contra Affair.” 

Um, isn’t there a  non-republican scandal we can compare it to?


What was the IRS looking for exactly?

In a word, fraud.  The groups in question were applying for tax-exempt status, specifically they asked the IRS for either 501(c)3 (charitable agencies) or 501(c)4 exemptions (social welfare organizations).

What the heck is a “social welfare organization?” Sound like a bunch of flaming liberals!

Not exactly, Social Welfare Organizations, called 501(c)4 Groups in the tax code, or usually just C4s, are nonprofit agencies that by law must be devoted primarily to programs broadly serving their communities and not private groups. These can be religious, cultural, educational, veterans organizations, homeowners associations, volunteer fire departments, and so on.

Sounds like socialism! And I  knew welfare would be involved somehow!

Right. In recent years the vast majority of those applying for 501(c)4 exemptions have been conservative patriot groups.

Like the TEA party?


OK, that’s cool then. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that 501(c)4 group cannot engage directly in politics.  They can make campaign contributions, but neither that nor lobbying can be their principle function. Otherwise, they get to pay taxes just like everybody else. And there’s another more important thing, political groups, besides having to pay taxes also have to disclosure how much money they gave and to who.  C4 organizations don’t.

I don’t get it.

501(c)4 organizations can give money to politicians and political parties anonymously, as much as they want.

So, like if you’re one of these C4 outfits you can just give whatever you want to whoever you want and you can keep it a secret?


Wait, you’re saying you could be like The Muslim Brotherhood or Homos for Sodomizing Jesus or something and you can give gobs of money to a stinking filthy scheming liberal politician and they don’t have to disclose that?

Not directly to the politician.

How then? Like to a SuperPAC?

Exactly. Then that PAC can support a politician or lobby for or against a particular piece of legislation and you, as an American citizen, don’t have any idea who’s paying the bills or helping any particular candidate. 

That’s Bullshit! How did this happen?

Two words: Citizen’s United.  Prior to 1998, just about 100% of all political donors to federal campaigns were publically identified.  Today, four years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, it’s less than 40%. That’s how profound of impact Citizen’s United had on federal elections.  It’s huge.  Today 60% of all federal campaign money is given anonymously, in other words, you as a citizen of the United States have no idea who’s funding which politicians.  And since money is the key to political office in the US, you don’t know who’s buying what. With the Citizens United decision, big donors can de facto give as much money to political parties and politicians as they want. In many cases, for what should obvious reasons, both the big money donors themselves and especially the candidates would prefer that you, Average American Citizen, don’t find out who’s giving what or how much to whom.  

So, you’re saying that…

Since Citizens United, C4 organizations and Political Action Committees naturally became a way to launder campaign money.

So, like, maybe the government tax people should watch out for that! You know enforce the law!

Yeah, maybe they should. That would be the IRS’s job, wouldn’t it?

Hey! I thought we were asking the questions here!


So why was the IRS spending all of its time harassing conservatives? That’s some Nazi shit right there.

Since Obama’s election in 2008 and the Citizen’s United decision in 2010, the vast majority of organizations applying for 501(c)4 status are, wait for it …. wait for it … conservative Tea Party groups. Naturally they get the lion’s share of the attention.  The IRS wondered if the organizations applying for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organization really were social welfare organizations or if they were, maybe, engaged primarily in, oh, I dunno, politics. And they wondered that because it’s their job to ask the question.

OK fine. But how come the IRS spent 100% of its time targeting the Tea Party, huh. What about that?

Actually, only about 30% of the organizations singled out for further review were conservative political groups.  

Yeah, but, it still sounds like harassment!

Well, it’s the IRS.   However, of the approximately three hundred applications that were tagged for extra screening (out of several thousand), only about a hundred of which were conservative organizations, independent review showed that those applicants clearly demonstrated indications of significant political campaign activity and they should have been investigated in detail.  In other words, in nearly every case of the 501(c)4 application process, the IRS did exactly what it was supposed to do. In fact, the IRS should have been doing more to investigate these groups, along with the right-wing groups they should have investigated left-wing groups, and middle of the road groups, and any group applying for tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization who appeared to be engaged primarily in political activities. 

Yeah, but, it still sounds like harassment!

Again, it’s the IRS. they’re supposed to harass tax-cheats. And they’re supposed to regard everybody as a potential tax-cheat until proven otherwise. Everybody feels persecuted. But, see, here’s the thing. No conservative group that applied for tax-exempt status was denied.  All were eventually approved. All of them. None of them would have even noticed this thing if it hadn’t made the news. 

But, wait, I thought they were targeting the Tea Party?

Well, yes, in essence they were.  Given the overwhelming number of applications and the limited manpower, and the fact that Congress refuses to either confirm a permanent head of the organization or fund the IRS to the levels required to do a thorough job, the IRS needs a way to help filter things out, so they use something called a BOLO list, or Be On The Look Out.  Then they used certain keywords to flag applications for the BOLO list, words like “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” and “9/12 Projects.”   However, it didn’t work very well, so after about a year they changed the filter criteria to something more generic like “constitutional groups” and “groups dedicated to changing government.”

Ah HA! So it was Obama all along! Just like Nixon!

