Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tea Party Pins IRS to Mat with Reverse Alinsky

Tea Party groups have been wrestling with the IRS over tax exempt status for the last several years. You'd occasionally hear unsubstantiated stories about applications lost in the bureaucracy, inappropriate and invasive questions, and the like. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman went so far as to categorically dispel such rumors by testifying before a Congressional hearing on March 22, 2012:
"There is absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back-and-forth that happens when people apply for 501(c)(4) status."
That, it turns out a year and two months later, was a complete lie. The IRS now admits it was intentionally targeting Tea Party, Patriot, and 9/12 Project (Glenn Beck) groups. Bombshell. Glenn Beck's balls just dropped.

Make no mistake, the Tea Party has managed to embroil the IRS in a huge scandal. David may not have slain Goliath, but this scandal is going to leave a mark. It's even possible some IRS officials may have to go to jail. Given that TEA stands for "taxed enough already" and the IRS is the national tax collection agency, this is a major coup for the Tea Party.

How did they do it? At first it would appear the Tea Party has taken its tactics out of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, the left-wing radical organizing bible all the Tea Partiers ran out and bought after they heard the winning tactics of the 2008 Obama campaign were based on it. At first look, this seems to be textbook Rule 4:
4. Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.
How it went down was simple. Local Tea Party groups around the country applied to the IRS for tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code for "civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare."

Now, I know what you are going to say, that these Tea Party groups are involved in politics, and what does that have to do with social welfare? I'll spare you the lesson on how civics is about government, how we as citizens relate to it and each other, and how we relate to our elected officials. We're not talking talking about public charities under 501(c)(3) to which you can make tax-deductible contributions. What do you think a civic league is?

But don't listen to me, this is what the IRS itself says the criteria are for 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organizations (emphasis added):
"Seeking legislation germane to the organization's programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status."
And this:
"Promoting 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. However, if an or­ganization is organized exclusively to promote social welfare, it may still obtain exemption even if it participates legally in some political activity on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office. Political activities may not be the organization's primary activities, however."
That negative above in reference to political campaigns and candidates sounds discouraging but there is significant caveat:
"A section 501(c) organiza­tion can set up a separate segregated fund that will be treated as an independent political organization. The earnings and expenditures made by the separate fund will not be attributed to the section 501(c) organization."
Let's review. A 501(c)(4) can:
(A) Engage in lobbying as its primary purpose.

(B) Engage in some political activity on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office, so long as its primary purpose is lobbying.

(C) Create a separate segregated fund to function as an independent political organization.
So if your Tea Party group is going to hold meetings and rallies inviting people to hear discussion and speeches on civic affairs and public policy, engage in lobbying for your Tea Party viewpoints, and get involved in a few political campaigns, you're still eligible for a 501(c)(4) tax exemption. All the IRS had to do was review the documents and stamp them "Approved."

This is where the Tea Party pulled the Reverse Alinsky by directly contradicting Rules 2 and 3:
2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.
3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.
What did these Tea Party groups know about applications for tax exempt status? Nothing. What did the IRS know? Everything.

1 comment:

buddeshepherd said...

But no one cares...
News outlets cover it because they can't help themselves but they kind of also hate themselves for betraying the cause.
The party faithful blame Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield for it. Some say it hearkens back to the Reagan era.