Res Ipsa Loquitur

That’s Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”. Claims that the IRS’s targeting of conservative and libertarian groups was not political in nature are laughable. It speaks for itself. Making distinctions based on politics is inherently political and claiming otherwise is either stupid or arrogant. Or both. From the editors of the Wall Street Journal:

News reports suggest that Ms. Lerner knew about the targeting of conservatives in June 2011, and perhaps as early as 2010. That’s a long time before IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman flatly denied any political targeting when he testified at a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing in March 2012.

IRS officials are still claiming that the questions weren’t meant to intimidate these groups. But the evidence that the inquiries were political is already voluminous.

The IRS sent questionnaires to conservative groups that included requests for everything from the resumes of directors past and present to whether an employee or employee family member had plans to run for public office. Cincinnati Tea Party founder Justin Binik-Thomas wrote in the Washington Examiner recently that one nonprofit received a questionnaire that demanded that it “Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas.”

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents some of the IRS targets, the IRS letters did not come only from the Cincinnati office (as Ms. Lerner implied on Friday), but also from IRS offices in Laguna Niguel and El Monte in California as well as from Washington D.C. In addition to intrusive questionnaires, the groups were subjected to unusual delays in obtaining tax-exempt status. Of the law center’s 27 clients, 15 were approved, two withdrew out of frustration and 10 are still pending.

The response that nobody was actually injured is vacuous. Being arrested by the Inquisition is inherently harmful, whether you were put to the question or not.

13 comments… add one
  • Red Barchetta Link

    I’ve been there. Not claiming it was political. but in my profession you are a target.

    Why do you rob banks?

  • steve Link

    Query- The 501 c4 groups are supposed to be non-political. How do you determine if that is true if you dont ask political questions. The problem doesnt seem to be so much the questions asked as the fact that they singled out groups.


  • jan Link

    As these stories unfold, insinuating the presence of government double standards, intrusion, and deceptions, it widens the eye more and more.

    Some of the questions asked by the IRS are beyond intrusive — i.e. give all your facebook notations, biographies of those you posted to. Huh? Another man interviewed, mentoring high school students in conservative principles, (like the progressive POV hasn’t already permeated academics by a majority of teachers/professors) was asked to identify all his students. What happened to the First Amendment? This same man had a grant waiting in the wings, to financially help him get started. The delays generated from this IRS probe, though, cost him this grant Furthermore, he spent upwards of $50 thousand of his own money defending himself from the IRS. Do you think he was hurt? Other people have just given up on their requests for 501(c3) non-profit status, entirely, because of the extensive IRS hassle, sets and subsets of questions asked of them. Isn’t this subtle political intimidation from the government, inviting dissuasions of opposing ideologies from continuing with plans to build more non-profit organizations?

    In the meantime, the government’s weak responses, saying these targeted probes were contained in Ohio, implemented by the hand of some lower tier, rogue government employee, is a display of their furtive hopes people will fall for anything the Obama administration deems to put out there for public consumption! However, one victim of this IRS inquisition was told, when he called Ohio to ask what was taking so long, that they had to wait for instructions from their superiors on how to proceed. Does this sound like the work of some flunky or underling?

    In the meantime, now that the press feels the hand of government intruding in on their own profession, via the AP phone record subpoenas controversy, they have suddenly checked out of the presidential honeymoon suite, and appear to be persistent in posing hard questions for this Administration, especially Eric Holder and Jay Carney — something they should have been doing the past 4 plus years.

  • PD Shaw Link


    ” The 501 c4 groups are supposed to be non-political.”

    That’s not true. Pretty good link here (courtesy of a commentor at OTB):

    I think of 501(c)(4)s as political, they just have some constraints, and some of those have more to do with additional disclosure requirements are taxes on political expenditures.

    “How do you determine if that is true if you dont ask political questions.”

    First of all, a 501(c)(4) does not need prior approval from the government; they can self-declare and then report their revenue and expenditures in their returns in a couple of years. Its really the actual expenditures that would let you know if they are exceeding the tax exemption, but you wouldn’t know them until they were incurred. Licensing programs are not usually premised on trying to find out whether you would exceed the license in the future; they may insist on proof of competency or knowledge of the rules or skill.

    These are my initial thoughts on all of this:

  • steve Link

    Here is what they cannot do.

    “Endorse candidates.
    Contribute funds to candidates.
    Use organization resources or staff time for candidate election activities (ballot measures are OK, subject to lobbying limits).
    Provide mailing lists to candidates for free or below market rate.
    Solicit candidate pledges: Nonprofit organizations cannot ask a candidate to pledge to do or not to do something in their campaign or in their eventual election.
    This provides implicit endorsement and is illegal.”

    What they can do is vague. Looks like trouble waiting to happen. They should probably be eliminated.


  • The Age of Competence Link

    steve, where was this concern about 501(c)4s prior to the advent of the Tea Party? And why only conservative groups as targets?

    Attempting to shift the focus away from the Administration, how very expected.

  • Andy Link

    I think this is all part of a broader problem, namely the various attempts to limit the influence of money in elections. We end up with complicated tax categories that are vague and don’t make a lot of sense – ie. it’s stupid, IMO, to try to regulate political behavior via the tax code.

    In the fantasy world where I’m the enlightened dictator, I would make them all tax exempt but require disclosure of donor lists.

  • PD Shaw Link

    @steve, you are quoting the limitations on 501(c)(3) organizations (charities), not 501(c)(4) organizations (social welfare organizations). Perhaps that link is not clear, but the charities are quite restricted, which is why charities like the Sierra Club or the NAACP have 501(c)(4) components to do their politics.

  • The Age of Competence Link

    Andy, go with a consumption tax and this all goes away.

  • The Age of Competence Link

    What’s funniest about this is that the Administration LOVES tax cheats! Look at how many they’ve appointed (or tried to appoint) and how many they’ve hired.

    But as always the important thing is not what you do, or even who you know, but who you’re in bed with. Which is why I think this will all blow over by the end of summer. The press will remember that they’re Obama’s pony, to be used and abused as needed, and they will start burying things as time goes on. Members of the press have all the moral standing as child pornographers….

  • steve Link

    “steve, where was this concern about 501(c)4s prior to the advent of the Tea Party? And why only conservative groups as targets?”

    There was a lot of concern if you remember the furor over Citizens United. The number of 501s suddenly doubled, mostly conservative groups if reports are to be believed, which is probably why they concentrated on conservative groups. As I said yesterday, it is really the job of their management and leaders to catch this and stop it. So, assuming the grunts who came up with this idea aren’t Dem operatives, I hope we dont end with them taking the fall for this. The leadership, especially political appointees should bear the brunt of the repercussions.


  • PD Shaw Link

    The IRS has not been truthful with the time frame; 501(c)(4) applications did not double until after they began searching for tea party type groups in March of 2010. Number of 501(c)(4) applications according to the inspection report:

    2009: 1,751
    2010: 1,735
    2011: 2,265
    2012: 3,357

    They began screening for tea party type groups in anticipation of increasing filings heading into the 2012 elections.

  • The Age of Competence Link

    The IRS has not been truthful with the time frame; 501(c)(4) applications did not double until after they began searching for tea party type groups in March of 2010.

    Oops. Who could of thunk it? Also, I can’t help but laugh that the Treasury Secretary while all this was going on was himself a tax cheat.

Leave a Comment