No. It was the Cincinnati IRS office. There is absolutely no evidence that the White House had anything to do with it.  And the difference between this affair and Nixon’s abuse of power is that Richard Nixon set out to break the law, he did it on purpose and with malice aforethought, and he damned well knew what he was doing.  In the current case, the direction regarding which organizations got extra screening didn’t come from the White House, there was no cover up, and no laws were broken, though the IRS did bend their own rules regarding impartiality – which is what this is really all about. In the Watergate case, the IRS under Nixon’s direction deliberately broke the law, in the current case the IRS acting on its own was attempting to enforce the law.  Big, big difference.

Why Cincinnati?

Because Ohio is a hotbed of liberalism?  Cincinnati is the office that processes all of the tax-exempt applications. Again, the White House had nothing to do with it. Clearly so. Provably so and even congressional conservatives agree with that assessment – well, most of them anyway, the ones that aren’t gibbering white-eyed extremists like the aforementioned capering monkey woman.  Instead of trying to pin it on Obama, the more rational conservatives are now using this event to push for a tax code overhaul, something the President has been calling for since his first term, and a revamp of the IRS itself.

Okay, sure, you’ve convinced us, it wasn’t Obama. Sure. Insert eye-roll. Some low level flunkies put in the filter criteria on their own. 

Yes, because that’s what their office is paid to do. These guys are supposed to be on the lookout for tax fraud. That’s why they call it Be On The Lookout for tax fraud. Should they have used the word “Tea Party?” Maybe. Maybe not. It’s exactly like a police sergeant telling his patrol officers to be on the lookout for red corvettes, because it’s his opinion and his experience that people who drive red corvettes tend to speed more than other drivers. It’s an asshole thing to do, but, honestly, just how egregious is that really? 

Still sound fishy to me. I feel all persecuted and shit.  So, anyway, which patriotic Conservative discovered it?

Actually it was brought to light by an internal review, by the Inspector General for Tax Administration – I don’t know if the inspector was a liberal or a conservative. I don’t think it matter.  What matters is that the system worked exactly as intended.  The IRS itself corrected the situation and informed its superiors in the Treasury Department, who informed the President, who informed the American people.  No cover up. No secrets.

Wait, I though like John Boehner discovered this?

The Inspector General submitted its report to the Treasury Department and the Obama Administration made the announcement on Monday.  It was considered minor, something easily fixed, already fixed. By Monday afternoon, somewhat predictably in retrospect, congressional conservatives had turned it into “the scandal of the century” complete with fireworks and a parade, which replaced last week’s “Scandal of the Century” in the headlines.  Now, again predictably in retrospect, every senator and representative, every holy man and con man, every circus clown and malingering hanger-on has jumped on the bandwagon and declared themselves persecuted by the IRS.  Boehner didn’t discover anything, and couldn’t have even if it was printed on his ass in orange self-tanning lotion, he’s just being an opportunistic asshole who now has to eat his own words. 

How come Obama fired Steven Miller then?

It’s Washington. Somebody had to be fired. Don’t feel sorry for Steve, he’s an IRS agent, you can dunk them in boiling water like lobsters, they don’t feel pain.  

But, but, but this sort of sounds like, um, kind of, not really a big deal.

Yeah. Funny that.

Well, crud. What kind of scandal is this? There’s no guns, no CIA break-ins, no Weapons of Mass Delusion, no LSD in the water supply. Hell, there isn’t even a blowjob involved. How can it be a scandal without blowjobs? Why for all the screaming and gnashing of teeth?

Well, now that’s the real question, isn’t it

See, because there are genuine scandals here. 

Political organizations, blatantly political organizations, are being allowed to commit tax fraud. And the IRS is letting them get away with it in direct violation of their charter and the law. The Supreme Court is letting them get away with it. The President is letting them get away with it. And Congress is most assuredly letting them get away with it.  

And we, us voters, are letting them all get away with it.

These organizations are pretending to be charities and social clubs and we’re pretending to believe them. 

All those organization were approved for tax-exempt status? All of them? None were denied?

That’s the problem right there. 

That’s the real scandal.

That’s the question you should have asked, right there, not, “How many organizations were singled out for review?” or “How can we pin this on Obama?” but “How many of these applications from blatantly political organizations were rejected?”

And so now they get to avoid paying taxes while secretly laundering funds for every giant money machine from the Koch Brothers to Rupert Murdock to Karl Rove to the mob to the UAW to the Mormon Church.  

We sold democracy to these conniving assclowns without even getting a receipt.

With its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court has turned democracy into a fucking joke for sale to the highest bidder.

So, why isn’t John Boehner up in arms over that? Why aren’t these great patriots, these great constitutionalists, investigating that?

And that’s the real scandal, right there, isn’t it?


Ask yourself something: Who benefits from this situation?

Who benefits from being able to wash money through the system and buy politicians and political office anonymously?

Who indeed.

And that, my shiny electronic friends, is the answer to the real question.


  1. I couldn't have explained that any better myself and I worked there. Great job!

  2. Ooooh, I'm a shiny electronic friend.

  3. What is going on is the Rethuglicans bamboozling the public with smoke and mirrors to make them look at the show rather than paying attention to the real bad shit going on like trying to ban overtime and other nasty business.

    I wish that I knew better how to start a grassroots movement. I would like ALL the folks that we voted in, president and on down, to have to disclose anyone they get money from, and any and all influence. In writing. Published like a legal notice once in a month in all newspapers.

    Wait. no, Koch is buying all those out. There will be nothing published that disagrees with them.

    Maybe jackets with logos on them. Like NASCAR. So there is no doubt that they do not serve their constituents, only their corporate masters.

