Tuesday, June 7, 2016

IRS Comes Semi-Clean

IRS finally reveals list of tea party groups targeted for extra scrutiny
More than three years after it admitted to targeting tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny, the IRS has finally released a near-complete list of the organizations it snagged in a political dragnet.

The tax agency filed the list last month as part of a court case after a series of federal judges, fed up with what they said was the agency’s stonewalling, ordered it to get a move on. The case is a class-action lawsuit, so the list of names is critical to knowing the scope of those who would have a claim against the IRS.
. . .
The government released names of 426 organizations. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit.

That total is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS‘ inspector general identified back in May 2013, when investigators first revealed the agency had been subjecting applications to long — potentially illegal — delays, and forcing them to answer intrusive questions about their activities. Tea party and conservative groups said they was the target of unusually heavy investigations and longer delays,
But even this may have been the result of last minute shenanigans by the IRS
The IRS admits to a longer list of targeted organizations after long denying political bias at all? The attorney representing the conservative groups smells a rat:
Edward D. Greim, the lawyer who’s pursuing the case on behalf of NorCal Tea Party Patriots and other members of the class, said the list also could have ballooned toward the end of the targeting as the IRS, once it knew it was being investigated, snagged more liberal groups in its operations to try to soften perceptions of political bias.
Even before the IG conducted its independent probe, Congress had put the IRS under more and more pressure on the rumors of targeting. That prompted Lois Lerner and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins to promulgate a modified set of criteria in April 2012 — two days after Wilkins spent nearly seven hours at the White House, meeting with Barack Obama. No one has ever explained why the chief counsel for the IRS was meeting directly with Obama or why the modified criteria emerged two days later. As chief counsel, Wilkins would report to the IRS Commissioner on most issues, and might have an occasional need to coordinate with the White House counsel. Why would Wilkins need to meet with Obama directly, and for so long?
Therefore, claims that there is no evidence of White House involvement are over stated. The Preznit should probably be able to shield any such meeting from disclosure by executive privilege, but there's nothing wrong with presuming the obvious, and letting them prove the rebuttal.
At that point, the IRS might have realized that it needed to start adding in some progressive groups as a cover for its political bias in tax-exempt applications. That seems to have been the point of modifying the criteria in April 2012, but if the IG report provides any indication, they didn’t get serious about it until much later. The dates for the targeting of the additional 128 organizations should be fairly easy to ascertain — the IRS is nothing if not a paperwork mill — and if the late additions all look left of center and all took place after April 2012 or especially after May 2013, it might go a long way to proving the plaintiffs’ point.
The IRS is the necessary evil of government. To have an effective government we must collect taxes. However, once the tax collector gets into the business of deciding who deserves tax exempt status for educational and public service activities you can be sure that someone, usually several someones, is going to find a way to pervert that to partisan interests. The Democrats being, at this point, the party of Big Government, it is far more likely they will be tempted to cheat on behalf of the democrats.

One way to fix this would be to take away the IRS' authority to grant tax exempt status. Put it in the hands of an explicitly balanced and partisan agency like the FEC. And change the presumption that an organization need to prove it is worthy of tax exempt status to one where tax exempt status is assumed until proven otherwise.

No comments:

Post a Comment