An op-ed by Bart Hinkle appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend with the ominous title, “IRS scandal implicates Democrats“, suggesting more wrongdoing by high-level Democrats has been found to go along with the zero wrongdoing by high-level Democrats that’s been found regarding this non-scandal. As with most rhetoric surrounding this situation, it fails miserably to suggest anything new that can be construed as devious, particularly when considering the facts.
One general idea Hinkle makes is just because these groups are spending money and making ads, doesn’t mean they will gain more votes for their favored candidates, which is ludicrous. I would suggest Hinkle go to any academic database and look at the mountain of research on “name recognition” or just go to any psychologist or advertiser and ask them if repetition works. Some might point to the recent loss of Eric Cantor despite the huge disparity in campaign spending, but that is the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of the time elections end with the bigger spender winning.
Hinkle also hints at the heavily debunked idea that the Obama administration had something to do with the targeting:
The U.S. has a long and sordid history of presidents trying to sic the IRS on their political foes; that was even one of the charges of impeachment against Richard Nixon…Granted, the administration did laughably appoint an Obama campaign donor to investigate whether Obama critics had been treated fairly.
First, this suggests that there somehow hasn’t been an investigation to this point. I’ll assume this is the first time Hinkle has heard of the IRS targeting despite the slew of previous news coverage. Second, I’m not aware of anyone under oath claiming they have evidence the order to target came from the White House, including the conservative Republican manager overseeing the screening unit.
The main point of the op-ed is that Democrats were sending letters and questioning whether the IRS was properly monitoring these new groups. I emphasize new because Hinkle fails to note this and he should since it is the main reason the groups were being investigated in the first place. I’ll quote myself from a previous post on this:
Inspector General J. Russell George suggested in his testimony the IRS made these bad decisions “because of a lack of resources and manpower”. We also know there was a drastic increase in election spending by 501(c)(4) groups beginning in 2008, where spending went from just over a measly $1 million in 2006 to over $82 million two years later. This was followed by a continued increase in 2010.
Two things should be noted about the 2010 election spending. First, it’s rather odd for spending to increase from a presidential election to a midterm. Just look at the 501(c)(4) spending from the years given in the link or total election costs over the past eight cycles. Second, conservative versus liberal group spending was not very lopsided until 2010, when conservative groups spent more than double their ideological counterparts. This was followed in 2012 with conservative groups spending nearly five times what liberal groups spent.
These points taken together give us an idea of what the IRS was up against when it came to enforcing the law: a sudden and unforeseen increase of more than %6000 in election spending by 501(c)(4)s from ’06 to ’08 with a further increase in the ’10 midterms on top of a dwindling workforce and budget to deal with the new problem.
The spending increases, particularly considering the mid-term in 2010, can’t be emphasized enough. With this explosion in spending, what did people expect the IRS to do? Ignore it despite evidence the groups were clearly breaking the law?
Which brings me to the last point about Hinkle’s op-ed: his admission yet overlooking of the reality the law was essentially being broken. His statement:
And remember what terrible offense those groups were committing: They were supporting or opposing candidates for public office, often by buying TV ad time…What Levin, Durbin, Schumer, et al. find outrageous is the fact that some Americans have been speaking about political candidates without those candidates’ authorization. (Emphasis added)
According to the law, these groups can’t support or oppose an individual candidate or engage in campaigns unless it is the minority of their spending. If they do run ads, they are going to be questioned by the IRS to prove they aren’t spending most of their funds on it. That’s how proper justice should work here. And it shouldn’t be surprising the Democrats mentioned were making sure the law was being properly enforced.
This op-ed just looks like another failed attempt to make something out of nothing. But we all know that will never stop people from trying…