    It all makes me angry and sad.

    1. I like the idea of NASCAR-style jackets with logos. Maybe campaign podiums could have emblems all over them.

    2. There are efforts to repeat Citizens United, Think Al Franken is running ads appealing for help there. Others are also, I don't know exactly who right now. suppose you could google it?

    3. Try Move to Amend. I think Sen. Sanders is behind that.


  4. I keep thinking about making this blog required reading for my college freshman Comp I course. I wonder if I'd be fired for it. Maybe not, if I used it to open discussion without taking sides. Then again, maybe I just ought to be fired.

    1. If Republicans had their way, you'd be fired for just reading it.

    2. Maybe pair it off with a conservative blogger like David Frum.

  5. Your description of what 501(c)(4) organizations can do is not correct. Here is a surprisingly readable IRS revenue ruling that covers these issues: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rr-04-6.pdf The upshot of this is that lobbying is permitted, and the only penalty for out-and-out electioneering is an excise tax on investment income (if any). There was no basis for the kind of aggressive screening they were doing with these groups, no matter how much one might disagree with their aims.

    1. I was simplifying for readability. I'll look at making it a touch more complete when I get a second. Thanks for the constructive criticism.

    2. I think the problem is more systematic with the post. 501(c)(4)s are allowed to be "blatantly political". Even when they engage in outright campaigning for individual candidates, they have not committed "tax fraud" (unless they lie about it after they do it). See the examples at the end of the revenue ruling.

      Also, I think you know this but your other readers might not -- contributions to 501(c)(4) groups are NOT tax deductible. All that the tax exempt status gets you is the ability to not pay corporate income taxes.

      Your point is well-taken that the red team is shamelessly trying to milk this for all it's worth to beat up the blue team. But no point in larding it with exaggerations about what these organizations were doing or trying to do.

    3. I think part of the problem is that the rules are not well written, and it's something like the 501(c)(4)s must be "primarily" social welfare organizations. So most organizations take that to mean that 49% of all their funds can be used for blatant politicking. The rest is probably paid out to publish a few "social welfare" informational pamphlets and for "consultants" and "overhead" and the IRS's hands are fairly well tied.

    4. Is lobbying and "electioneering" the same as "giving money to specific campaigns"? All that "aggressive screening" did was hold up those groups' approval a bit. Wrong, but hardly a hanging offense in my book. Especially since the numbers of conservative groups eager to game the system has increased more than groups of any other political pursuasion. (Repubs have more tax lawyers on their side working 24/7 for loopholes.)

    5. You should check out Lawrence O'Donnell shows this week on MSNBC, about the 501(c)(4)s must be "primarily" social welfare organizations guideline. It isn't part of the law which actually says exclusively a social welfare organization but the IRS guidelines added "primarily" without Congress changing the law during the Eisenhower administration.
      Great post as always but what is the font you use? It doesn't always display clearly on my systems.

    6. For a very long time, lobbying and general issue advocacy have been considered acceptable in non-profits that are tax exempt but cannot receive tax deductible contributions (e.g., 501(c)(4) organizations). Unions can lobby for better working conditions and better treatment for unions. "Patriot" groups can lobby for lower taxes. Here is an old, but still pertinent, article on the subject: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopicm95.pdf So again, "politicking", viewed broadly, is entirely consistent with a 501(c)(4) status.

      Darcie -- have you read the examples in the second half of the revenue ruling I posted? While the terms in the rules -- like "social welfare" are a bit vague, after reading those examples I think a reasonable person could manage to steer clear of any pitfalls.

      Bestsy -- An unlimited amount of lobbying is permitted by a 501(c)(4) -- the basic concept is that given the enormous impact of the government on social welfare, it's not reasonable to exclude organizing people to ask the government to do something different from the definition of "social welfare". The second half of the revenue ruling I posted above does a reasonable job of showing where educating about an issue and calling for action shade into electioneering.

  6. Thanks, Jim! I tried to explain this very thing to someone who simply refused to understand. Then I said that any tax-exempt group that engaged in political activity ought to be scrutinized by the IRS to ensure it was following the rules - and I was accused of wanting to live in a police state. Because, you know, enforcing the law equates to a police state. I do wonder what the poor dear thinks of enforcing other laws; the ones against rape, murder and so forth?

    The stoopid, it burrrrns.

    As I understand it, the big attraction of the 501(c)(4) status (as opposed to the 527 status) is that 527 groups have to disclose their donors. That's what all the hoo-hah is about: The continued desire to launder political cash anonymously through 501(c)(4) groups - as you stated.

    1. No one seems to be upset that people who know these groups should not be granted 512(c)(4) status are seeking to get it for unqualified organizations. These people know the laws are blatantly disregard them with their requests, yet they want to blame the administration for their own attempts to screw the rest of us.

  7. Damn. I thought I was the only crazy one for wondering why no one was denied! Thanks again!

  8. Good column, Jim. But think on this one:

    In 2004, an sermon from the pulpit of All Saints Episcopal Church (Pasadena, CA) had Jesus opposing the invasion of Iraq by the United States.

    Maybe because Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers.”

    And maybe because Jesus did not say “blessed are the little dipshits who order their staffs to falsify evidence of weapons of mass destruction and start wars which kill thousands of people for no good reason whatsoever and with no plan for a resolution; and who then parade around on the deck of an aircraft carrier wearing a flightsuit and displaying a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner – and then torture people.”

