As more and more info leaks its way out about the IRS targeting certain conservative groups, we must begin to ask: was the organization doing its job as it was asked by law? The Atlantic has pointed out Congress was pressuring the IRS to do more investigating of these types of groups in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision in early 2010. It was after this decision was handed down that the creation of these groups exploded compared to previous years.
This article from CNN states “the number of 501(c)(4) applications more than doubled to over 3,400 in 2012, compared to 1,500 in 2010” and of those 300 were targeted for more investigation and of those 75 contained the words “tea party” or “patriot”. (25 of the 300 have withdrawn their applications. No word on how many were in the group of 75.) When the numbers are taken into account along with the fact the head of the IRS at the time of all this was an appointee of the previous administration, it begins to look a little less devious.
But there is more. One of the realities of 501(c)(4) groups is the fact they cannot spend their time and resources campaigning for or against specific political candidates, as the law states. And as the number of groups has greatly expanded, so has the money they have spent on elections, as Ezra Klein pointed out:
501(c)4s spent $92 million in the 2010 election. They spent $254 million in the 2012 election.
So if the number of new groups more than doubles and the amount of money spent on the area these groups would be watched most closely more than doubles, wouldn’t the IRS be scrutinizing them more closely?
And it should be pointed out the Tea Party has been impressive in its size and growth over the past four years. Putting this all together, we should expect them to be a larger portion of closer scrutiny and being %25 of the 300 groups receiving further investigation would probably seem a proper ratio.
In fact, a Washington Post article on the situation from yesterday mentions the Richmond Tea Party as being one of the groups picked for further questioning. Remember, these groups are strictly prohibited from supporting any candidates in elections. Yet this is posted on their website reminding people there is “Fifteen days left to help get Jamie Radtke on the ballot”. From an organization’s perspective that is charged with making sure these groups do not support specific candidates, what does that look like to you?
Plenty of information will be coming out as this “scandal” unfolds but if the early info is any indication, this might not be as big a scandal as it seems when all is said and done.