    So guess what happened next?

    The IRS (under George W. Bush) launched a full-scale investigation of the tax-free status of All Saints Episcopal Church.

    Read about it here:


    So it is a repeated Republican tactic to sic the IRS on the President’s critics -- both Nixon and Bush the pipsqueak did it.

    I think it’s about time for the IRS to investigate churches which endorsed Bush. Or McCain. Or Romney.

    One of those is Anchorage Baptist Temple (Jerry Prevo, pastor).

    1. A-MEN, brother!!!!!

    2. Until last November, when Steven Miller was appointed, the Bush appointee was still head do the IRS. All this "persecution" took place under his watch.


    3. Jerry Prevo ! Jeez haven't heard that name in years! When we lived in Alaska and he held his huge tent revivals we were always tense afterwards. The result was always the same, gang of rednecks would beat a gay man half to death down at The Raven,in Anchorage.

  9. "Corpulent fecund ego of Rush Limbaugh". HA! I think the more appropriate word is "feculent", of or pertaining to feces. But endlessly reproducing works too.

    Great one, Jim. Thanks.

  10. Thanks for the breakdown. Brilliantly well said.

  11. Grumble, mumble, mutter... Bengh-- hey look, a squirrel!!!

  12. Thanks, Jim. This "scandal" is highly entertaining. So entertaining that no one will notice that the Repubs continue to obstruct the government and pick the pockets of the lower and middle classes. And try to take over the press. And on and on.

  13. Well done! Thank you for not only succinctly answering the most important questions, but asking the right one.

  14. So now we know the answer to the question "Are friends electric?"... Excellent post sir, excellent.

  15. Have I told you lately that I love your writing?

  16. I wish Obama hadn't caved on the IRS director. It's a bad precedent--the man was guilty of nothing, and everyone honest and informed knows it. His enemies have drawn blood now. There's a positive feeding frenzy going on. Josh Marshall hears echoes of the Clinton impeachment. Will they do it? Well, today the House voted to repeal the PPACA for the 37th time. They're crazy enough to. It would probably break the House Republicans, if they impeached Obama. But at what cost to the country?

    1. I wish it as well. I am sickened by Obama's continued lack of testicular fortitude. Every once in a while we get a glimpse of fire behind his eyes, but we never get him lambasting the GOP as they so rightly deserve.

      If he took to the bully pulpit, and clearly and concisely explained the situation as Jim has, and then utterly bitchslapped those scumsuckers, America would stand applaud.

      But he won't, he won't defend himself, and he won't defend us.

      Voting for him over Shit Robmey is feeling a pretty hollow victory these days.

    2. Jeff, I'm in Massachusetts and believe me, Romney would have been much worse.

  17. Didn't I hear Rand Paul ranting this afternoon that SOMEONE should be going to jail for this? Sheesh!

  18. It is my belief that in this day & age, one does not begin a Congressional investigation with a list of questions to be answered. Instead, one starts with a list of answers one wants to get. Then you present those in the form of questions. It's kind of like "Jeopardy".

    If the pre-selected answers are not forthcoming, one goes on TV to say "We really don't know if this and this and this happened, but we intend to make you believe it did... uh, I mean, we intend to find out!We will get to the bottom of this barrel... no wait, I mean the bottom of the truth.. no, the bottom of my intern...this CASE! We will get to the bottom of this case! Even if we have to spend the last particle of credibility the US Gov't has left to do it!"

    or maybe I'm just feeling snarky today.


  19. Am watching the "IRS Scandal Hearing" - It makes me sick to hear these inquiries about who is responsible for targeting these conservative organizations. I believe the IRS was just doing their job!

    1. It is hard to watch the Republican gang working over Mr Miller on C span. For instance, Representative Tom Price from Georgia gives me heartburn every time I have to listen to him. He clearly loves his job of Grand Inquisitor, with demands for yes or no answers from the administration witnesses. Who must answer meekly, when one wants to do a Woody Allen in movie The Front and say " Fuck You all.."

  20. Yes. This. Exactly this, Jim. Thank you for writing this.
    I wonder how many people, after trying to figure out the story, through the fog of all the bloviating on the usual news sites, will come across this and say "Wait a minute! This whole thing is a huge fucking joke!"
    Probably not nearly as many as should, but even a few is better than nothing. And of course, my own addition to this...

    OF COURSE the IRS targets anti-tax, TEA Party-type groups as BOLO when applying for tax exempt status. It's like NAMBLA were applying for a child care license. Wouldn't it be wise to suspect the possibility that maybe there's an ulterior motive?

    But then, NAMBLA is all yucky and stuff, not like the teabaggers, right?

    Eesh. These fucking people

  21. Well, others have said it, but man you're good! You do the writing and leave it to the likes of me to take on the universe. It's great learning that Alaska isn't just chock full of Sara Palin wannabes.

    I do wish that this law's language had been taken more seriously by the IRS however, the real scandal is how widely it was interpreted. I don't want the Tea Party's hands in my pockets. Do the Koch brothers really need our help in the unwinding of our country? I don't think so!

  22. Remember, folks, if you're a tighty rightie profiling is good. If the profiling is of, well, brown people. Or them funny-talkin' folks from overseas that are, like, white and all, but they ain't got the right religion and stuff. But profile blatant tax cheats? Oh woe is me, profiling is eeeeeevil!

    It's not so much the whining that is annoying (especially hilarious was the guy who appeared on Faux News whining that he felt "intimidated" because he had to fill out not one, but two questionnaires to get his tax exempt status, why, it's the exact same thing that the Nazis did to the Jews, yo!), because everybody knows that tighty righties whine. They never got past the little kid in the grocery store driving Mommy nuts stage of life, maybe they all need binkies. Or maybe their undies are too tight on the family jewels, whatevah. No, it's not the whining, it's the blatant hypocrisy that gets eye rolls from this commentator. They were for profiling of suspicious groups with a history of breaking the law before they were against it. Alrighty, then!

  23. Do any of these organizations actually show a profit? What constitutes "income" for these outfits? If they bank the donations and earn interest, OK. But if they use that money for whatever socially serviceable activities they get into, then where's the profit? Seems like much ado about nothing, if there aren't any--or very much--taxes to dodge to start with...

    The real problem, though, is as Jim says. While the taxes might not amount to a hill of beans, except for the really big outfits, it's the secrecy involved that counts. The Koch bros, Adelson and the rest get to turn their cash firehose on the electoral process, and, like Montag, set it ablaze. Albeit without the nagging second thoughts...

    1. Their sole purpose is to funnel money to politicians and allow the donors to remain anonymous. In short, its a scam. Given the hundreds of applications that popped up after Obamas election and the CU ruling they SHOULD have been examined, and closely.

      But as Jim said, the real scandal here is that they were ALL approved.

      And Squirrels.

  24. Oh, you outdid yourself on this one! Love the imagery!

    Keep doing what you do... You help me get through the times when I despair for our country.


  25. Totally awesome rant!!!

    What are your plans for 2016??? Hint, Hint

  26. I'm starting to think that these people are not happy unless they are feeling persecuted. They are dancing to "The Masochism Tango."


    1. Points for the Tom Lehr(sp?) reference.

      (Where the heck did I put my tape of that album anyway?)

  27. I was told by the president of the rescue organization where I got my dog that they are NOT allowed to lobby for changing the laws regarding the puppy mills from which they get so many damaged animals. If so, that effectively ties the hands of those who want to effect a good change in the world but apparently political money laundering is acceptable. I don't know if this is a law in our commonwealth (hah! oxymoron!) or if the federal laws regarding non-profits are different from the state laws. You would think there would be consistency in such distinctions. You would think.
    I can't help but think that all these conservative assholes have perfected their Wizard of Oz act. All the smoke & mirrors and,"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!" horseshit and righteous indignation so they can propagate their agenda right under the noses of the American people. Just once I would like someone to call them, point-blank, on their bullshit-someone not like Maddow or Stewart or Maher (who do it every day). I suppose it doesn't matter; the conservatives evidently don't believe ANYTHING isn't bipartisan. Everyone except poor, put-upon Faux Noose is in the can for the socialist liberal scum. I'm with you, Jeff Lamm; POTUS has nothing to lose this term by telling it like it is but he seems to continue to flounder and be the target of the right's hysterics. Go get 'em Obama! It doesn't take a lot to be miles better than they are since they're basically 2-year-olds with excellent benefits. I just wish Mitch "Draw Me for Art School" McConnell would hold his breath while he throws a tantrum. That goes for all of those assclown windbags.
    Pam in PA

    1. I meant they don't believe anything IS bipartisan.

      Pam in PA, whose brain is plumb tuckered out...

    2. Your pet rescue is a 501(c)3. This issue is with 501(c)4 organizations.

    3. I stand corrected. Thanks. Could they make this crap MORE complicated, maybe throw in a few more letters or parentheses? : )

      Pam in PA

  28. I was ripping through this whole thing happily enough anyway, but completely lost it at "I feel all persecuted and shit." Bowing.

  29. Is it worthwhile to note that Rove's "American Crossroads" (a 527 organization) created a subsidiary 501(c)4 organization called Crossroads GPS? Which in fact basically just shoveled dark money in? And is apparently considered legal?

  30. I'm getting a chuckle out of a friend, a very sweet Christian lady and avid supporter of the NRA (why is that not an oxy-moron?), "liking" the link for this on FB. I guess she didn't read past the first paragraph posted with the link.

  31. New news about the Benghazi e-mail fuss up:


  32. I think you nailed this one. All of the political groups should 1) not be tax-free just like the DNC and RNC, and 2) should have to list each and every donor and amount, at least say over $500 or some sensible number.

    Just like any other political group should. Up here in Washingtoon they are still fighting about the right to reveal the donors to the anti-gay-marriage astroturf, and I think the reason that's so sensitive is that we're a-gonna find out yessireebob that it was a church, and churches aren't supposed to meddle in politics.

  33. Here's a link to the actual law:

    The meat:
    "Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

    1. That's 501(c)3 that you're quoting. It's not at issue, here.


      (A) Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.

      (B) Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an entity unless no part of the net earnings of such entity inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

  34. We all really do see only what we want to. If you harass and hold up legal applications for months even though you ultimately approve them you have still harmed people. When you ask questions of one group and not another you have harmed them. If this stuff was done to you it would not be right. Why aren't groups on the other side of the spectrum also complaining? Just because this was done to those you hate you think it was ok.

    1. Point to the part where I said it was okay.

      Point to the part where I said it didn't need to be fixed.

      Of course treating applications differently is wrong. No kidding, thanks for pointing it out, Captain Obvious. And groups on the other side of the spectrum are complaining, starting with The President. Or did you miss that because he's a guy you happen to hate?

      Jesus Fucking Christ, I've got to get a better class of troll around here.

    2. One thing I'll point out is that applications for not-for-profits take a long time to be processed, period. From what I understand, the amount of time it took to process these T-party applications was pretty much the same amount of time that it took to process our Jeep club's application, i.e., anywhere from 6 to 8 months. We had to answer a questionnaire about our membership and dues too before they relented and gave us our not-for-profit status. Which is just like Hitler. If Hitler had avoided doing, like, that whole wars and genocide thing, I guess.

      Which points out that this is an underfunded dead end ghetto of the IRS that operates at the speed of government at its worst and needs reform. Not that they hate right-wingers. Because our Jeep club is pretty much as non-partisan as it gets, the limit of our partisan activities is urging members to write letters to state and national representatives to protect our access to roads we've been driving for years, the majority of club activities involve arranging Jeep expeditions and our annual club barbecue. But it's the *job* of the IRS to validate this. Which they did. Albeit slowly and clunkily. So it goes.

    3. Job posting for a troll

      Oooh, ooh, ooh, can I apply
      I have lots of conspiracies, you can't deny

      I'll start with area 51
      And proclaim my right to bear a gun

      I demand you respect the good ol' US
      While asking to control your ut-er-us

      You may be assured that my logic
      Has no relationship to my facial tic

      Never will I let fact and figures
      Interfere with my intolerance of uppity XXX

      You can be sure that I will blab
      My hate of all I consider Arab

      You may liken my rhetoric akin to the bard
      If not, I will call you a tub of lard

      My thinking I do not find absurd
      As I have the brain of a bird

      And never will I stop to think
      My drivel is a waste of Ink


    4. With a little editing this could be the new Republican loyalty oath. Very little editing actually. :)

    5. Nit Wit,

      You said 'editing' where I think you really meant "formatting".

  35. Jim,

    " Point to where I said it was ok ". Ok. You said the scandal where not one of the targeted organizations was harmed in any way or denied their rights as citizens. They were harmed big time. They were asked questions that their counter parts on the left were not asked such as membership lists. Some of this confidential information was then leaked. Their tax exempt status was held up for long months which harmed them. Now give me the names of the groups on the other end of the spectrum who got mistreated the same way.

    1. Big time?

      Oh please.

      This is what you've got to complain about? This is worth your outrage? This is the best you can do? Oh impeachment, impeachment! For crying out loud, the Tea Party was hardly harmed "big time." They were barely even inconvenienced.

      This isn't a scandal, it's a minor problem that's already been fixed.

      I've got very little use for the left-wing Occupy movement, but at least those groups can point to actual government violation of their rights, actual beat-downs, actual invalid arrests. There are numerous cases of folks on the left being targeted, by the IRS and any of a dozen other government agencies. And they should be looked at closely by the IRS, just like those on the right. That's the whole point.

      Hell, you want something to be outraged over, why the hell aren't you crying about warrantless wiretapping or indefinite detention or the people who don't pay taxes and damned well should or any of the hundred other things that you should actually be outraged over? Now you're upset about government overreach? Now? Where the fuck were you ten years ago? Where the fuck were you when they were shipping people like me off to Iraq? Now you're outraged, over this pitiful little bullshit scandal? That's rich.

      And be that as it may, I still didn't say that what the IRS did was OK. In fact I specifically said that it wasn't. There's a minimum level of reading comprehension required to comment on this site and you don't have it. Piss off, don't comment here again.

    2. And moreover, Anonymous, you fekking coward who is too chickenshit to even post your own name, the IRS ITSELF found out what they were doing was wrong, corrected it THEMSLEVES, and made no attempt at covering it up. The only scandal here is how little it takes for you idiots to scream impeachment.

  36. Thanks again for helping to bring the more important question
    to the fore. This just seems another example of our elected officials'
    preference for political grandstanding over doing the difficult
    work they were hired to perform. The level of self serving short sightedness that these clowns display is astounding. Unfortunately, I don't see any way to make them behave responsibly. We are truly fucked.

  37. Best thing I've read on this whole NONtroversy to date. Thank you. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go get pissed off about a Marine holding an umbrella for a black guy.

  38. Jim,

    Where was I 10 years ago when bad things happened to people like you? Why don't you care that 4 Americans were allowed to be murdered in Benghazi? Since you bring up occupy hasn't Pres Obama run things since they have existed?


    First I did not bring up impeachment. The IRS covered this up for a long time before they leaked it. . This tea pot tempest will get much worse.

    1. You're like a broken record, a broken record of logical fallacies. You've done nothing but move the goalposts and create stawmen so you've got something to be pissed about. Where exactly did I say that I didn't care that four Americans died in Benghazi? Again, reading comprehension is a requirement for this site, and you'd do well to stop putting words in my mouth.

      Now, you are done, Anonymous. Anything further from you will be deleted. Don't bother to comment again, you've exhausted what little patience I have with your kind of bullshit.

  39. If any "group" should be monitored, it should be all religious organizations. Way too many are stepping over that line of separation of church and state. Way too many religious groups feel that their beliefs, and theirs alone have to to be everyones and their beliefs and their beliefs alone must be the LAW.

    If based on % of actual memberships we would all be Catholics.

  40. Someplace I read this week that the only two IRS employees the President could directly fire were the Director and the attorney who advises the director and the agency. Don't think that even to appease Sir John Boner of Orange Barack could make anyone go to prison...

    From Politico:
    While Obama essentially fired Miller, he is limited in who else he can fire. The IRS has only two political appointees, with the rest of its employees protected by civil service regulations.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/reports-irs-employees-disciplined-91466.html#ixzz2ToRideCl

    1. I am glad the IRS is protected like this. Otherwise, they would face wholesale firing every 4-8 years.

      There are not a lot of "duties" to be an American citizen. You don't have to vote. You don't have to serve in the military. You can lie and get out of jury duty - if ever called (and most aren't)

      The only mandatory duty is to pay taxes. I see nothing wrong with that. For the perks of being an American - there is a price.

    2. Made me think of this quote from Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories:


      the best part of the quote:

      “I am not a common cheat. Not that I am a saint. Given adequate provocation, I might conceivably cheat a man – or a woman or even a child. But you are suggesting that I cheat, not a man or woman or child, but a hundred and forty million of my fellow citizens. Bah.”

  41. Norm Coleman and his "board" on his 501 (c)4, American Action Network, are all rabid Democrat haters who admit that over 60% of the donations to their 501c4 is spent on politics.
    That this outfit was approved for their tax status in less than a month with a Bush appointee as IRS commissioner is the real scandal.

    1. Approve 'em all and let Green Eyeshades sort 'em out. Face it, they're not gonna admit up front they intend to flout the regulations. Approve 'em up front, and audit the entire category at a high rate, Lefty and Righty alike.
      On the front end, I assume all they're looking at is having their app turned down. On the back end, isn't there the possibility of tax fraud?

    2. The 501c4 is nothing less than authorized tax fraud and every agent knows it.
      There is no way that any decent IRS agent(?) will ever catch up.

  42. So, the obvious solution, is to check 100% of all 501c3 and 501c4 applications all of the time. It'll take 4 years for your application to be processed, have a nice day.

    That will be the ONLY equitable way to do this, and if it shuts down the dark money fire hose, I'm all for it.

    1. Mary,
      That is actually the best idea I've heard all day! That would be IRS actually doing something POSITIVE for most of us, if for no other reason than to limit the amount of disgusting TV commercials flooding the airwaves during election time! (Yea, yea, I've heard the drill - they aren't there to influence elections - they are there to EDUCATE us!) Maybe 8 years would be better!!

  43. Ed Kilgore and Ezra Klein convince me I'm wrong.

    We don’t want IRS agents deciding who is and who is not a primarily political group. That is not their core competency. Worse, it necessarily involves the IRS in politics, and the IRS is an agency we want kept far from politics. We either need extremely bright lines that govern the IRS’s judgments on these groups and removes the need for significant discretion or, as tax professor John Colombo argues, we should consider getting rid of the 501(c)(4) designation altogether.

    I still think letting the IRS bring the audit down on these organizations is a good idea in principle (or maybe I just like the anticipatory schadenfreude) but, while I think Democratic administrations can be trusted not to abuse such power, we've already seen that the Republicans can't. Shoulda thunk that one through a little better...

  44. This IRS business is even too insignificant to find in a teapot, much less be called a tempest.

    And calling Benghazi a scandal is too low even to bother about.

    But the James Rosen thing... Charging a journalist for merely asking about classified information. Charging. A. Reporter. For. Asking. Never mind who he is or what crappy network he 'reports' for.

    That's serious shit.


    1. Maybe this'll lead to a Federal Shield Law. But then, even if it does, what are the chances there won't be lots of exceptions labeled "national Security"? And given the somewhat loose definition of that term these days, well, a balsa wood shield isn't much good on the battlefield, now is it...

    2. Bushbaby started it after 911, for sure, but Obama has done nothing much to stop the runaway Security Gone Mad culture that has bloomed like and infection in this country ever since. We not only pay huge amounts of money for it, we pay with our civil liberties as well. And I'm no raving End Times bunkernut wittering about the feds coming to take my guns. The DOJ and Homeland Security need to be brought to heal with serious intent and, alas, Obama has turned out not to be the man to do it. I've supported him from the start, and I believe have a pretty balanced view of the mess in Washington, but I can't help conclude that he really is dropping the ball now. As much as we may abhor the toxic ululating at Fox, we really do have to be wiling to fight to the end for their right to ululate. Without a free press this country is finished. And having a free press means reporters are allowed to ask anyone any question they like any time. If a government employee violates his or her oath or contract by answering the question, then she or he pays the penalty, but to charge the reporter for merely asking the question, or 'conspiring' to print the answer.... that way Stalin's kind of lying lies .


    3. that way Stalin's kind of lying lies lies

      Internet Editing, a free service of Meanie-meanie Corp...

      Also too, the phrase "Free Speech Zone" is right out of 1984 and that's no shit. I literally felt a chill when I first read that. WTeverlonin'F? Lawful, peaceful protesters corralled behind a 6 foot cyclone fence. Yike. I can't quote the Constitution beyond "We the people..." (definitely not bragging, there) and I don't even own a gun, but that was some scary shit. Still is.

    4. Meanie, that way "Stalin's kind of lying" lies. The act, not the product. But that's neither here nor there.

      What will really be no shit sherlock is when places like this blog, or the New York Times, get designated protest free security zones. Say it can't happen? It's more or less already happened to Wikileaks.

      I know most of the men and women who enforce these things on the ground are just trying to protect America. But America isn't 'America' if we don't let people challenge the establishment and the status quo and the people in charge. It becomes somewhere else. Somewhere poorer and meaner and smaller. Obama was never supposed to be about that. But he signed that Act. And he never lifts a finger to restrict it's wider and wider enforcement. Things do not look good.


    5. BB: I'm not sure I would go so far as accusing President Obama of 'dropping the ball'; he's spent the last five years knocked off-message, for sure. That's the entire Republican strategy in-a-can. That is the sole reason for John Boehner's existence: do not. Not, under any circumstances, let Barack Obama speak about what Barack Obama actually wants to talk about.

      They heard him speak during the '08 campaign; after 8 years of GWB, it was like going from the grunts of a Neanderthal to the prose of Shakespeare. The guy can really deliver on the soaring rhetoric so, hey guys, let's not let him do that. Ever. They needed to drag out the tin-foil hat types from the woodwork, back in '09. The more they can jump up & down, with their hair on fire, the better. Let's drag out the silliest, 'for real?!?' shit we can think of, and then watch the cameras swing over to the President. What do you have to say, Sir? Well, I was going to give a stirring, inspirational speech about alternative energy, and the future of an energy-independent America but, no. You're absolutely right. Let's do talk about this pile of bullshit. It's been that way for five years now. The ability of the GOP juggernaut to hijack the national discourse with such completion has been truly impressive (and depressing) to watch.

    6. Once upon a time journalists wouldn't risk national security just to get a scoop. They also didn't give a rip if the President was getting a little on the side. It was an open secret that JFK was sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. None of them thought it was news worthy.

    7. that way "Stalin's kind of lying" lies.

      I noes. Feeble attempts at humor are another free--for obvious reasons--service of M-m Corp.

      "Lying lies" ala Al Franken. If you have to explain a joke, you shouldn'a tol' it...

    8. Meanie: I know who Al Franken is, but I've never had the pleasure of hearing any of his jokes. So... whooooosh... it went right over me head.

      And I have to say that the President's job, more than anything else, is exactly Getting His Message Across. He can't make Congress do anything it doesn't want to do, but he sure as hell is allowed to speak about what he thinks is important. He has been passive far too much, let his opponents make the running almost all of the time. He has followed far more than he has led. Even though on those few occasions where he made the effort, the country really did stop and listen.

      He's been led by the nose by the DOJ as well. Much more than he should have allowed them to do. Just this week he's tried to walk back a little from his drone policy, and made an attempt to add at least a gloss of oversight, and that's got to be good. As Ben Franklin said: a speckled axe is best. (when what he meant was it was better than an entirely rusted axe when a perfectly shiny one was going to take more time and effort than the day allowed.)

      I'm not sure what journalist has breached national security any time recently. None I can think of.


  45. With employees beginning the first of many furlough days on May 24th (Friday, this week), thank you for this entry. As always, you rocked it and we're grateful.

  46. Hallelujah!!! Finally, someone understands that to qualify under 501 C(4) you have to not be a political action organization!!! And therefore, if you name yourself, say, The Patriotic Conservative Tea Party for the Overthrow of Obama,the Repeal of Obamacare and the Expunging from American Society Everything Indicating that Obama Nazi Hussein Ever Existed, you have pretty much run up your own red flag, and you are virtually DEMANDING to have your eligibility challenged.

  47. Jim,
    this paragraph is PURE poetry....

    They’ll form committees and demand investigations and assign an independent counsel. They’ll bloviate and pontificate in furious fulminous outrage. They’ll give self-important red-eyed interviews to the feverish rumor mill of Fox News. They’ll stroke the corpulent fecund ego of Rush Limbaugh and his legions of misshapen trollish minions who are even now rubbing their flinty hands together and leaking noxious fluids and squealing in orgasmic glee. They’ll stand by with eyes slyly averted while Glenn Beck spins his bizarrely ludicrous gold-tinged conspiracy theories replete with Nazis and Hitler and Mao and Sharia Law and the coming of the Mormon End Times of Doom. And they’ll send forth their scrawny pet Tea Party chimp and she’ll caper about dancing her little clockwork monkey dance to the sound of music only she can hear with the whites of her crazed eyes rolling madly in their sockets while she screeches her little set-piece monkey screech of Impeachment! Impeachment! Then they’ll trundle out John McCain with his war medals a’clankin’ and a’janglin’ and he’ll briefly rouse from the excrement smeared bamboo prison of his cloudy yellowed existence and angrily shout Pickles! yet again. And when the circus has done run its course, when all of the greasepaint saturated clowns have exited their gaudily painted little car and tooted their little horns and squirted their little seltzer bottles into the cheering crowd, when in the end it turns out that there’s really no scandal at all, and there’s nothing that they can pin on Obama or use to deflect Hilary Clinton from 2016, well, then congressional conservatives will sullenly slink back to their dark little spider holes and dust off their forgotten Benghazi script.

    What congress will not do, is their actual jobs.


  48. BB, "Lying lies" is a riff on Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, by Al Franken. (Who also wrote Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. If you haven't read these, betterworldbooks.com has 'em, cheap. You'll be glad you did.

  49. I know I'm late to the party, but feel a home-comin' coming on strong after finding y'all. Thanks for all the great comments on this issue & others that confirms my hope there really are thinkers among our citizens, not just dopes.


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